Each week in ARN, we interview the local channel manager of some of the world’s most influential hardware and software vendors. This week, 3Com’s new channel director for Australia and New Zealand, Simon Edwards, sits down with Sarah Stokely.
Can you tell us about your previous roles in 3Com Europe?
Simon Edwards (SE): I spent six years in 3Com Europe, most recently as international sales operations manager.
I was brought in as a senior analyst. Part of my role was developing some untapped markets and identifying the business decisions we had to make to move resources into key markets we wanted to develop. Through the work I was doing I moved into operations roles.
I left 3Com 18 months ago to travel. I’d worked with Stanimira [Koleva — 3Com AsiaPac boss] in Europe and five months ago she brought me on board here in Australia. I’m responsible for channel development and programs and those partners principally in the SMB space.
What kinds of channels have you managed?
SE: As an operations manager covering such a large geography you get to touch pretty much all partners as well as dealing with any issues that are raised from the customer base.
I haven’t been instrumental in creating programs but I have helped to develop, roll out, police and project manage programs. As such, I have a very good idea about what makes a channel work and I have a good skill set in making sure that we deliver what we want to deliver.
You’ve described your commercial background in terms of business development but it sounds like you were one of the blackbelts they bring in to prune things when they’re not working.
SE: Not at all. What I’ve now moved into is more business management and more of a sales-oriented focus. I think I’ve got a real commercial feel for what drives businesses and it’s all about driving 3Com A/NZ to be a bigger, better vendor. It’s a very positive approach by 3Com.
What differences have you observed and had to deal with in the Australian channel?
SE: I think there are several real parallels. The one thing that really struck me was how transparent the marketplace is. A lot of people know what’s going on everywhere.
Drawing parallels — it’s a very competitive market. But I think there’s a opportunity for vendors willing to work with the channel in the right place. Cisco are the dominant number one, make no bones about it. But I really believe that 3Com will start to challenge their base.
What kind of changes are you working on? You mentioned initiatives with partners and also verticals that you want to focus on.
SE: Education is a number one vertical for 3Com. We continue to dominate that market. But it’s not just verticals, it’s products as well. It’s developing IP telephony, it’s developing wireless, new technologies, and building and getting support from our partner base. It’s a combination of things that will make it work for 3Com. I couldn’t put my finger on one thing and say ‘we need to change that’.
Are you happy with your current distributor and reseller line-up? Are you searching for new resellers or trying to develop the base you already have?
SE: We’re trying to develop the base we already have. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel because we have a set of solid, valuable, loyal customers with whom we want to continue working.
There’s going to be some tweaking in that there’s going to be some churn, but I’ve inherited a very strong reseller base.
What are your objectives for 2004?
SE: We need to work with the right partners, develop the right segments and push the right products. It’s all about education, support and communication.
We’re trying to achieve a channel that is totally aligned with what 3Com can offer and what 3Com is trying to do.
A channel that’s educated around the full product range, fully aligned with the moves 3Com is going to make, and really acting as partners, so we go into partnership for deals and we’re almost seen as one. One of the things we’ve seen is that hasn’t been working and that’s down to a bit of history, but I think we’re looking to make major improvements in the future.
Can you talk about the product landscape at the moment? What’s really working for 3Com?
SE: I think with regards to what’s working we’ve seen our IP telephony product — our NBX product grow in the two quarters that I’ve been here. We’ve seen wireless develop and our switches still dominate the education market.
Recently, I asked Cisco channel boss, Kip Cole, whether 3Com’s Cisco-compatible Huawei products were having an effect on Cisco’s market share, and he said he just hadn’t seen them. How are you going with that particular range — are you making much of an impact?
SE: Yes, worldwide they are shipping in volume. What I think you’ll see is an upturn of shipments of the Huawei products into A/NZ through these next few months.
Certainly, we’ve got some big deals on the table that we’re working on.
The Huawei range covers core switching and routers and for both those we’ve already made great inroads into some projects in Melbourne, for example.