ARN

Google and Microsoft outline Aussie channel priorities

Tech giants tackle triple value play: customer, partner and channel
L-R: Katherine Binks (Google); James Mercer (Fujitsu); Steven Miller (Microsoft) and Peter Stein (Datacom)

L-R: Katherine Binks (Google); James Mercer (Fujitsu); Steven Miller (Microsoft) and Peter Stein (Datacom)

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.”

Enterprise

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.

Bryan Lee (Google); Katherine Binks (Google); James Mercer (Fujitsu) and James Henderson (ARN)Credit: Christine Wong
Bryan Lee (Google); Katherine Binks (Google); James Mercer (Fujitsu) and James Henderson (ARN)

“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."

Education

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.

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“To be a successful, partners must master the Google for Education value proposition for the three audiences,” Yeo added. “Google provides dedicated partner enablement to ensure our partners are set up for success.

“Chromebooks are secure devices which are well positioned to support online assessments, alongside switch to testing mode to secure hardware and disable features such as internet browsing, screenshot functions, and USB ports. Teachers should spend less time monitoring students and more time helping them.”

Delivering value

In the context of the customer, the notion of value varies. But one over-arching concept remains for the channel, in a world in which business outcomes takes centre stage.

“For Microsoft, the channel is the critical enabler of customer value, our customers are also our partner’s customers,” said Steven Miller, director of education, Microsoft. “What we know businesses are looking for, which is technology that can help provide a competitive edge and unlock value.”

To achieve this, Miller said the channel must adapt and build on their own unique IP, spanning solution and service offerings.

“That way, partners are delivering relevant technologies that deliver outcomes for their customers,” he explained. “That is customer value and in a competitive marketplace, ensures the channel continues to thrive.”

Operating is an ecosystem spanning thousands of providers in Australia - incorporating all aspects of the supply chain - Datacom is a partner delivering on the promise of value, through a shift away from traditional technology processes.

“It’s about the intangibles,” added Peter Stein, general manager of software and cloud alliances Australia at Datacom. “Customer value is about more than margin and volume across the resale.

“We’re looking at ways of adding value to a customer’s business into the future, which they in turn use to create a better experience for their customers.”

Today, Stein said customers expect the creation of solutions that work for “first and foremost” for the business, and because of this, refuse to be “shoehorned” into a single vendor, one-size-fits-all, boxed solution.

“We work closely with all our partners to ensure we can provide those multi-faceted solutions with them,” Stein added.

Furthermore, the emergence and acceptance of cloud continues to disrupt legacy technology, placing a requirement on consultants and experts to be “flexible, reliable and quick to market”.

“For Microsoft, continually striving to provide our partners with platforms that can help them thrive and build great customer relationships is essential,” added Miller, when referencing how the vendor’s approach to partnering has changed.

“In so many ways, the core skills of listening and understanding what your customer is seeking to do in their business, plus extending that out with knowledge of their competitors really gives you the opportunity to work at a far deeper level.

“Augmenting that with your own IP, something that makes you unique will set you apart and help you really deliver for every customer.”

Differentiation

Delving deeper, and specific to the education sector, Melbourne-based Edunet is using the concept of value to differentiate in a highly competitive market, recognising the need to look beyond the device to deliver end-user outcomes.

“Value is what sets us apart from retail,” Edunet managing director, Matthew Gordon, added. “PCs are a commodity item meaning our value-add must be a differentiator in the marketplace.

“It’s a simple recipe, trustworthy advice pre-purchase plus a solid warranty and service program to support the device post-purchase. Putting a robust enterprise-class machine in a student’s hands and being able to offer white-glove services such as imaging and also repackaging items to save on waste are also key elements.”

Peter Stein (Datacom); Steven Miller (Microsoft) and James Henderson (ARN)Credit: Christine Wong
Peter Stein (Datacom); Steven Miller (Microsoft) and James Henderson (ARN)

Traditionally, Gordon said PCs have been ordered in quantity, before the market shifted towards both bring and choose-your-own-device, resulting in purchase orders changing from a single order to hundreds, with conversations becoming more frequent, this time with individual families and students.

“We’ve adapted to make sure our value offering suits both schools and families as these two demographics can often have different views of value,” he added.

“Customers today are talking about security. We’re at the coalface of connecting students to the online world through technology.”

Despite the majority of schools having the appropriate measures in place, Gordon said a focus on protection remains, especially when then machine is used outside of the core network.

“Traditionally questions such as ‘how can we protect the device while being used in the home?’ have been met with answers such as ‘ensure it’s used in a public area’,” Gordon explained. “Families are now asking for more and parents are looking to lead the conversation in the home around cyber security.

“It’s our job to stay ahead of emerging technologies and apply them to examples such as this.”

For Microsoft partners, technology is being leveraged across the board to unlock new levels of value for the customer.

“The ability for partners to develop on the Microsoft platform and deploy repeatable IP to multiple customers, provides an enhanced level of flexibility,” added Jesse Cardy, enterprise channel manager of education, Microsoft.

“A good example in education is the ability for a device partner to build, sell and deploy a digital assistant, hosted in Microsoft Azure, leveraging repeatable IP and facilitated by CSP licensing with great ease - improving the end user experience as a result.”

As explained by Cardy, the vendor’s One Commercial Partner (OCP) organisation is underpinning the creation of new value to partners, which is transferred onward through to customers.

“This helps better align the right partner, with the right customer, offering the right solution / or service at the right time,” he added. “For a higher education customer, this could mean a shift toward digital assistants – to improve the customers’ customer experience e.g. the student.

“In the K-12 segment of the education industry there is a sustained focus on how partners can help to enable 21st century skills development. Regardless of the nuances of each sector the opportunity to be part of a customer’s digital transformation is there.”

As Microsoft - and an expanding army of partners - combine forces to reinvent the classroom, key vendor alliances are also forming, chiefly through HP in Australia.

“The HP and Microsoft relationship really shines at it brightest in the education segment,” added Katrina Yon, commercial sales program manager of channel, HP. “From the foundations of ensuring we are building the right machines for schools, in collaboration to how we then deliver them to market through our channel partners.

“This also includes our continued success and support of education programs such as HP Education Excellence Program and Microsoft Shape the Future.

“Over the last few years, we have shared a laser focus on our corporate and social responsibility to offer thought leadership in to schools and the education channel.”