Embracing the New Normal for Channel Partners

For any tech vendor to be successful in their business globally, partners play an important role in ensuring products and solutions are made known to businesses around the world. Throughout the years, partners continue to provide tech vendors with the ability to reach out to more customers. Customers themselves have been enjoying the relationship they have with the tech partners in catering to the technology they need best.

As much as this symbiosis keeps thriving, there are still some limitations and challenges that partners face. The COVID-19 pandemic is probably the biggest challenge both partners and customers have ever faced in their history. Everyone had to literally change everything they do operationally. From moving to remote working to ensuring customer demands are met swiftly in times of uncertainties, it was pretty much doubling the amount of work and technology needed previously.

Having the right tech for business continuity was key and thankfully most partners were able to provide their customers with the solutions required quickly, with minimal disruption or downtime experienced.

According to research by VMware, insights from 410 VMware partners across 22 APAC countries show that collectively the channel has been able to digitally transform both their own and their customers’ operations despite severe pressures to deliver projects on-time.

Uma Thana Balasingam, VP Partner and Commercial Organisation, Asia Pacific and Japan, VMware pointed out that VMware looked at the effects of the pandemic on their partners in three phases. The first phase was the response, which was all about business continuity. The second phase, which most countries and businesses are in now, is adapt. Customers and partners are looking to evolve their systems and processes to a new reality. The third phase, digital-first, is where both partners and customers accelerate models for business and IT overall as they look towards sustainability.

For the partners, Uma said there are five different dimensions that partners are looking at with VMware. They are:

  • Predictability – Clarity on VMware vision and mission and how it will impact their business.

  • Profitability – The key area for partners as they look to update or change their business models.

  • Protection – Partners want deeper and established engagements with VMware.

  • Process – How can partners drive automation with simplicity and tools.

  • Preparedness – Investment in their knowledge on upskilling and preparedness for the next phase.

Customer technology needs are evolving as companies adjust to shifting employee and end-user behaviour. To adjust to this digital-first world, APAC partners are re-calibrating go-to-market investments and prioritising skills and certifications. The research showed that 24% are planning to increase marketing investment whilst 19% are looking to decrease field sales resources. However, 53% of those surveyed rate their digital capabilities in engaging and acquiring customers as limited or average. This suggests there is ground to make up for partners to perform as effectively as they did pre-pandemic.

“Partners are the centrepiece to how we operate, especially in APAC. During stage one, we saw how many partners across the region responded to help customers navigate the pandemic. As part of their response, they’ve also digitally transformed their business. This cemented our partner status as trusted advisors. Customers are going to depend on skills and a much larger ecosystem outside of their own organisation, which is a great opportunity for partners. With customer priorities and approach evolving, the value continuum of customers for life and how we help our partners engage through that process is key”. said Uma.

Adapting to the New Normal
APAC partners are now looking to evolve their proposition to maintain trusted advisor status and add additional value to customers. 62% of those surveyed said they saw an increase in customers focus on partners to deliver projects and support services, especially with remote working and productivity everywhere at scale being a new priority.

While the survey showed that partners must do more to convince customers the new approach is comparable to in-person collaboration, only 45% believe their customers are happily engaging with them remotely and only 52% believe they can engage as effectively remotely, despite almost three-quarters 73% believing they have the right technology and tools in place to manage.

Unlike other regions in the world, this is a challenge in the ASEAN market as Uma herself pointed how some organisations still rely heavily on the physical way of doing things, which goes back to the three stages mentioned earlier.

“Different markets are going through different stages. We have a few challenges from availability to culture. Some customers have gone to phase three while some customers in ASEAN are still in the first phase. However, our overall platform strategy is resonating well with our customer”. 

Indeed, the adoption is not easy as customers in this part of the world still prefer to meet physically and have discussions before making any commitments on anything. While many businesses have since embraced the new reality, many are still trying hard to accept that this is the fastest way to get work done.

Partners themselves are finding it harder to reach out to customers due to the laws of the pandemic imposed by governments globally. Yet, many partners continue to miraculously deliver to their customers despite the challenges they faced.

In Thailand for example, VMware partnered with Nimbus, a company that delivers cloud-based inventory management at an affordable price. Wanting to avoid vendor lock-ins, Nimbus turned to Internet Thailand (INET), the largest cloud provider in the country and first to be VMware Cloud Verified. The INET Cloud, which is built on VMware Cloud Provider Platform and uses VMware Software-Defined data centre technologies, gave Nimbus the storage and capacity they needed to grow and scale on demand. It also provided the reassurance that engineering and sales needs would be handled both in the Thai language and in person.

The Trusted Digital Foundation
As technology is an essential catalyst in helping to accelerate businesses forward, VMware tells partners to understand how the market is changing and moving forward and pick their “sweet spot” in terms of where they can improve. Customers want to transform and the partners are critical in bringing the value to them.

“In the face of uncertainty, the five critical building blocks for us remain. Our application modernisation and multi-cloud are coming together more than ever before. The digital workspace offering is the key to driving employee engagement while our virtual cloud networking portfolio and most importantly intrinsic security form the foundation for what we say is an unpredictable world”.

Referring to the announcements made at VMworld 2020, Uma said they are all focused on the trusted digital foundation in an unpredictable world. VMware’s strategy of enabling any application on any cloud is going to continue to be the most important aspect of all of this. And because customers are in various stages of their digital journey, to be able to be in a position with the partners to help customers no matter where they are on their journey is very important. VMware is excited about the potential they have to truly unleash the power of innovation their partners bring.

“We recognise that the environment for our partner ecosystem is no longer linear. It requires them to take the “customer for life” mindset and we are seeing how can go to market on this in the future”, said Uma.
To achieve this, VMware has four priorities to make it possible. They include:

  • Partner first culture – To co-innovate and codevelop together. No company is able to do it alone and VMware wants partners to build on that vision of the model.

  • Value continuum – VMware has made investments in creating a partner lifecycle services team that aligns from what lifecycle look like, to the type of services that are critical to bring to customers. By establishing the role of partners, they will be able to see if they have the skills or need more investment for it.

  • Connected partner ecosystem – The aim is to drive use case-based orientation for partners. This enables them to connect the five-solution platform of the trust digital foundation.

  • Scale technology – Enable the ability to get as many skillsets and expertise to be able to deliver to customers.

While there is no certainty of what the future may bring for VMware, its partners and customers, VMware will continue to give partners the ability to bring unique skillsets, help invest in new areas and deliver them in a more innovative way.

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