Building the skills to thrive in the modern channel

Building the skills to thrive in the modern channel

This exclusive ARN Roundtable, held in association with Microsoft, examined some of the top ways partners can adapt to and thrive in today’s cloud-focused channel.

Left to Right: Leon Spencer, ARN; Lisa Stockwell, Arrow ECS ANZ; Brad Clarke, Microsoft; Sarah Symons, Microsoft; Tovia Va’aelua, rhipe; Michael Girdis, Microsoft; Nadia Cameron, IDG Communciations; Doug Henderson, Telstra; Sarah Loiterton, Dicker Data; Darren Tan, Synnex; Lee Welch, Ingram Micro Cloud; Pia Broadley, Tech Data; Adelaida De Foxá Eymar, Microsoft; Paul Randazzo, Microsoft

Left to Right: Leon Spencer, ARN; Lisa Stockwell, Arrow ECS ANZ; Brad Clarke, Microsoft; Sarah Symons, Microsoft; Tovia Va’aelua, rhipe; Michael Girdis, Microsoft; Nadia Cameron, IDG Communciations; Doug Henderson, Telstra; Sarah Loiterton, Dicker Data; Darren Tan, Synnex; Lee Welch, Ingram Micro Cloud; Pia Broadley, Tech Data; Adelaida De Foxá Eymar, Microsoft; Paul Randazzo, Microsoft

Credit: Ashley Mar

Citing programs being run by Microsoft Australia as examples, Girdis pointed out that programs specifically designed to circumvent the skills gap by tapping into those areas of the market that have, historically, been overlooked, new sources of skills could emerge.  

“But there's got to be a lot done in terms of national policy to solve some of those issues that were active in those areas,” he said.

Part of the work involved in addressing the skills gaps begins with the identification of those required, which is sometimes easier said than done.

There are many partners, according to Broadley, that have a very good understanding of their offerings. For these partners, they know what to do with the product stack within which they specialise. As such, they know where their skills lie and they're very focused on what they do, so they have the right marketing and a go-to-market strategy that works. 

For others, however, the situation is not as clear. This is where indirect providers and distributors such as Tech Data can play a role by stepping in and helping partners to identify the areas where they are strong in terms of skills and those where they need more work.

“What we do is we help identify what their what their skills are currently,” Broadley said. “There's a skill shortage in the channel...specifically around cloud and security.

"And when a partner has a certain amount of skill, they need to work out what's the next step? How do they go from the skills that they've currently got the base level? How do they get to the next level?" 

“For us, that's a cloud practice building process. How do we take them where they are today, identify where their skills, work out what the next stage is for them and build them up so that they can become truly cloud ready, if cloud is the area that they're going to focus on?,” he added. 

For Broadley, a big focus is helping to find success for those smaller partners that aren't already fully leveraging the products and services that underpin their offerings. Without the same depth of resources of larger players, smaller players can’t always do it on their own or hire the skills that they need internally. 

“They look to us to be able to get them up-skilled so that they can move up that next level of service, because if they can add services, they can add profitability,” Broadley said.

Leaning into the partner to partner play

Identifying important skills and building them up internally is just one of the ways partners can adapt to, and flourish in, the modern channel. Another way to tap into the skills needed to boost value in a cloud-heavy market is to tap into the skills of others through a partner to partner play. 

According to Arrow ECS ANZ vendor alliance director Lisa Stockwell, the partners that tend to be adapting well to the current climate are those who have an appetite to change and shift their business while also welcoming the support of other partnerships to help them achieve that transition. 

As with Broadley’s assessment of Tech Data’s role in helping partners build the skills they need to flourish, Stockwell suggests that Arrow ECS ANZ has a role to play in helping partners identify and work with other partners that can complement their current skill-set with additional capability. 

“We see our role as helping them target those gaps in whatever those skills are,” Stockwell said. “But also, for partners, there's a whole lot of information out there. And it's difficult for them to navigate that wealth of information, not just in the industry, but from vendors too.

“So, we try to sift through that for them. And once we understand what it is that they are wanting to achieve, we simplify it for them and help them understand how to track down certain areas that they want to address,” Stockwell said.

Speaking: Lisa Stockwelll, Arrow ECS ANZCredit: Ashley Mar
Speaking: Lisa Stockwelll, Arrow ECS ANZ

In fact, the partner to partner strategy (P2P) is already paying dividends for some partners in the local market. The Cloud Collective, an alliance of three Microsoft Gold Partners which, together, provide full-service cloud solutions for end customers, is one such example that sees partners teaming up to build-out their collective offering. 

According to Va’aelua, such partnerships are likely to become much more common as the chronic skills shortage, in combination with rising demand from the market for specialist technology capabilities, puts an increasing amount of strain on the existing skills market in the local region. 

“I think what's going to happen is we have to be prepared for that international P2P play,” Va’aelua said, pointing out that, with the broader Asia region developing tech talent at a decent pace, Australia and New Zealand have a groundswell of skills right on their proverbial doorstep -- if they’re willing to partner across regional borders. 

For Darren Tan, product manager director at Synnex, partner-to-partner activity is on the rise. At the same time, individual partners that narrow their focus on a particular specialisation -- a top way to add value to their offerings -- are also seeing success. 

In some ways, these two factors have the potential to work in support of each other, with partners that are finding success through specialisation still able to bid, in partnership with other partners, for projects that may require a broader palette of skills and capabilities than what they may have internally. 

“What we are seeing is partner to partner engagement, that collaboration is is really helpful,” Tan said. “You know, you've got some partners that are strong in one area, but when they collaborate, they can deliver and deploy different solutions to the market. 

“The other thing is, partners on our side who pick a vertical area, which is where they're successful, when they build IP [intellectual property] around it, that's where they're seeing success,” he said. 

This is where specialisation comes into its own. With the capabilities offered by lateral channel partnerships, channel players have the freedom to delve deep into a particular vertical or product stack and differentiate themselves by leveraging that specialisation which can, in turn, add value and profitability. 

Read more on the next page…

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