Transforming channels

As one of the longest serving UPS and power management solutions vendors in the Middle East, with a diverse portfolio, there can’t be many channel companies that don’t deal with Eaton in one way or another.

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Transforming channels Frank Ackland, MD, Electrical Sector, Middle East, Eaton
By  Manda Banda Published  June 18, 2015

As power management solutions manufacturer Eaton, moves to raise product and brand awareness in the Middle East, the company has made major investments over the past few years with a fanatical commitment to improve every aspect of its channel business in the Middle East.

Behind the company’s renewed partner focus lies a long-term channel commitment championed within the company’s Middle East operations by Frank Ackland, managing director, Electrical Sector, one of the great channel thinkers and strategists.

Ackland is the kind of business leader who makes you proud to be part of this industry: indefatigable and committed to a profitable partnership that pays off for both the partner and the vendor.

Of course, to succeed in the channel one needs more than a shrewd business leader to set the direction and to keep it on track. Having a talented team that can take the ball and run with it is exactly what Ackland has been doing as he builds the IT component for the company’s Distributed Power Quality Business Unit.

“Eaton has been in the Middle East for 40 years and has a fantastic legacy of doing business in this part of globe. We opened our first office in Dubai 41 years ago and have never looked back since,” he recalled.

Ackland said in the last two and half years, the company has consolidated a lot of its businesses here in the Middle East and integrated the Cooper Industries business which it acquired in 2013. “We have brought all the UAE offices together under one roof in Jebel Ali. We now have a factory in Jebel Ali and have been making headway in working closely with our customers and investing in our businesses,” he said. “The investments we are making have seen us hire 75 people over the last 12 months and we will be hiring some more over the course of 2015.”

He explained that the way Eaton looks at its growth really comes down to three main areas that the company is paying attention to. Firstly, said Ackland, it’s around larger projects, where the company is selling solutions of switch gear to utilities, oil and gas, and big industrial companies. The second part of our business, according to Ackland is around commercial construction and this covers anything from utility infeed to the ATS, UPS, lights, wiring devices or fire detection kits, Eaton supplies all that equipment to commercial construction, whether residential, commercial or industrial.

He added that the third area of focus is around Eaton’s channels. “That’s incredibly important for us and we have a very strong network in the Middle East but there are lots of areas where we still need to grow,” he acknowledged. “Our channel business for electrical products and UPSes is very important to us. We have a great portfolio for UPS  and power management solutions, which is the core parts of the IT infrastructure used to build modern data centres.”

The opportunities in the Middle East, where demand for UPS and other power management solutions are obviously greater than before not least because of the extreme weather conditions during the summer months, but also the need to reduce carbon foot print in organisations means more firms are adopting green IT solutions.

Ackland explained that the way Eaton works in building this business is hand-in-hand with channel partners because they are important to the company. “We have a very simple policy when dealing with partners across the region as we believe that we need to have few channels with really deep alliances and we operate 100% through the channel,” he stated. “We work hand-in-hand with them and we have seen a lot of growth over the last few years by having that really sensible, committed and loyal agreement with channel partners who share the same desire and hunger like us.”

While Eaton has made significant inroads with its electrical business in the region and enjoys good brand awareness in this segment, the same can’t be said about its IT component for UPSes and power management solutions in the Middle East.

Cyrille Brisson, vice president, Marketing, Electrical Sector, EMEA, Eaton, agreed and said the company has done a very good job of keeping all its offerings around the UPS hidden, however, that is about to change. I think it’s fair to say that we are branded as an electrical kit supplier on side and on the other, as UPS and power management solutions vendor,” he enthused.

Brisson said historically for about 20 years, the business in the channel was around someone buying a server and then connecting it to a UPS then that’s it. He added that as the patterns of buying have changed, the company has been working with other vendors to make sure that the offerings it brings to market wrap around the entire IT infrastructure and not just a box. “We are currently in a major push in Europe and we will be extending this to the Middle East to make sure that our channel partners are not focusing on boxes any more, but are in tune with solutions selling especially around virtualised environments,” he said. “I think the value we deliver is down to the integration capabilities our solutions have. We have an extreme clear channel policy and in each major market we have two or three tier-one distributors, a couple of broadliners that overlap and one value added distributor. Then we have a select number of resellers that work with as we don’t want to be over distributed in any market not matter how big or small that is,” he explained.

Brisson said Eaton has a very robust deal registration system to protect channel partners and the company doesn’t go direct. “The channel to Eaton is everything and the cooperation with distributors is vital for us to make inroads,” he said.

Ackland concurred and said Eaton needs to raise its profile especially in the traditional IT channels. “The Eaton brand is very strong in some areas and needs some strengthening in other areas and we need to make sure that we are getting that message out. It’s really important that we start to raise the profile from an IT channel perspective in terms of what the company can do,” Ackland added. “We have got a fantastic profile that is really strong around our power, circuit breakers and electrical products. On the UPS side, we got really strong products and technically we feel we can go head-to-head with any competition in terms of what we can offer coupled with a really solid army of channel partners. With the new channel team headed by Hany Maurice, Channel and Alliance Sales, leader, we have started to make sure that we get the brand awareness out into the market.”

Ackland added that the company sees the Middle East as one of the really strong markets for Eaton and that’s why it is investing in resources. “Currently we have three major facilities including a factory in Jebel Ali, a factory in Dammam, Saudi Arabia and a regional distribution centre in Dubai. We also have 19 sales offices around the Middle East,” he said.

He added that the motivation behind all this investments the company is making is to enable it to build a power management channel strategy that has partners at the core of everything Eaton does in the market.

Brisson added: “We have some catch up to do in the market that we are aware of,” he noted. “That aside, do we have the portfolio, knowledge, channel programmes and technology alliances partners and people to grow our business, absolutely.”

He emphasised that Eaton’s value comes from differentiating and offering partners margins which are accepted and help them to grow their businesses to profitability and that’s crucial.

Maurice said although Eaton’s brand awareness in the UPS and power management solutions space is work in progress, the UPS solutions the company is bringing to market are not just boxes but solutions because they solve power problems. “We are working with resellers who are selling the UPS box as a solution and systems integrators that are adding value by selling and integrating these solutions with software, maintenance services, upgrades and other value-add offerings. We are into the channel 100% and this is only going to grow and be reinforced,” Maurice said.

Going forward, Ackland said the company will continue to ask itself what it looks for in a channel partner. “It is very important when we start to think about bringing on new partners that there is certain criteria for on boarding them. Number one for us is how they do business, are they an ethical company? Are they really hungry and do they have the same ambitions like we do to get out there to grow the business,” he asked?

“Other issues we look at are domain expertise in the market, products and technology.”

Ackland pointed out that once Eaton finds companies that have great ethical values and the desire to grow the business then the engagement starts. “We only start to have very good conversations once we have assessed potential partners and are satisfied with their business models, ambition and commitment to growing the business together,” he said. “In addition, we want to work with channel partners that know their space and understand their clients in those segments.”

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