The technology sector is in a permanent state of flux, and specialist knowledge can quickly become outdated. How could Tech Data help IBM Business Partners keep their skills in top form?
Tech Data offers a wealth of resources to help IBM Business Partners propel their businesses into the future—from technical support and training to certifications and even a SaaS billing platform.
Double-digitrevenue growth for Tech Data by providing leading-edge training
4 dayssaved monthly for partners via automatic consolidation of cloud billing
Weeksshaved off software provisioning by moving to a SaaS model
Business challenge story
Facing an uphill struggle
Being a technology reseller or systems integrator can feel like chasing moving goal posts. New solutions hit the market every day—and if one of them makes it big and you don’t know how to deploy it, you could watch your market share dwindle.
Luckily, help is at hand. One of the world’s largest technology distributors, Tech Data offers a treasure trove of resources to help resellers and systems integrators stay up-to-speed with the latest offerings and understand how to deploy them to add value.
Francisco Criado, Vice President of IBM Supplier Solutions at Tech Data, explains: “Many resellers and systems integrators have built their businesses around a niche product group. For them, it’s a real struggle to expand into a broader technology portfolio, because they need the skills to look at, talk about and deploy a complex solution end-to-end.
“Even if these partners master deployment skills, to foster growth in new areas of their businesses, they need to understand how to identify and cherry-pick the best commercial opportunities to maximize revenues and grow market share. The challenge gets harder every day, as new offerings are launched continuously.
“Our job as a value-added distributor is to help partners navigate these shifting sands and find the best avenue to commercial success. As IBM continues to enhance its existing offerings and launch new ones, we need to help partners get ready to sell and deploy the latest solutions, so they can position themselves as industry forerunners.”
Covering all bases
Tech Data provides a broad range of services to bring partners up to speed with the latest IBM solutions and how best to take advantage of them. Its training covers:
- Sales enablements, which help partners learn how to identify sales opportunities and pitch a new solution
- Certifications, which partners require to sell some IBM offerings
- Briefings, which explain new solutions at a high-level and help partners to network within the reseller community. For example, a reseller unable to deploy a new offering may contract another partner to complete the implementation work—pooling resources to offer the end-to-end service that clients demand.
Desiree DuPree-Ramirez, IBM Cloud SaaS/PaaS Technical Supplier Business Executive at Tech Data, elaborates: “We constantly scour the market to identify up-and-coming areas in which partners would benefit from gaining skills. It could be anything from IBM® Blockchain and AI to IBM Cloud™ Private and microservices. We help partners understand where each of these solutions can add most value in a client’s environment, how to pitch them, how to deploy them, and how the partners can use their existing skill-sets to their advantage. For example, if IBM launches a new cognitive API, we help partners formulate use cases across a broad range of industries. It’s about translating hype and buzzwords into real-life, value-add solutions.
“Our remit extends beyond technology into techniques such as Agile deployment and IBM Design Thinking methodology. Our training helps partners build skills in these new ways of working and equips them to approach challenges from new angles, so that they offer even greater value to clients.”
Leading the way
Tech Data is particularly well-placed to support IBM Business Partners.
For starters, Tech Data is IBM’s largest global distributor, with the greatest number of people devoted to selling IBM solutions. But there’s more to it than that, as Francisco Criado explains: “We go above and beyond to help our partners sell and deploy IBM solutions, because our employees are true experts in their fields. We don’t just have people focused on IBM solutions as a whole; we have specialists dedicated to helping partners sell IBM Security, IBM Analytics, IBM Systems, IBM Internet of Things and IBM Cloud solutions. Specialization is powerful because it means that our teams can go into a sales situation with a partner, help them have an impactful conversation with their client and close the deal.”
As well as people dedicated to selling IBM solutions, Tech Data operates vendor-agnostic specialty solution practices for cloud, mobility, education, security, and analytics and IoT. Each practice aims to help partners optimize their core business and accelerate their transformation into that specific focus area, via the following stages:
- Strategy development: a comprehensive business analysis with the partner, examining their roadmap, what skillsets they need to successfully introduce the new solution, and how to go to market.
- Training and enablement: partners receive training that helps them to obtain certification for the solution. As part of its sales and technical training, Tech Data helps the partner understand how to implement the technology in different industries, including providing support to develop PoCs.
- Marketing: Tech Data’s in-house marketing agency helps the partner to develop multi-touch marketing campaigns via digital and traditional channels, backed by impactful marketing collateral.
- Services: Tech Data helps the partner understand the services they can deliver to support the new solution—such as managed services or implementation services—either independently or in conjunction with Tech Data or another partner.
- Sales execution: partners gain insight in how to pitch the technology to clients across all industries. Where appropriate, Tech Data’s solution industry specialists join partners’ meetings with customers to help seal the deal.
Francisco Criado comments: “Tech Data’s acquisition of Avnet Technology Solutions makes the company uniquely well-positioned to provide end-to-end support for partners. To compare: as Avnet Technology Solutions we were like a manufacturer selling chips to go into Fitbits, but as Tech Data we’re the guys selling the Fitbits.”
As well as remarkable technical expertise, Tech Data offers in-depth industry experience. To maintain these skills in-house, Tech Data hires former CIOs from a range of sectors, who understand each industry in detail and help partners learn to speak the right language by offering specialized training for partners to help them deepen their understanding of specific industries. For example, if a partner is eager to learn more about healthcare, Tech Data takes them through a hospital describing the entire patient journey from entrance to discharge via the appropriate processes and systems.
