ARN Roundtable - Distribution is the new facilitator

ARN Roundtable - Distribution is the new facilitator

At an exclusive roundtable in Sydney – a group of thought-leaders assembled by rhipe and ARN – discussed the changing channel landscape and how businesses can start looking for new opportunities and innovative ways to add value and profit.

George De Bono (rhipe), Max McLaren (Red Hat), Walter Rosada (Datacom), Paul Turner (Zynet), George Kazangi (BlueCentral), Carolyn Darke (Microsoft), Tom Mason (Seera), Nick Beaugeard (HubOne), Ben Town (Hosted Network), Warren Nolan (rhipe), Hafizah Osman (ARN), Barry Silic (The Cavalry), Jennifer O'Brien (ARN), Eric Jewett (SkyKick), David Nicol (Citrix). Photo: Mike Gee

George De Bono (rhipe), Max McLaren (Red Hat), Walter Rosada (Datacom), Paul Turner (Zynet), George Kazangi (BlueCentral), Carolyn Darke (Microsoft), Tom Mason (Seera), Nick Beaugeard (HubOne), Ben Town (Hosted Network), Warren Nolan (rhipe), Hafizah Osman (ARN), Barry Silic (The Cavalry), Jennifer O'Brien (ARN), Eric Jewett (SkyKick), David Nicol (Citrix). Photo: Mike Gee

"How do we have the conversation with partners about growing their business, but not just leading them with ideas but rather talking around ‘what are you trying to do and how do we help you get there?’ and being able to bring the right people from the vendor side into that conversation.

“We need to be committed to the success of our partners in the same way that our vendors are committed to our success – then everybody wins. It truly has to be that three-way collaboration to get to the end point.

“If we’re not delivering either side as-a-service, either providing our vendors with more opportunity, or providing our partners with ideas around potential new revenue lines, then it’s not successful. It’s through driving that economic proposition that we become a more valued piece of your ecosystem and that’s where we’re trying to drive to.”

David Nicol (Citrix). Photo: Mike Gee
David Nicol (Citrix). Photo: Mike Gee

David Nicol, Citrix director of workspace product sales <

"Knowledge sharing about key business drivers and objectives is key.

“We sit down with partners. We don’t provide the answers but we talk to them about the framework of all the considerations they need to make.

"What is their real value proposition and differentiation in the market? Who do they see their competitors are? Where do they need to partner to develop a service offering that they think appeals to their segment? What’s their specialisation and value proposition?

"Just saying the market is shifting to as-a-service and, therefore, I need to host services is not going to deliver them a sustainable business. It has to be done by understanding where they’re going to differentiate and there’s definitely a role for vendors and distributors to help them go through that process."

Warren Nolan (rhipe). Photo: Mike Gee
Warren Nolan (rhipe). Photo: Mike Gee

Warren Nolan, rhipe chief commercial officer

The main objective is to bring people together. This new age of partnership bodes well for the founding principles of rhipe. Revenue models, licensing models and the way companies are engaging with customers is changing.

“Our business has been predicated on being able to bring people together who don’t necessarily work well together and identify where the opportunity might lie.

"They, as individual vendors, may not have been working well together but have brought their programs together for partners.

“When it comes to partners working with other partners, we can offer both commercial models, and partnership measurement models, and education on how to work together if you’re using the one central acquisition or provisioning point.

“For example, through a Rhipe portal, there’s an opportunity for us to put in place a commercial relationship that benefits all the partners involved in the solution that goes to market – and in that way we can add real value.”

Getting down to business. Photo: Mike Gee
Getting down to business. Photo: Mike Gee

What are some of the significant changes to affect the distribution channel in the last few years?

Carolyn Darke - Small to medium business channel and distribution manager, Microsoft

"In traditional distribution we used to talk predominantly about hardware. It was about warehousing, logistics and real efficiencies on supply chain, but also efficiencies around licensing.

"Now with the change that we’ve seen, specifically with Cloud and the massive growth in Cloud services – it has resulted in the decline in PC shipments and service shipments. It has had a massive change on the distribution landscape and framework and our expectations on distribution.

"Today, we’re talking about marketplaces and how we can deliver cloudy solutions and scale down to our partner base with a great partner experience. There’s a proliferation of Cloud vendors so we need to support those Cloud vendors, which is really important.

"We need to understand what partners are looking for, what they expect, and we need to help them in their transformation. We have a big responsibility to be accountable as a vendor, and we also want to partner with our distributors to look at moving from transactions to true value-based services."

Barry Silic (the Cavalry). Photo: Mike Gee
Barry Silic (the Cavalry). Photo: Mike Gee
Barry Silic - Director, The Cavalry

"We’ve moved away from the traditional distributors and moved more into a channel that’s driven by the customers. Customers today want to consume IT as-a-service and that’s driving a lot of the change in partners, and in distribution.

"We’ve moved away from selling products; we’re now talking about solutions. The only way distribution can find out what solutions should be sold in the market is by immersing themselves in the partner channel.

"We’re seeing many distributors coming down working closely with the partners and vendors to try and find that out. Any distributor selling tin these days with the low margin and expecting to get higher volume won’t be around for that long."

George Kazangi (BlueCentral). Photo: Mike Gee
George Kazangi (BlueCentral). Photo: Mike Gee
George Kazangi - Managing director, Blue Central

"We started life as a managed hosting business about 20 years ago. We are now more of a full-service IT infrastructure company. The major changes we are seeing are around sales.

"We used to have our sales team deal with the vendors directly and we used to get conflicting answers. It was cumbersome to manage many of the vendors. But the good shift around working with value-based distributors is now we have one point to go to, we have one account team and they understand our business more.

"Instead of having to tell all the different vendors about why our business is changing, and how it has already changed, we work with one team and they understand our business better so they can consult.

"The biggest change for us is that we’re shifting away from doing a lot of the pre-sales, all of the technical pre-sales ourselves and we’ve become solution sellers. We utilise the technical resources, especially around licensing, which is for us the most complex thing from the distributor."

Warren Nolan - Chief Commercial officer, rhipe

"The things that I’m seeing in the market today are reinforcement of the nature and the structure of our business, our natural DNA. Having said that, though, we are still striving to innovate and change our business to become more adept at the requirements of our partners.

"Interestingly, I remember fighting vehemently with Microsoft in terms of suggesting that our business model should be offering technical service, technical support to partners in the hosting environment versus business transformation.

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