It's been a busy year, to the say the least, for Tim Dickinson.
Since taking up the role of A/NZ sales manager at SonicWall in January, Dickinson has overseen numerous tweaks to the company's channel, most notably in its distributor line-up, with the addition of ACA Pacific to current distributors, Lan 1 and Dovetail.
He has also overseen a sizeable increase in the number of certified partners under the vendor's Silver and Gold Medallion partner program and a jump in the number of resellers participating in global management training for SonicWall's upcoming managed security services offering.
Now Dickinson is looking to focus more on communication between the vendor and its partners in an effort to devise better ways to grow each others' businesses.
How did you come to be involved with SonicWall?
Tim Dickinson (TD): Most recently I was with American company, Laserfishe, for two years, running APAC for them. The role was actually similar to my current one at SonicWall as it was very much a regional role. I also brought in a two tier distribution model for them in Australia.
I jumped at the opportunity to work for SonicWall as I really like working for American companies. They have the ability to get equity to gain additional resources and seem to have a lot more clout.
Australia is a microcosm of America in a lot of ways, so if a product is doing pretty well in America it's probably going to do well in Australia.
That's why we're seeing Australia as a big area for us in APAC.
Since taking the role in January what have you focused your efforts on?
TD: We have been trying to improve the business for a while so there has been an overhaul of our distributors right across APAC. We have been looking for partners that can provide support right across the region, and ACA Pacific has reach into other APAC countries, so we brought them on.
We have also been building up the number of certified resellers we have as certification enables us to continue with high growth. If you look at broadband and how quickly that is being adopted, you need a business model that allows you to scale quickly. Certification of partners allows you to do that.
Training of resellers is important also and we have invested a significant amount of money to provide full online training for engineers. Our channel program has probably grown 300 to 400 per cent since the start of the year in the number of partners participating.
SonicWall has been criticised in the past about the level of support it has provided partners.
TD: Support has really been a focus for me as I realised we needed increased support when I came onboard. We have brought 24x7 phone support and we now have and engineer each for the Southern and Northern regions.
What are the current trends in the marketplace and those coming into 2005?
TD: Social engineering is a big issue and our risk seminars cover a lot on internal threat. Something like 45 per cent of all attacks come from within an organisation so being able to identify and manage internal security is a critical part of overall security.
Around 80 per cent of wireless networks aren't configured and that is an issue that needs to be addressed too, particularly as there's such demand for wireless. For example, somebody accessing company resources from home through an unconfigured network could give someone else direct access to the corporate environment.
With the boom in security, IT managers are just getting swamped. Microsoft alone is enough to keep any IT manager busy, let alone, security, laptops, mobility, wireless, PDAs and VoIP, so there will be growing demand for simple security appliances to cover everything.
What are your goals for 2005?
TD: I'm a great believer in the fact that you have to create demand from the base upwards, so we are focused on a lot of end-user demand creation activities. Too many vendors rely on distributors to create demand and leave them out on their own to do it. We have been doing a lot of risk seminars looking at Internet security knowledge and general presentations to end-users but will continue to do more.
We have also been undertaking partner advisory councils, where we get 15 of our top resellers from around Australia to work through a conference agenda where we talk about marketing, our plans for expansion, new products to market, technical updates.
We get feedback on the lot. It is important to have direct reach and feedback from your resellers to grow your business as they are ones who are on the street and dealing with end-user requirements.
We have also been growing the channel partner program rapidly so we'd like to drill that down more and focus on the key resellers. The partner advisory councils will be a big step towards that in 2005.