Frequently overused but seldom delivered upon, the notion of value in the channel continues to lack definition.
In a market overflowing with new and emerging technologies, Australian customers are chasing innovation at breakneck pace.
Irrespective of size or sector, end-user differentiation remains key as competition continues to increase.
Within the supply chain, value spans the customer, the partner and the channel, each forming a crucial component of the overall solution.
“The focus for 2018 is on reseller partners and how best Synnex can facilitate channel growth and engagement in a changing market,” said Kee Ong, CEO of Synnex Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ). “This will come from driving growth within our value add services business.
“It will also be about staying relevant with new technologies - investing in the cloud marketplace, Internet of Things (IoT) enablement, expanding the vendor line up and offering end-to-end solutions to address the entire IT ecosystem.”
Across the Australian marketplace, customers of all shapes, sizes and sectors look, think and buy differently.
With innovation levels heightening, forward-thinking customers are seeking forward-thinking partners in the year ahead, in a bid to create competitive advantage across the market.
“Customer value centres around building out a complete solution, not just selling hardware, or just services, or just training,” explained Katherine Binks, channel manager of Chrome OS JAPAC, Google Cloud. “Customer value is when a partner - or set of partners working together - can offer a complete bundled solution tailored to the customer’s needs.”
Tapping into extensive local channel expertise, Binks recalled a time when an almost state of “paranoia” dominated the channel, with partners fixated on deal registration and ownership of the end-user.
“That was five years ago,” Binks added. “It used to be that the reseller could solve three quarters of the solution and that was ok.
“But now customers are looking for partners to come together to provide the full solution - and that includes working with the vendor and in many cases other partners. Working together to solve the customer problem is delivering true customer value.”
With a responsibility for building out the Chrome OS partner ecosystem across A/NZ, Binks is tasked with leading channel enablement, recruitment and marketing incentives on both sides of the Tasman, while also driving growth through distribution.
Today, customers are seeking “deep knowledge” within the context of technology, aligning with industry experts capable of collaborating - if the outcome requires - to deliver innovation.
“At Google, we take a vertical approach and provide industry workshops to help enable and inform partners on what are seeing in the market,” Binks added. “The partners we are looking for are open to alternative and new technology, and keen to go all-in with Google as we have many different solutions for various verticals.
“The way we enable and train is very different - it’s about 30 per cent engagement, 70 per cent building competencies.”
One partner aligning to Google in the Australian enterprise space is Fujitsu, a provider committed to building long-term customer relationships across the market.
Driven by a vision of ‘Human Centric Innovation’, the business is focused on how the solutions and services provided impact the quality of life and work for customers.
“Ultimately, value is defined by how well the business outcomes have been achieved and how this was perceived by the customer,” Fujitsu Australia solution director, James Mercer, said. “We’re finding that co-creation is an important aspect to partnering and delivering business relevant outcomes for our customers.
“Often the best solution comes from a collaborative effort between vendors, customers and partners.”
To maximise the co-creation process, Mercer - alongside Google - engages customers through initiatives such as design thinking workshops and hackathons, in a bid to extract a customer viewpoint in the context of value.
“The deeper knowledge we have of the customer the better equipped we are to help them achieve their business outcomes,” Mercer added. “Customers are increasingly looking to vendors and partners for innovation as they see this as a key differentiator for their business.
“We are in a good position to help our customers by leveraging our global expertise and innovation through technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and blockchain.”
In assessing the ever-evolving enterprise market, the DNA of the customer is changing at pace, with the CIO no longer the standard-bearer of IT - there’s a new buyer in town.
“To understand a customer’s problem, it’s no longer enough to just speak to the IT department,” advised Bryan Lee, head of global channels, Google Cloud. “This is more of a business discussion, rather than simply a presentation.
“Given that customers require deep knowledge, partners must move away from the ‘do it ourselves mentality’ to adopt a collaborative partner approach."
Maintaining an all-in approach, this time in the field of education, EdTechTeam operate as Google for Education specialists in Australia, leveraging a partnership spanning more than 10 years.
Going to market through a global network of educational technologists, while leveraging professional development expertise, EdTechTeam worked with educators in 39 different countries during 2017, in 11 different languages.
“The relationship that we have with Google as a partner is one of mutual respect and support,” EdTechTeam regional director A/NZ, Kimberley Hall, added. “We heavily utilise the Google ecosystem in the way we do business, so we believe in and have experience with, the strength of their solutions for both education and business.”
As the first female in Australia to be both a Google Certified Teacher and Google Education Trainer, Hall is well versed in the notion of customer value.
“Customers experience value when they are provided with solutions, not just physical devices,” Hall explained. “Most education customers are seeking to purchase devices to assist in solving a problem at their school and it’s rarely that they simply like having more hardware to manage.”
Consequently, Hall said “it’s no longer enough” for providers to simply unbox devices for schools.
Instead, plans must be in place to connect customers with professional development and online resources, designed to enable end-users to maximise infrastructure investments.
Specific to EdTechTeam, the provider has expanded capabilities to increasingly partner with schools and departments to customise ongoing support for end-users with the aim of utilising devices for the transformation of teaching and learning in schools.
“We have also diversified our offerings,” Hall explained. “We offer customers support in the form of large scale conferences, fully customised professional development, online courses and even a book publishing arm for current research-based support materials.”
According to Suan Yeo - head of education A/NZ at Google - a successful partner in education understands the mechanics of a classroom and can think about a solution through the lens of a teacher, student and parent.
Read more on the next page...