As chief technology strategist of Westcon-Comstor, Atul Damani is tasked with searching the industry for trends and insights, before translating them back through the supply chain to form a go-to-market strategy.
“Who are the vendors we should align with, and which vendors can we up-sell with?” asked Damani, via an Insights post through Westcon-Comstor. “What are different routes to market, what are the merger and acquisitions opportunities and, finally, what are the data analytics that we can use to help the channel grow and expand their businesses?”
When assessing current “market pressures”, Damani acknowledged a “huge shift” towards recurring revenue models as customer buying patterns evolve at pace.
“Sales used to be predominately CAPEX based, but we are now seeing a move towards OPEX-based sales,” Damani said. “Slowly but surely we are moving to a subscription-centric world, whether that’s hardware, software or cloud.
“In turn, this means that our role in the chain requires us to do a lot more back-office operations on behalf of our partners, so we now offer a broad range of services from education, software services or even financial enablement.”
In short, Damani said more end-users are now putting “cloud first”, citing the distributor’s unified communications and collaboration business as a case in point, a market in which vendors are “refocusing” sales tactics in recognition of changing market dynamics.
“Vendors used to sell boxes and services around them, but the reality is that they may no longer have the services that true cloud vendors offer, and they cannot sell boxes on a recurring revenue basis,” Damani added.
Delving deeper into technical capabilities, Damani said Westcon-Comstor is experiencing “continued innovation across the board”, evident through an enhanced security portfolio.
“In security we track 140 security categories to ensure that we are ahead of the curve,” he said. “Security is becoming mature, but now we have the issue of ‘zero trust’ entering the frame. SD-WAN, meanwhile, is replacing the use of hard routers, while collaboration is moving to the cloud, along with lots of other technologies.
“So for our partners that don’t have significant scale, they help them keep up with the evolving market. Our role is to advise which vendors can help, so we do a lot of research there. These changes offer both challenges and opportunities for our partners.”
Dynamics of the channel
Today, Damani said partners are facing challenges on “technology, go-to-market and operational fronts”, creating a new role for distribution as a result.
“On the transactional side, our platform is optimised to help our partners and allow them to have cash flow to keep their business moving, regardless of the payment model and solution,” he outlined.
“The single transactional engine delivers a smooth operational experience, whether buying physical or in the cloud, or a hybrid product. It’s is a key advantage we have over competitors.”
Damani added that despite deepening ties within the cloud through the BlueSky platform, Westcon-Comstor goes to market as a “hybrid distributor”, balancing out emerging technologies with foundational solutions.
“A lot of our competitors have siloed their cloud business, which we believe is not necessarily the best route for our partners,” Damani observed. “We integrate it all into our central solutions business, so that we can provide the best possible solution, regardless of the delivery model.
“Also, it’s difficult when revenue becomes recurring. How do you pay your sales guys, for example, or how does the customer pay you? We provide a three-minute snapshot of the questions our partners should be asking their customers.
“Our platform provides all these back-office functions for our partners, which allows them to a keep their business moving, whether buying upfront or cloud-based sales basis.”
In looking ahead, Damani said plans are in place to “continually expand” platform capabilities, in a strategy designed to allow partners to sell across cloud products and solutions within an agency model.
“This is the predominant model moving across from the US to Europe in 2019, which will help them pivot to the hybrid world better,” he added. “On the technical side, we help our partners to keep up with technology trends in a fast-moving market.
“Our partners may not have enough people or enough access to information, which prevents them from having intelligent conversations with their end users. We analyse and share the trends that we are seeing, and inform our partners of the questions they should be asking their customers. Essentially, positioning the right technologies and solutions to our partners.”