The future for Channel Partners

Posted on 22/02/2021 by osanders

By Osama El Deeb, Director Business Partner Organization, METNA

There’s a very simple saying we often use with our channel partners and that is ‘if you don’t have it, you can’t give it’. If partners don’t have a product, customers can’t buy it and if partners don’t know, customers can’t learn. This notion resonates universally, at any time, but especially so during the pandemic.

Most conversations are about the customers. As they should be, because in the end, it is all about the customers. But I like to pull back one step and look at the partners, how they have fared during last year, and what opportunities and challenges they have today.

And what I found is an exact parallel universe.

Customers and the pandemic

Over and over, companies looking back at the year 2020 have the same reactions: ‘we didn’t see it coming; we weren’t prepared; how could any of us have predicted and prepared for such a year?’

I understand this sentiment. Businesses and institutions globally were equally surprised by the pandemic and its effects.

But the reality is that some companies were in a much better position to deal with it. Those who had already made an investment in digital transformation projects, adopted cloud technology and digital workspaces were well along the journey and saw the benefits of these investments. Their move to working remotely was seamless, easy, secure; in many cases they saw zero disruption. They had what it takes and were able to adapt without struggle.

Other businesses had to play catch up. And of course, there are huge disadvantages to being one step behind. One of the surges we saw early in the pandemic was a huge demand for consumer notebooks. This was not because consumers were suddenly buying more; this was due to the amount of companies who needed to provide the tools for their employees to work from home. The market supply of business notebooks couldn’t keep up with the demand and so companies had no option but to purchase consumer notebooks. These by definition are not as secure and productive as business-grade machines.

Partners and the pandemic

Unsurprisingly, channel partners have had a carbon-copy experience.

Some partners were ready. Their teams are educated, they know the technology and those who are ‘born in the cloud’ were already cloud-ready and cloud-savvy.

On the other side, the traditional partners who are still stuck in the box-moving era missed the bus.

The market dynamics before the pandemic were different for partners. The revenue that is made on traditional hardware can often dwarf what comes in from software licensing and servicing. Big system integrators often feel hostage to their legacy revenue.

But, the tides were beginning to change even before 2020 and the pandemic has ensured that there is no return to where we were. The move has been made. Today companies and governments are swiftly moving into adoption of the cloud and the digital workspace.

In the old days, VMware would make up 10-20% of a partner’s opportunity with a customer. Today, we are 80% of the solution being put forth.

Is it too late for traditional partners?

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

It’s not too late for the partners – and customers – who have yet to make a transition or transformation. But time is crucial. We’re still in the middle of this era. It’s not over yet, for anyone, but this is not a time to delay.

The golden opportunity

Partners today have the golden opportunity to show their worth; to put partnership into action.

The pandemic pushed us all out of our comfort zones and when we find ourselves in uncharted territory, we are forced to consider, accept and behave in ways that previously we wouldn’t. Partners who themselves had to transform are now in a position to guide customers through that very same process with first-hand experience and empathy.

The size of the opportunity in our region with regards to total addressable market is larger than other regions.  And as large as the opportunity is the effort that must be exerted by partners to help customers.

The partners who have yet to transform must immediately put in a deliberate and purposeful investment and effort to catch up.

One of the highest certified VMware regions

At VMware we believe we have an obligation to support our channel partners, pandemic or no pandemic. But, when the lockdown first began early last year, we took advantage of the availability of the technical resources at partner sites. They were suddenly confined, with time on their hands. They love technology as much as we do so we talked tech. VMware tech of course. We made sure they had the information and training – the ammunition – they needed to take advantage of the digital transformation that was happening all around.

Because of this effort, the METNA region is one of the highest certified VMware regions in the world. This is something we are very proud of, and I believe it showcases how much we value our channel partners.

The new normal

I’m a very optimistic person, and I choose to find silver linings in the past year. There is no return to normal. It’s all about the new normal now. And much of that makes good business sense.

Companies learned to be more efficient financially and time-wise when it comes to travel, meetings and commuting. They learned that giving employees choice helps productivity.  This will have far-reaching effects, and benefits, on the work place and work habits.

Looking ahead

The main lesson from last year for channel partners is this: be agile and flexible. When you see change coming, act. The pandemic may be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but channel partners must be ready to help customers through any unforeseen and unexpected challenges that will come.

It’s a whole new world. And that means new opportunities. Let’s be ready for them.

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