Q&A | September 20, 2013

Channel Link Conference Highlights As A Service And Partner Enablement Programs

By Bernadette Wilson, associate editor, Business Solutions magazine
Follow Me On Twitter @bernadeditor

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Tech Data just completed its Channel Link event in Anaheim, CA. Pete Peterson, senior VP of U.S. sales for Tech Data, says the event’s vendor sponsors were “bullish on opportunities,” and partners said the event had a good lineup.

In addition to abundant education and networking opportunities, the event included some great entertainment and inspiring speakers. Last night, Channel Link featured comedian Jason Alexander and earlier yesterday, Apple founder Steve Wozniak gave a keynote address. Peterson was impressed with the level of participation and discussion in the Women in the Channel luncheon, which included an address from Paige Powers of Cisco and a panel that focused on the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition.

Peterson points out, though, “The conference is just the start. It’s what happens between the conferences that is important.” He says Channel Link attendees will now go back to their businesses and try to figure out how they can implement what they learned at the conference by leveraging Tech Data resources and new business connections.

Peterson, who has been with Tech Data for 17 years, says, “Our business model is evolving. Historically it had always been about moving products from point A to point B. But now, with our improved internal processes, the new model is more focused on how we can enable our customers to be more successful.”

New Opportunity Can Mean Entry To As A Service

Tech Data announced Wednesday that it will be the first channel service provider in the United States to perform HP 3PAR StorServ Storage installation and startup services on behalf of HP channel partners through its HP Solutions Group. Tech Data’s expanded relationship with HP launches a strategic shift in the business model from traditional distribution to a new focus on concept-to-completion solutions.

Tech Data’s HP Solutions Group will focus on enabling HP resellers to scale their businesses according to their resources. Resellers will have the ability to self-brand the 3PAR storage units. They also can have HP deliver the units on their behalf or have Tech Data augment the start up.

Sheri Hedlund, VP of product marketing for the HP Solutions Group at Tech Data, says the opportunity to offer 3PAR storage “is a great entry point for someone looking to get into the as a Service model.”

Hedlund says Tech Data primarily serves mid-market companies and SMBs, which represent a large opportunity for storage sales.

Hedlund comments that a common theme among resellers at Channel Link is that they are struggling to hire or retain qualified delivery engineers and salespeople. The news that Tech Data can help provide 3PAR storage was well received. “The sales opportunities are there,” says Hedlund. “We’re increasing their technical ability to deliver.”

The ROI of Enabling

Joe Quaglia, senior VP of U.S. marketing and president of TDMobility, says his division of the company is thriving — and for a major reason is Tech Data’s training programs for resellers. TDMobility gives resellers the ability to offer multiple carriers, devices, service plans, and platforms to their customers — without their customers having to deal directly with carriers. Reseller partners, with support from TDMobility, handle activation, commissions, warranties, distribution, and mobile device management. When TDMobility launched in 2011, a joint venture between Tech Data and Brightstar, there were about 20 partners. Now there are more than 1,000.

“It’s a much more complicated sale than those involving a router or tablet,” Quaglia says.

In addition, Tech Data also has a BYOD program that allows a reseller to “skin” a mobile device with a company logo, give options for carrier services, and offer employee corporate discounts for carrier devices.

He explains not every partner comes to Tech Data prepared to provide every facet of a complete solution — some have traditionally sold mobile devices and infrastructure, others are experts at selling systems.

“It’s a lot of heavy lifting to enable resellers, but we make it as simple as possible.” He says they use Cisco Momentum training, which all their training and enablement programs are based.

How is this investment in enabling partners working? Quaglia cites the example of one partner who, with the help of TDMobility, was able to help a pharmaceutical client that needed help deploying its mobile app. The partner helped provide 5,000 iPads — half on Verizon and half on AT&T — and the included warranties. The partner also handled logistics and distributed the devices to the client.

“Can you imagine how much that pharmaceutical company appreciated that partner’s ability to supply that entire solution?” Quaglia says.

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