Selling services

In light of the recent news that one of its main partners, Symantec, is shifting more services business into the hands of partners, Jed Isbell, boss of Aptec-owned Advanced Technology Services (ATS), explains what it means for the company.

Tags: Aptec DistributionSymantec CorporationUnited Arab Emirates
  • E-Mail
Selling services
By  Andrew Seymour Published  September 12, 2010

CME: ATS described itself as a professional services and IT security consulting company when it launched five years ago. What services does the company specialise in today?

JI: ATS provides the highest quality IT professional consultancy services and support to vendors and resellers within the Middle East. The company offers enterprises expertise in all aspects of computing infrastructure including IT security, storage, server and desktop virtualisation, and high availability/disaster recovery solutions.

CME: Do you provide services directly to end-users?

JI: ATS’ business model is based on the following pillars: we do not sell products and we do not look to engage directly with end-users. The foundation of our strategy is that we look to ‘complement’ the channel with the services required in terms of their product offerings and not be seen as ‘competitive’. For example, should any delivery lead to extra pull-through in terms of business with the end-user, be it product or services, then we would look to make this known to either the vendor or partner who engaged us in that delivery.

CME: Moving onto the relationship with Symantec, it announced at its MENA Partner Summit earlier this year that some of the services business it managed directly will be shifted to partners. What opportunities is this creating for ATS?

JI: We see this as a tremendous opportunity and one through which we look to build upon our relationship with the channel. Previously, we had to maintain a level of professionalism by being seen not to compete with Symantec whereas we now look to work with both distribution and the channel in terms of developing and offering solutions — both product and service — with service-based promotions to the market. We intend to kick this off in terms of a mail archiving promotion using a standard service SKU for up to 250 users at a very attractive price point. We are also looking to offer deep-dive training for the end-customer, should they be served by ATS.

CME: Symantec’s new partner-led services model is built on three layers: implementation - only partners; licence sales in one country, tools in another; and both licence and services companies. Where does ATS fit into this model?

JI: ATS is clearly aligned to layer one. As I have stated, it is not our strategy to sell products (licence sales). We believe that we are bespoke in our go-to-market strategy in terms of probably being the only Symantec partner that actually fits into this layer.

CME: Routing the services business through the channel marks quite a shift in strategy for Symantec. What challenges will implementing an indirect service model create?

JI: For ATS, this service model is not a big change in itself. We have always offered a direct (vendor-led) and an indirect (reseller/partner-led) offering where we have been serving our vendor and reseller customers in security, virtualisation and storage services. As a result, almost all of the vendors and resellers that we work with have benefited by partnering with us as an independent services provider, thus avoiding any channel conflicts. The challenge will be to step up our administrative department to liaise with the numerous Symantec partners, should they be interested in looking at ATS as their extended technical arm.

CME: Even if you attempt to partner with resellers that don’t have the technical resources to manage services delivery themselves, presumably you are going to see the Symantec services market in the region become more competitive overall?

JI: The Middle East is, and always will be, a competitive environment regardless of what business you are in. Clearly the channel partners will be re-assessing their own business models as to how best they can take advantage of the changes announced by Symantec. It is something only they can decide upon based on their respective customer bases and market propositions. It is, however, an area that ATS is also keen to develop in the form of partnership agreements.

CME: How would these partnership agreements be managed given the potential for channel conflict?

JI: The basis of the partnership agreement is to enable the channel partners to maintain their focus on the respective needs of their customers with that of ATS, working closely with them in terms of developing and delivering overall solutions that meet their customers’ needs. Since we announced this concept we have been approached by a number of channel partners interested in such a relationship, upon which we have already managed to sign-up agreements with four major partners and now have a number of others under discussion. The channel and its partner community know how best to sell products, whereas we like to believe we know best as to what is needed to ensure a quality delivery in terms of the sold solution.

CME: What sort of staff resources do you now have at ATS?

JI: We have about a dozen consultants focused on the implementation of various Symantec products and they carry consultant and senior consultant tags. All of our consultants are capable of handling projects from end to end — pre-sales, sales, design, implement, test, trouble shoot and fine-tune, plus knowledge transfer. Our technical team is distributed between our Riyadh and Dubai offices, and is capable of covering requests across the entire region.

CME: The financial downturn has reached all areas of the market. What sort of impact has it had on ATS?

JI: I think it is fair to say that all companies were impacted by the financial downturn in one way or another. ATS was no exception, but like a number of companies we looked at ourselves to see what could be done in order to ride the wave whilst it lasted. Investments have been cautious, with costs being thoroughly scrutinised in everything that we do. I believe that by taking such action we will come out of this a more mature and stronger company.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code