IN THE HOT SEAT: Selling storage with Hitachi

IN THE HOT SEAT: Selling storage with Hitachi

Hitachi Data Systems' Michael Heitz admits he hasn't got the technical storage expertise of his co-workers, but he's confident his skills working with the channel are all that are needed to take the reins as the company's new partner director for Australia and New Zealand.

Appointed to the post in August, Heitz is looking to strengthen its local partner programs and relationships. Most recently, the company struck up gold partnerships with Queensland firms, Technology Trading House and SureBridge IT, to expand its geographic reach.

ARN: Give us a snapshot of your employment history

Michael Heitz (MH): I come from the telecommunications industry, working with call centres and VoIP in the UK. My background is channel: when I came to Australia I worked with a distributor to bring the Avaya solutions to market. So far it has been proven the best thing ever that I don't have storage experience, because I can really focus on the channel objectives.

What does your job at HDS cover?

MH: Our channel structure is quite diverse. We cover SME through to enterprise accounts. In Australia we have traditionally played in the higher end, and we have a strong history with partners like Sun and HP. Now this market is maturing in the medium and lower end. We're applying our enterprise channel structure and programs to partners to enter that marketspace.

We have the same channel structure globally. With this we maintain consistency and a level playing field.

What are some of the short-term initiatives you plan to work on over the next couple of months?

MH: First of all we have to ensure our accreditation levels for our business partners give them the opportunity to be part of our channel program. We have to check our market model covers partner needs. The key is to accept that each partner works differently: geographically as well as vertically. We will focus on these strengths to minimise conflict.

We also have a strongly defined engagement model for the enterprise side. For example, we encourage our business partners to work within our enterprise named accounts. We don't exclude them by taking those accounts away. If they can provide value to those accounts through services for example, we bring them in.

Are you finding that there is an increasing need for value-adds from partners, such as services?

MH: Yes. Software skills for example, such as database management - we as an organisation can't train every single technician and engineer in these skills. But our partners have the skill sets and can. On the other hand, we have to make sure we provide value to them; and not just through the products. Our business partners live and die on services. That is their core revenue and margin income. What we are currently doing is opening up our services to business partners to fulfill.

How are you helping these channel partners identify these services opportunities?

MH: We have been doing workshops with select partners, but we are looking to do something. This could be for smaller VARs or large scale partners such as Sun.

It is not just the hardware, but the way you set it up. If you ask a reseller or systems integrator these days where the profitability is, it's not in the solution of software and hardware. It's the way it is sold as a professional service - that's the business case.

Going into 2005, what are the things you are looking to accomplish for the channel?

MH: The next quarter we are heavily focusing on driving our partner program and adding on more business partners in verticals where they will complement our existing channels.

Then we are also heavily focused on our distribution chain to push into the SMB space.

How is HDS' distribution set up in Australia?

MH: We have three distributors: Acer Computers, Lynx Technologies and ACA Pacific.

In the future the storage market will change and become more relevant to the SOHO market. We are even looking into products for the consumer space. There will also be increasing demand in the consumer entertainment market which we plan to focus on.

When these products are ready, we might have to look at a distributor who is actually addressing those markets.

What proportion of HDS sales does the channel represent?

MH: We don't disclose specific percentages, but there's a lot of hidden marketshare we have. Channel is our core focus - even with our enterprise accounts.

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