Waite says one of CCL’s biggest challenges when first building data centres almost a decade ago, was the customer need to see those flashing lights, understand the box they were put on and basically, the vendor supplying the technology.
Fast forward to 2016 however, and that dynamic has shifted.
“Customers now want to buy a business service outcome,” Waite says. “Whether that is EMC, Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise of NetApp, they are not exposed to the work behind the scenes and are in fact devolving ownership of who provides the platform.
“Instead, they are buying a service. So when I’m buying storage from a vendor, I’d love them to offer an as-a-service consumption model so I have no investment on my data centre floors - those are the areas customers are pushing back on, and service providers want this as well.”
Going one further, when Murphy picks up the phone at Dimension Data and talks to a vendor, he simply requires a shortcut.
“When we phone vendors, we expect immediate traction,” he adds. “When we phone it’s a client issue and they require X, Y or Z straight away without waiting, and that’s a crucial aspect of the vendor-reseller relationship.”
In echoing the expectations levels from both CCL and Dimension Data, Taylor - in speaking from a distributor perspective - believes access to the right knowledge is another critical role the vendor has to play within the channel.
But with some large tech organisations, on the ground support can be a difficult and frustrating experience, which again plays on the value-add of the partner.
“If I call my local reseller, they do care and they will solve it,” Taylor says.
Capitalising on culture
As the storage market in New Zealand evolves, in line with global trends, subtle differences continue to carve open pockets of revenue growth for partners.
Diamond, having worked on both sides of the Tasman, appreciates that New Zealand is a market of innovators and a leading indicator of trends.
“New Zealand has a higher per capita of people developing digital applications for conducting business, and there’s lots of potential for local resellers to get involved and provide the resources and technologies to service this,” he adds.
While the idea of Kiwi innovation and inventiveness is common knowledge across the world, for partners, Waite identifies areas where partners can utilise such a reputation for a local advantage.
“Whenever I travel overseas, it still amazes me the level of exposure New Zealand businesses receive on a global stage because of our reputation of taking technology on and trying new things,” Waite adds.
“If we fail it’s cheap and quick - and everyone gets that already. But technology aside, partners can exploit other areas as well, such as pushing change in licensing agreements, support agreements and other components.”
In keeping with the typical Kiwi trait of “having a crack at anything”, as Patterson observes, such a mindset and culture bodes well for the current state of play within the storage market, as organisations struggle to grapple with new technologies.
“There is a rising sense of panic,” Patterson adds. “Businesses don’t understand the storage technology within their business and to be honest, don’t always trust IT departments.
“The board usually brings in the technical team to explain technology and the impact on the business and they are no better off with that information.
“As a result, they’re desperately looking for partners who are able to understand the transformative nature of the technology being built, and how to apple that to a business problem.”
While Patterson is advocating simply “having a crack” for the sake of it, his central point is based around a partner’s ability to “switch between business and technology” - to “talk to IT in their language, then do the same in the boardroom.”
“If you sit within that space, you’ll have a future,” he predicts.
But change is difficult.
“We changed our approach to the market around nine years ago because we could see that our traditional business of selling equipment into customers was in decline,” Waite adds.
Yes, it’ll have a long tail, and yes it’s not over yet, but as Waite bluntly states - “it’s not the future”.
“We built a managed services portfolio instead and started very small, but with the long-term goal of becoming an independent trusted advisor.
“Businesses come to us with a technology problem, not an IT problem and we translate it back into what technology is required - which touches back to the overriding point of resellers being the glue.”
Alluding to Waite’s approach, Kennedy-Moffat believes that even though the infrastructure decision should be made last, many resellers put that decision first.
“Turn the conversation around and ask yourself, how is the business working?” he adds. “What is the service you’re trying to offer and the outcome and naturally, the infrastructure decision will follow.”
But with a change of approach comes cost and hardship however, with the big players such as CCL and Dimension Data - among others in New Zealand - actively recruiting new personnel with new skillets and requirements for the changing role.
“It’s hard to make the move because resellers need people that can do it,” Arnold adds. “Storage partners need people who understand business analytics and they need people who understand ‘the business’.
“Not all organisations can do this and it’s a difficult transition for many, but there are ones completing changing and making a success of it.”
As Waite admits, during the early years the transition from selling a product with an annual maintenance and a three-year lifespan into a service “hurt”, but once CCL came out of the other side cemented within that glue position - “that’s gold.”
“But let’s be clear,” adds Patterson, quick to reassure the vast majority of channel partners in New Zealand. “Today’s current business model is not going away within the next five minutes.”
Conscious of the need to be open and accurate with Kiwi resellers, Patterson says that while the future is clearly built around a need for greater partner consultancy and services, the end is not near for traditional market players.
A crucial interjection at a time of great change market change, Patterson’s view is backed by all vendors, who advise the channel to be sensible when making changes.
“Resellers don’t need to change overnight and nor should we encourage them to do so,” Kennedy-Moffat adds, “but that’s the future.”
As Arnold points out from Dell, all businesses are dramatically changing today, as they adapt to meet the new models going forward.
In providing an honest assessment of the Kiwi channel scene, Arnold accepts there are companies that will stay the same, and continue to have relative success in a declining market - “it’s not a case of if you don’t change tomorrow, then you’re dead.”
While the end is most certainly not near for the traditional resellers in New Zealand, in unveiling new market disruptors and the criteria for partner success across the country, the future path of storage has been outlined.
The question is however, will resellers disrupt, or be disrupted?
To read part one of the discussion - Reseller News Roundtable - Examining the storage state of play for Kiwi partners - click here