Spreading the load

Vendor restructuring – everybody's at it in the Middle East market

Tags: United Arab Emirates
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By  Andrew Seymour Published  December 21, 2009

Resellers and distributors can call upon an abundance of vendor-provided sales tools and resources to help them prevail these days, but could it be that the number of channel-facing personnel available to them next year is a lot less than they are used to?

There was a time when vendors simply couldn't source enough pairs of hands to manage their channel growth, but after the events of the last 12 months it seems like the opposite is true.

Resellers in the Middle East, particularly in Dubai, speak of a situation where their regular contacts at vendors have either changed positions or are now carrying out more than one set of duties.

Account management and channel development roles that were once occupied by two or more managers are now being filled by one, and partner-facing tasks are being consolidated across the workforce. ‘Multi-tasking' has suddenly become a byword for productivity.  

It is not sector-specific either. Personnel and organisational changes have been rampant throughout the vendor landscape this year, right from the big industry bellwethers down to manufacturers employing just a handful of staff in the region.

The likes of Cisco, Microsoft and Acer have all carried out some form of restructuring, while HP went a step further just recently by dismantling its independent channel organisation and moving forward with an entirely different set-up.   

Avaya, which is currently in the process of hiring a dedicated channel manager for the MENA region following an internal reshuffle, indicated this week that its country managers would be handed more partner-led responsibilities than might traditionally be associated with a position of that seniority.

These are just a few instances of the reorganisation taking place in response to the varying challenges and conditions facing the market, but they reflect a wider tendency among vendors to ensure the business is absolutely as lean as possible, even if it means fewer people taking on additional responsibilities in some cases.   

Analysts suggested earlier this year that companies would use the downturn to restructure for future growth and while that seemed to be stating the obvious at first, it is exactly what many members of the regional IT sector have being doing.

There simply isn't the capacity for vendors to justify the all-conquering teams that were quite normal when double-digit growth was assured from quarter to quarter not so long ago.

Given the turmoil that has engulfed the IT channel this year, the amount of internal change taking place is not surprising, but that doesn't mean it's not a concern for the channel.

With any kind of restructuring or corporate surgery induced by budgetary constraints or shifting market conditions, there is always a risk of companies taking their eye off the ball.

So although some may prefer to brush off such developments as a sign of the times, vendors have still got to manage the changes they make with expert precision. Partners - many who will be no stranger to internal restructuring themselves this year - are unlikely to be sympathetic if standards of support and service decline because corners are cut.

That's not the only challenge facing vendors. They'll arguably have to keep equally as close tabs on the contentment of their own employees, many of whom are probably being instructed to do more than their designation suggests - without the incentives or rewards they might have expected in the past.

This emerging era of multi-tasking and maximising resources is not necessarily all bad for the channel though. As one distributor remarked about one of its vendor's channel structure this week: "Instead of five people coming to us with a different question, we've now got one point of contact that sorts everything out. It's much easier!"

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