For a Fortune 500 company that spans the world, servicing over 200 countries from 22 offices globally, reach can only be achieved in one way - partnership.
With a brand recognised in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, Insight Enterprises is applying global rules to a local game, leveraging its propensity to partner as it expands across Australia.
As a leading supplier of cloud, software, storage, security, networking and hardware offerings, long-standing relationships with more than 5,000 software, hardware and cloud partners allows Insight to accelerate market reach through alliances, forming allies to help combat changing customer demands.
“We’ve got a mindset that says we can’t have deep expertise in all of the products we sell,” Insight Enterprises, general manager of APAC Services, Pat Murphy, said.
“Instead we work closely with niche partners who have that level of expertise and collectively, we bring together the experience for the customer.
“Of course there are lines of demarcation that need to be drawn but in reality, the customer simply wants the best solution.”
While Insight has built a Nasdaq-listed global giant off the back of strategic partnerships, in the past, the market could clearly delineate a channel partner from a strategic alliance. Yet today, those lines are blurring.
In short, partnering with fellow IT service providers can help the channel expand the services offered to customers without incurring the cost of hiring and retaining talent.
Whether through becoming a sub-contractor, hiring a sub-contractor, entering a reciprocity agreement or putting a formal agreement in place, businesses of all sizes in Australia are creating pacts, built on the need to leverage the growing and diverse network of talent in the channel.
“For the smaller born-in-the-cloud providers and some of the niche consulting partners, they have ongoing challenges around cash flow as an example, so we can help overcome those barriers by providing a single point of engagement for the customer,” Murphy explained.
In today’s world of compliance, Murphy said it’s difficult for customers to onboard new suppliers, given the growing mountain of processes wrapped around each specific contract.
“We can buffer that and aggregate service partners in the same way we’ve aggregated software buying partners for years, like we do we hardware also,” he added.
For Murphy, partners such as local channel services provider, Insentra, remain pivotal to such a process because of the company’s strong proficiencies in two or three leading technologies.
“As they expand their portfolio, we continue to assess where and when their expertise reaches a level so that we can bring in our partners,” he said.
With a culture of partnering embedded into its DNA, it’s not unusual for Insight to be working with Insentra, consultancy firm Modality and systems integrator Professional Advantage on one engagement, such is the increasing levels of collaboration in the Australian channel.
“We might have provided the software, our cloud and licence consulting services and then we bring that all together to provide the right solution for the customer,” he said.
To facilitate Insight’s deepened partner play, the Sydney-based firm has recently appointed Lison Mage to the role Partner Technology Services manager, tasked with managing the company’s key service alliance partners.
In the role, Mage will be responsible for developing and evolving the Partner Technology Business strategy in close alignment with all the other Services organisation leaders in country, including the recruitment and retention of Insight’s partner ecosystem.
“Lison’s role is to manage our partners like we get managed by the channel,” Murphy explained. “Lison is tasked with on boarding partners in a consistent and streamline process, developing joint business plans and setting targets to ensure we’re all working towards the best interests of the customer.”
Through Insight’s new partner lead, Murphy said the company is replicating its tried and trusted European model, which has recruited over 140 partners during four years of running.
“It augments the services that Insight wants to develop expertise,” he said. “The model allows us to leverage lots of best practice in the region and since launching across Asia Pacific, we’ve brought on about around ten service partners.
“While we’re not looking to hit the 140 mark like in EMEA, we’re seeking specific capabilities that support specific technologies and geographies.
“Not all of our partners equipped to cover Australia, let alone the Asia Pacific region, so it’s important we create coverage.”
Prompted by a desire for Insight’s global customers to seek a consistent experience across the world, Murphy said that businesses today want to have the full lifecycle managed, but “there’s not a chance” any one organisation can deliver this outcome globally without partnering.”
With consolidation in the Australian market reaching fever pitch, Murphy acknowledged that partners of the present may not be partners of the future, following a spate of M&A activity from industry rivals
“Market movements require us to reset partnerships from time to time and determine whether they still make sense,” he said.
“But that’s not specific to Australia, that’s reflective across the board given the consolidation in the market at present.”
Closer to home however, Murphy said Insight is searching for partners that have “gone deep, rather than broad” in the market, emphasising the need to connect the channel dots to deliver new outcomes for customers.
“Specialisation is the key here,” he said. “There’s a whole new opportunity for partners to be specialists, whether that be through born-in-the-cloud or just developing specialist technology that goes deep.”
With transition time for partners now underway, the old adage of “all good things must come to an end” is starting to ring true.
As the Insight model proves, the industry seeks specialists, craving niche providers that dig deeper that the generalist channel of the past.
“Customers don’t want people to learn on the job, they are paying good money to have solutions delivered, which is why we rely on niche partners.
“There’s certain capabilities we’re happy to invest in, but for some, we either don’t have the background or appetite to do so, which is why collaboration is key."
A chief example of Insight’s interaction with the channel in Australia is highlighted through its ongoing partnership with Insentra, a leading Microsoft, Symantec and Veritas partner.
Having worked with the Sydney-based firm for four years, Murphy said the mutually beneficially relationship has grown to provide Insight with much needed coverage across vast local segments.
Through utilising Insentra’s 100 percent channel-only model, the company utilises services and capabilities when required, taking advantage of core vendor expertise in the process.
“It coopetition at play,” said Murphy, alluding to the new-found ways of working in the channel. “In some spaces we might compete in a sense but there’s plenty of opportunity in the market to work together.
“We leverage Insentra’s deep expertise across specific technologies and hold great longstanding customers with key customers, who view our role almost as an aggregator of sorts.
“But transparency is key and having clear rules of engagement is critical to ensuring a strong partnership.”
For Insight however, alliances also come from the vendor side, with the provider making key bets with Microsoft, VMware and Veritas among others.
“We partner with the big traditional software players who are on a journey from perpetual licences to subscription, which creates a whole new set of challenges for customers around how they manage their cloud estates,” Murphy added.
Backed by emerging vendor technologies, and in looking ahead, Murphy said Insight remains focused on three core areas of its business; cloud, licence consulting and partner technology.
“Our cloud business is focused on helping customers understand what assets they have in the cloud, and which workloads belongs on which cloud play and how best to integrate legacy assets,” he explained.
“We’re a strong believer that in the years to come, some workloads will still make sense running on premise.”
Murphy said Insight’s key go to market strategy from a services perspective focuses on helping customers migrate to the cloud, guiding organisations along the path of digital transformation.
“One of the biggest concerns customers have is that it’s so easy to consume assets in the cloud,” he said. “We help remove the bill shock factor because an administrator can effectively spin up a stack of virtual machines in a public cloud environment, and then have to face the bill.
“We play a role with our partners in helping customers modernise legacy business processes and consume technology in new ways.”
Second to Insight’s strategy in Australia is the company’s licence consulting division, which helps customers cut out the complexity created with changing agreements.
“We believe that if customers have purchased software then they probably have a pan or a business goal to achieve,” he said. “But many customers don’t understand what they’ve got so we help to align business objectives and provide a return on the investment.”
Finally, and perhaps crucially for Insight, kick starting the company’s partner technology play remains crucial to sustaining ongoing growth.
“We look for great synergies and will continue to expand through partnership in this manner, as we don’t have the capabilities to go it alone,” Murphy concluded.
This article originally appeared in the August issue of ARN magazine - to subscribe, please click here