When it comes to technology sales, everything is slower at the moment and, in South Africa, it’s as much about the current political uncertainty as our weak currency. However, there is also huge opportunity to reposition for an uptick that we hope will occur if the currency stabilises for six months or more.
Within the information management sector, there are innovative new partnerships forming between vendors to add value for customers. New platforms, like Microsoft Azure, are providing opportunities to enter new market segments; and new business models are emerging that offer clients more affordable options.
For government, many decisions are being delayed until 2018 and further impacting this sector is the fact that the lifecycle of deals in the public sector is also getting longer. This is particularly relevant if deals exceed a certain value as there is additional scrutiny from the national treasury.
Currently, in the private sector, there is more movement and partners serving the corporate and mid-markets continue to bring business into the data management industry. There are two trends in this sector. The first is that while budgets are constrained, annual renewals are being negotiated hard and assets are being sweated—the injunction to do more with less has corporates looking for new solutions. The second trend is that customers are starting to gear for compliance with the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act, which is all about data management and privacy.
In order for the vendors’ businesses to succeed, these organisation needs to focus on more than just leveraging data trends. They also need to look at implementing a fresh, new channel strategy.
In addition to well-suited distributors, vendors should partner with carefully selected data management providers, driving sales through these partners. However, it is also prudent to find new opportunities to maximise wins and create new market entry points.
The additional leg to a vendor channel strategy is the alliances companies can establish with other hardware vendors. They can assist to create purpose-built solutions for channel partners and their customers. This adds value to the distributor, who can drive sales of a pre-specified and tested bundled solution. Partners can offer their customers a solution that is prebuilt and tested on the hardware of their choice; and alliance partners, have a new route to market for their products as well as a value-adding bundled solution to offer their clients.
Creating these types of solutions will be critical for vendors and solution providers as it becomes more important to add value to secure a sale.
Going forward, I expect to see more vendors teaming up to offer clients more tailored or high-value solutions. My advice to channel players is to find a number of suitable partners, don’t align with just one partner. Also, look at how your solution can ‘fit’ with new platforms, and how they might add value to clients as part of other service provider platforms.
In terms of the new business models that are emerging, more vendors are offering subscription models to improve affordability. This has its pros and cons, however. It’s difficult for customers to extract themselves (and their data) from these systems if they do not own them. Customers want to be agile and that means finding solutions that are easy to enter and exit, and that scale easily. For vendors and solution providers my advice is to find partners that meet these criteria.
To thrive in a slow market, vendors and their channel partners need to, above all, add value. Look for new ideas and solutions; think out of the box to differentiate. For example, if you are selling laptops, understand what trends or changes in the business or regulatory environment will impact use of these devices. If it’s PoPI and the need for backup, then align with data management partners to understand the challenges and how you might use their solution to add benefits for the client. Helping them keep on top of changes (add the right components to the formula and you having a winning combination), as there is power in right chemistry.
By Gerhard Fourie, District Channel Manager for South Africa at Commvault