Tech Data is underway with aggressive partner recruitment plans across Asia Pacific, driven by increased need for specialisation and differentiation through the channel.
That’s the message of newly appointed CEO Rich Hume, when speaking to Channel Asia during a wide-ranging interview in Singapore last month.
“There’s a remixing going on relative to relationships within the channel ecosystem,” said Hume, was who appointed to the role in June 2018. “The solution providers and resellers are always critical but now managed service providers are more important in the cloud world.
“Also, ISVs become hugely important in the world of the cloud and they can plug right in.”
Hume further explained that all new technologies start with a first of its kind, with system integrators at the forefront of doing such projects.
“Through time those things become capabilities and then they reach more to the masses of the channel as time goes on,” he explained.
“Across the market, partners are becoming more specialised. Take security, for example. Within the security space, we’re seeing specialised partner practices emerging.
“Everybody participates in security, even the legacy partner ecosystem but we see more specialisation emerging with regards to security - in addition to analytics and the Internet of Things.”
To recruit new partners, the distribution giant is leveraging new tools and techniques, such as social media through targeting LinkedIn campaigns.
“We use LinkedIn as a tool to reach out to the new generation and new breed of partners asking whether they are interested in cutting edge technology,” added William Chu, president of Asia Pacific at Tech Data.
Furthermore, Chu said the type of events held by Tech Data across the region are now also changing in parallel, differing from the traditional approach through distribution.
“In the past, we had events just for the vendor,” Chu explained. “Now, we organise events around key application areas like for example, Industry 4.0.
“We are organising one Industry 4.0 event in Singapore in the coming months where we will focus on the next generation of technology related to Industry 4.0. This event will aim to attract ISVs, partners, and end-users who are keen on not just knowing about a product but on how people are using the technology.”
In recruiting new types of partners such as ISVs, born-in-the-cloud partners and start-ups, Hume said Tech Data currently adopts a two-tiered approach.
“Our first priority is to make sure we have aligned with the vendor’s priorities from an ISV recruitment perspective,” said Hume. “Furthermore, we are using tools such as LinkedIn to reach more of the second level priority such as ISVs as we look to build out the ecosystem.
“The marketplace is moving from a place with very direct lines of buyer and seller relationships to a more mixed place going back and forth based on new market dynamics.”
Specific to Singapore and ASEAN markers, Chu said Tech Data also runs monthly ISV days, inviting application developers and builders to join an expanding channel ecosystem.
“The attraction for the ISV is they start to learn from each other as an ecosystem,” said Chu. “They may see an ISV solution that is competitive to them but a lot of the time they see more complementary solutions.
“I believe that is attractive to the ISV and that is how we recruit and start working with those new ISVs.”
With such transitions taking place, is the traditional reseller still important to Tech Data?
“Absolutely,” said Hume. However, “if traditional resellers want to secure their future they are transitioning to these new technology areas much like Tech Data is,” explained Hume.
“We have many examples of resellers transitioning to where the growth, opportunity and customer demand is,” he added. “The core is transitioning to where the market is moving in addition to Tech Data picking up additional capabilities around these specialised partners as well.”
According to Chu, while partners continue to face the same pressure in terms of industry transformation, the channel sees Tech Data as a distributor capable of assisting during the transformation process.
“There is going to be a lot of changes required and a lot of investment,” Chu added. “We give the partners advice much like a consultant to help them transform.
For Hume, one of the biggest challenges channel partners face today is coming through such a technology transition.
“It has been our experience that you cannot make this transition by just reselling your current base,” said Hume. “While some of the available market can be addressed by reselling to the current base there are a new set of skill requirements that are very different than what they traditionally had.”
For instance, a traditional infrastructure company is not easily transformed into a security specialist.
“It is a completely different set of skills,” said Hume.
Furthermore, the view that IT spend is still dominated by the CIO is starting to change.
“The current and future of that IT spend is going to move to the line of business,” said Hume. “There is a requirement not only for the channel ecosystem in total to serve its legacy customers, the CIO, or people who look like CIOs but also they have to be able to call on the line of business.
“The market has high expectations of that. In the past, a lot of end-user customers would invest in multi-million, multi-year type of applications.”
Despite such change, and subsequent challenges, impacting the channel, Hume remains optimistic about the future.
“We are in a very robust market,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities. It is easier to execute your business when there are a lot of opportunities as opposed to not having a lot of opportunities.
“My advice to partners is to always understand their core competencies and to align those core competencies as best they can with where things are moving to in the future.”
Partners should then determine which growth trajectory or segment they want to participate in and take advantage of, explained Hume.
Furthermore, the channel has generally grown faster than the totality of the vendor segment over the last few years, explained Hume.
“More vendors are looking to reach out to the channel,” he added. “Vendors are looking to partner more to get things done which provides a great opportunity as well.”
Furthermore, the proliferation of technology is creating an environment where the ecosystem has to grow in order to keep pace.
In Asia, Chu explained that Tech Data represents a selection of analytics vendors and for most, this represents the first time working with a distributor through the supply chain.
“The reason for this is because in the past such a service was very expensive with a large corporation paying millions of dollars for a particular project,” Chu added. “However, now they want to reach out to the SMB customers who would like to know how to take advantage of analytics.
“As a distributor together with our partners we bring down the hurdle for the adoption of technology. Now they can make use of analytics by targeting the most mission-critical applications that will have the most influence.
“If you are getting a return on investment you may add and invest more. I believe we are seeing in Asia more suppliers willing to bet on this to grow their market presence.”