Helping partners transition to the cloud
Tech Data has provided particularly useful support in helping partners embrace the cloud model—enabling end-clients to profit from greater flexibility and faster deployment.
Jay Stephens, IBM Cloud IaaS Business Development Executive, at Tech Data, comments: “We have seen remarkable growth in our IBM Cloud business, particularly since IBM joined up its different cloud offerings and rebranded them under the IBM Cloud umbrella. IBM has rapidly built out a much broader set of cloud offerings—including SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, and catalog of microservices, including offerings from affiliates such as Veeam, Zerto and VMware.
“With these recent offering enhancements, the IBM Cloud Catalog offers rich functionality and delivers the full spectrum to meet everyone’s demands. It’s much easier for partners and clients to move between different cloud payment, subscription and delivery models as their requirements evolve. Partners are now transitioning and leading with the cloud first approach.
Desiree DuPree-Ramirez adds: “Recently we have seen resellers who typically worked with other public clouds adopting more IBM Cloud solutions and microservices because the offerings are highly flexible with no vendor lock-in. Additionally, IBM has embraced open standards and open-source technologies such as Docker, Kubernetes and open-source databases, giving partners a broader toolset on which they can draw. Our job is to help partners understand how to take advantage of these solutions for different client scenarios.”
Taking the headache out of SaaS billing
Tech Data recently incorporated IBM Cloud solutions into its StreamOne Cloud Marketplace, which helps partners to learn, buy, and manage a broad range of subscription services on behalf of their end-customers. Partners can purchase cloud-based services on a monthly basis and new user accounts can be provisioned automatically in seconds or minutes instead of days or weeks. As a result, partners can offer rapid time to market.
Jay Stephens comments: “Our StreamOne Cloud Marketplace platform makes it much easier for partners to buy and resell multiple IBM products—growing sales for IBM and for Tech Data. Users can go in, start an account, see the pricing, and purchase their desired offerings. In addition, partners can grant clients access to the marketplace, so they can choose and buy their own solutions.”
Tech Data has also launched the StreamOne Enterprise Solutions platform, increasing efficiency in SaaS billing.
Jay Stephens continues: “Many clients work with a single partner to purchase services from multiple cloud providers. That makes life easy for the clients, but for partners it adds massive complexity. Frequently, we saw partners that needed four days just to calculate the total fees payable by clients each month across the various cloud services they consume. The process was slow and heavily manual.
“To combat the problem, we built a billing platform that automatically calculates consumption of multiple cloud services and generates a consolidated invoice, which partners can send to customers. Not only does the billing solution help partners save time—it also gives them a better view of each client’s usage.”
In future, Tech Data is looking to enhance its StreamOne platform to form a digital ecosystem in which suppliers, independent software vendors (ISVs) and system integrators can work together.
Seeing success in action
Far-reaching support from Tech Data is empowering many IBM Business Partners to boost sales and augment their portfolios with cutting-edge solutions.
For example, Tech Data has helped boutique consulting firm Cedrus to undergo a dramatic transformation that has significantly boosted revenues and market share.
Desiree DuPree-Ramirez explains: “Cedrus began unlike a traditional reseller, instead of offering products, they provided solutions with added value services, empowered by their own assets. We examined their skill-set and identified huge potential for them to sell and deploy IBM Cloud and IBM software solutions, drawing on their existing expertise in system integration. Now, they are leading the way and adopting fresh solutions like IBM Cloud Private.”
Ashraf Souleiman, VP of Cloud at Cedrus adds: "At Cedrus, we believe that for all businesses the cloud has come to represent the cornerstone of differentiation and competitive advantage. Therefore, we continually invest in our own cloud technology, as well as partner with those who embody the foremost in the cloud and digital transformation. This is why we chose Tech Data as a partner. Its commitment to our business and our customers is unparalleled—it has helped us increase our cloud business by 35 percent this year so far.”
Reaping the rewards
Tech Data has also witnessed a shift in the type of partners it serves.
Desiree DuPree-Ramirez remarks: “18 months ago we sold a smaller set of IBM Cloud solutions primarily to large IBM Business Partners. Now we sell a much broader range of solutions to a wider set of partners. We are continuing to attract new partners via our face-to-face enablement sessions, and through training partners how to cross- and up-sell.”
Tech Data is partnering with IBM on a pilot project around developing a partner-to-partner platform. The solution would match partners based on their attributes and skill-sets, identifying opportunities for them to join forces when they go to market.
Francisco Criado comments: “We have collaborated with IBM for many years, and they have always been a great supplier to work with. IBM has huge resources and is constantly innovating and launching new solutions, and we are excited to see what will come next.”
Rick Niles, Global Channel Leader for IBM Cloud, concludes: “Tech Data has taken a proactive role in actively transitioning partners to cloud. They are particularly adept at assessing market demand and responding with relevant offerings. For example, when partners began requesting certifications and training on methodologies such as Agile and Design Thinking, Tech Data launched training programs to cover these areas.
“For each new offering we launch, IBM provides skills, training and materials, but Tech Data has the knowledge, ability, skill-sets and courage to take the lead in educating partners and bringing the offering to the masses. We very much value Tech Data’s expertise and enthusiasm.”
One of the world’s largest technology distributors, Tech Data helps major technology vendors bring their products to market and offers technical and business support services to help systems integrators and resellers to deploy the solutions. Headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, the company generated annual revenues of USD36.8 billion in 2017 and is ranked number 83 on the Fortune 500.