SoftIron considers Australia to be the “poster child country” for how the storage vendor operates, but that doesn’t mean it’s trying to grab just any local partner that comes its way.
Speaking to ARN, SoftIron's vice president of business development and channel, Phil Crocker, said the Australian IT market was one that, on global stage, has largely gone unutilised and is ripe with potential.
“Australia has been underserved as a market. It's a huge market; it's a remote market to many people's minds but it has a very interesting strategic need right now in terms of its own IT and independence and everything that's going on with Asia and the new government's beliefs around sovereignty,” he said to ARN.
Crocker said the company believes so much in the Australian market, it places sales and support staff into the country “well ahead” of most of its other target markets.
“When I look at the balance of our resources around the world, compared to any other IT company I've worked with, Australia is positively and disproportionately represented in the mix of people who work there,” he said.
“The amount of time I spend relative to other markets — it's higher than any other company I've worked with.”
The appeal of Australia, he said, is solving its logistical challenges, which comes from the fact that Crocker’s background lies in logistics.
“If you can solve for one of the furthest away parts of the planet, then you can solve for the short arm,” he added.
Indeed, being an international company means SoftIron staff is distributed around the world and as such prioritises the need to virtualise as much as possible.
“We pick talent where it exists, we let it work from where it exists and the technology now is good enough to be able to work with the local in country resource and make things happen,” Crocker said.
“So, building a channel, I love it because it's a long-distance challenge for me, but then I work through people who are virtual teammates, both the market consultants and also our employees.”
Picking the best partners
Last year in April, SoftIron launched its first global partner program, targeting value-added resellers, systems integrators and managed service providers. On a global scale, the company today has over 60 partners actively involved in the program, with upwards of 15 of those based locally.
The goal, the VP said, would be to bump up the number of global partners to 100 and the local figure up to 25, with the latter of which having a third active at any given time.
However, Crocker said SoftIron has the capacity to be picky about which partners it onboards.
“We're not trying to boil the ocean here. I've been in companies where you oversaturate the market with partners, it becomes a dogfight, you destroy your own margin in the business, customers don't get well served and it's a race to the bottom,” he said.
“What we're trying to do in all markets, Australia being a key one, is to build a sufficient coverage bond to serve the market, but not create a dogfight. That's not how we want to operate.
“I've been in that situation before. It's just uncomfortable and not a culture we want to build. We don't need to, frankly; we're not EMC, we don't have to sustain a $20 billion annual run rate; we can pick and choose our partners as we grow in the early stages.
In fact, Crocker is willing to cut ties with partners that, for whatever reason, don’t gel with SoftIron.
“I don't want to support 5,000 partners, I want to pick the ones, and I want them to pick us, that will actually do something," he said.
“If we need to be grownups and say either whether on product for your portfolio, or your you're the wrong partner for our portfolio, I'd rather do that than waste time.
Those that would be considered time wasters at the moment, Crocker continued, include those that just want to do fulfilment.
“It's just like, ‘You do all the work Mr Vendor and we'll come along and put it on our paper, we'll take 5 to 10 points of margin and we're done here.’ There's a time and place for that,” he said.
“There are some markets around the world where you need fulfilment partners, because that's the way the market works. You do all the work and they have to be involved in the mix, so you need them where you need them.
“But fundamentally, we need partners that want to go and win together with us, because the whole program essence, and the program document spells this out, is you go together. If we need to teach a partner how to do something, technically, then we try and do it ahead of winning a deal. But sometimes deals happen and you have to do it while you're actually working on the deal.
“You do the install together and they learn how to do the install with you on the job.”