Specialise to capitalise

Partner ceremonies are a customary part of the IT calendar, but aside from the opportunity for vendors to give their allies a little bit of loving and renew their vows for another year, it can actually prove a useful forum for discovering what resellers need to be doing to build a more successful business.

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  November 22, 2006

Partner ceremonies are a customary part of the IT calendar, but aside from the opportunity for vendors to give their allies a little bit of loving and renew their vows for another year, it can actually prove a useful forum for discovering what resellers need to be doing to build a more successful business.

That is particularly true of the HP partner channel, which gathered for the vendor’s annual awards shindig last week. Almost 300 resellers and distributors from across the region turned out for the event at Dubai’s Fairmont hotel.

Now, let’s face it, when you have so many competing companies and personalities in one room it would be easy to take a cynical view of the judging criteria used to select the winner as we all know that politics can sometimes triumph over performance!

To be fair, the methods HP used to select its 2006 champions were pretty scientific with a healthy emphasis on sales records, marketing activity and depth of product portfolio leading to names such as Al Suwaidi Companies, IBT and Mannai Trading stepping up to the stage to collect a gong.

Naturally, 99% of the room didn’t pick up a prize, but rather than sulk about that fact, smart resellers should be asking themselves how the winning companies are reaching such heights and what they should do to match it.

As we hurtle towards 2007 and resellers finalise their business plans for the year ahead, resellers must be prepared to adapt the way they go to market for the sake of their long term prospects. HP has made no secret of the fact that it believes the leading partners, such as the ones who picked up awards this week, will be those that comprehend the importance of enhancing their skill sets and technological understanding.

HP’s expectation for 2007 is that the concept of becoming specialised in certain technology areas within its Preferred Partner Programme, such as high performance computing or mobility networking, will take off in the Middle East in the same way it already has done in Europe.

Resellers that are prepared to lay their cards on the table and invest in becoming more focused are most likely to be the success stories of the future. Just Listen to HP’s SPO chief Salim Ziade. “Generalisation is going to become a word of the past and specialisation will take over,” he predicts. “You need to decide the fields in which you are going to be excellent. Being good in everything will not be enough anymore.”

Tests that HP has done with some Middle East partners over the past year reveal that those with specialisations have grown “significantly faster” than those which haven’t. Given the same trend has occurred in parts of Europe where the Preferred Partner Programme is now established, there is no reason to doubt these claims.

The Middle East channel always needs to keep in mind that because customer buying behaviour is evolving there is no room for complacency. As the bar gets higher and higher, partners who cannot deliver complex IT solutions by themselves will be squeezed out. The only way to avoid that happening is by developing a truly valuable set of skills.

I fully accept that vendors such as HP, IBM and Microsoft must be accountable when it comes to ensuring that it is financially and commercially viable for companies to obtain and maintain these skills, but the real responsibility lies with resellers to be be bold enough to reshape their business.

Perhaps then, they will be the ones getting their picture taken with a nice shiny keepsake at next year’s partner awards.

CA bucks the trend

Last week saw CA’s regional VP Gilbert Lacroix and marketing chief Ned Jaroudi elevated to new roles in the organisation. Internal promotions are part and parcel of life in this region, but the news is worthy of a special mention because the extra responsibility awarded to the pair gives them license to shape CA’s indirect channel strategy throughout the whole of EMEA.

It is well known that CA has traditionally operated a direct model in Western Europe, even though it is now attempting to become the software leopard that changed its spots by adding a much stronger partner flavour to its approach.

The work that Lacroix and his team have done in building a solid partner-led business model in this region during the past two or three years clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed by CA’s top brass, who are keen to see at least some of that progress replicated in Europe.

I agree that it was much easier for CA to succeed in the Middle East with a partner model because the business was started from scratch and free from the burden of a direct go-to-market legacy, but the promotions still deserve recognition.

All too often, European executives have the Middle East region added to their domain so it is a clear endorsement of what CA has achieved in the MENA region for it to be the other way around on this occasion.

Don’t forget either that the dedicated channel programme CA has been sculpting for its Enterprise Solutions Partners in the Middle East is now being adapted for mature markets in Europe.

Channel Middle East has been a fierce proponent of the view that channel programmes for the region need to be developed in the region, rather than simply imported from Europe or the US. It is refreshing to see a vendor doing that and putting the Middle East in the driving seat for once.

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