Selling a new channel strategy

Selling a new channel strategy

Channel director for Hitachi Data Systems, Steve Kelly, was one of several new recruits brought in this year to drive indirect business. He spoke to ARN about the challenges vendors face developing the right partner strategy, his love of start-ups and touring the globe.

What was your first job?

I sold IT when I was 19 for Computerland [PC reseller]. I have always been in sales - I've never done the technical stuff. I tried my hand at being a paper boy, but didn't excel at that.

How did you end up in IT?

I wasn't really into computers as a boy and studied economics in university. But I wanted to make money selling, mainly because it was a people gig. I ended up doing a micro-computer course and went from there.

How did you progress to where you are today?

One of the things I used to do every few years - before we had children at least - was take a year off and go travelling. I made the jump into vendor land in 1994 and worked for Workgroup Systems in Chatswood, which was in what we now call CRM, or service desk. I learnt a lot there and make some great contacts. Dominic Whitehand [WhiteGold managing director] was the tech sales guy I brought over from the UK, for example. I was then recruited by BEA when they were first starting up, which was an exciting time. I got married in 1998 and took a year off to do an overland trip from Nepal to London, then was going to work for IBM in London to help with a new brand they were starting up in the emerging applications/server space called Worksphere. But I decided to come back to Sydney to work with IBM here instead.

Where did you go from IBM?

I did a stint with F5 networks in Asia-Pacific before coming back to IBM. I wanted to have a normal rep job at home as we were starting the family but was also keen to get more involved in channel, so I ran Tivoli's channel for Asia-Pacific. Then the opportunity with HDS came up.

What's your take on developing the right channel program?

It's a maturity cycle - vendors begin on a deal-by-deal basis, then you have the rise of a partner program, which is a formal way of providing partners with discounts. But you wind up saying 'yes' to every partner that brings you a deal and end up with channel conflict. So you always have to be careful how you manage that. Even back at IBM in the Websphere days, the channel model looked good on paper but was a bit immature because it was too big and unwieldy. Some vendors like to have influence partners like the big systems integrators, but the other part of the company starts a services business and you end up with problems.

With HDS we don't have that problem - firstly, because we have deal registration but, secondly, because we've segmented the model.

What do you like about your current job?

Mark Kay [HDS managing director A/NZ] has a vision for what he wants us to do - he has treated HDS like a start-up and fundamentally changed the way this company does business. It's not perfect and there's lot of challenges but that is what I'm used to doing. It's business 'unusual' and that's exciting. Decision making is also local so it's a nimble business and there's investments being made. We've now got 39 people looking at channel and to see the changes in the last few months - it's been very dramatic.

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