In our first interview with Han, we looked at The strategy behind Lenovo’s next generation data centres. In the second interview, we examined Why partners are absolutely vital to Lenovo. In this third and final interview, Han Chon talks about what he’s doing to listen to partner feedback and make visible improvements based on it.
Han, Lenovo Data Centre Group is a young organisation – just one year old. How do you plan to build on the partner program in years to come?
As a guiding principle, I think we need to make sure the program is up-to-the-minute in terms of best practice and that we’re never complacent.
We realise that just as the market is evolving rapidly, our partners are too, as are their requirements.
If you ask a partner that was reselling software licenses 5-6 years ago about how they generate their cashflow today, they will tell you it’s all about software and services subscription today. They’re now earning monthly subscription payments rather than large upfront fees. So, our program has been designed to accommodate that.
We accept the fact that the market will never stand still and that we need to listen to our partners in a structured way. Using this valuable feedback, we will make regular and visible improvements based on feedback.
Our partners are expecting different things from us – different products, different ways of selling and financing solutions, different services. We understand that ‘one size does not fit all’ when it comes to supporting our partners.
Do you have a structured program of listening to partners?
Yes, we do – we regularly meet with partners, hold partner conferences, run surveys through our program portals and so on. We are particularly interested in consulting with partners before we go to market with new initiatives and announcements; we think their expertise and insight into how those actions will be seen in the market are invaluable.
There may well be partners reading this who feel like they haven’t had enough of a chance to give us feedback – and I think it’s important to be honest and acknowledge there is more we can do to hear from everyone. We are committed to doing a better job and to continuing to build trust with all our partners to improve our program.
If Lenovo’s success depends on partner feedback, what feedback have you received so far, and what are Lenovo’s plans to address partner concerns? How much of a priority is this?
Firstly, let me say, the act of listening only means something when we take action on the feedback received.
We have heard from partners that not only is the effort around selling important, but also is support.
In one recent example, we addressed feedback around the need to better accommodate partners’ needs around support. We were able to take the feedback straight to the people responsible, and they took action quickly.
Just this morning, a partner provided feedback about a certain part of our operations that they felt we could improve. I highlighted this to the person in charge of that partner relationship, and at a worldwide level to give immediate attention to this issue .
Action is being taken to feedback received in real time. I’m proud of that and committed to continuing to do ever better in this respect.
Your platinum data center partners enjoy preferential treatment in terms of support and incentives. But is it enough?
“Is it enough” is a tough question. As I said earlier, We can always do better than what we do today. As our partners continue to grow and benefit, so does Lenovo. It’s a symbiotic growth relationship, so my genuine intent is to improve and enhance our service for them, creating further opportunity for mutual benefit.
We always seek platinum partners’ advice first and share our most detailed plans with them in advance of going to market.
Of course, there is also preferential treatment in terms of programs and rebates.
If we were just running programs to benefit Lenovo, our platinum partners would simply go elsewhere. It’s extremely important to us that we address/solve the challenges they are facing and lock step in getting to mutually beneficial solutions.
Even something as minor as the launch date of our programs can make it hard for partners to align their outcomes to our fiscal calendars.
By simply shifting some of the dates, we have been able to enable partners to develop their own P&L in line with our dates and theirs. The partners are then happier and able to sell more – they are able to participate in a program that is beneficial for both companies.
As one of the world’s top tier data centre specialist suppliers, you must have a very clear sense of what’s important to customers. Can you talk a bit about that?
Sure – I think many of our customers are in the midst of a major transformation journey right now. All over the globe, artificial intelligence and machine learning is changing the way IT needs to be providing services to the user.
Users are accessing cloud based services on a much broader scale than ever before. They are always looking for what the next iteration of technology and best practice is that will give them competitive edge.
More than ever, there is a big transformation happening in the marketplace. It is about having trust between vendors and partners so they work with, and project, an aligned vision.
We want to be a key part of their conversation with our ability to make unbiased recommendations about what the next generation of data centre should look like.
By combining the efforts and vision we have with our partners, we can create better value for customers as they take this transformation journey.