In a series of management appointments at the distributor Gerard Allison is now SVP for EMEA at Exclusive Networks and talks about his plans to IT Europa. Among the new ideas he will run out in the next few months is a subscription model.
Does this mean a change to top-down management at the company which has always tried to allow local decision making in its expanding empire? No, he says, it is still about local offices and ways of doing business, but what has changed is how global operations have been added on top – examples include the global deal desk, services and finance with Exclusive Capital.
“I aim to join the dots between what the vendors want – and they are getting bigger and more global – and the local organisation who want “air cover” – new programmes and disruptive models which will need to executed locally. We need to bring it all through on a global level – it is what the bigger partners and vendors are asking for.”
“We aim to bring new and disruptive models – both end customers and partners are talking about new services – using subscription or consumption-based models and we are looking at how this can be brought to market. In the coming months we will have more detail, but we have a track-record of new models including managed security services and this will continue.”
“We look at the market opportunity – and customers are asking for it as the world moves to a consumption model. We aim to stay flexible - trying stuff and tweaking it. And we aim to be nimble even though we are now a $2bn company.”
“The end customer is saying ‘subscription’. Existing vendors want to transition; the new vendors coming in will often have a revenue/sub model and we need to offer this. It needs platforms, and also a fast track, fast review so that if it does not work it can be halted just as rapidly. That is the idea going forward, including adding the financial resources for partners to change.”
With so many new vendors and acquisition by existing vendors, the distributor has to keep trying to make sense of it all. “We have scaled up our vendor management team, which goes back to the idea of understanding what vendors want – expansion, coverage and then helping local teams translate it into action. There are new people being added all the time, with a lot of new, young talent.”
What has changed in this new decade is ‘table stakes’ in value added distribution, he says. “Other distributors do pieces of this, but it is about value-creation and this is more tailor-made. I am asking for a better understanding of markets and what both customers and vendors are looking for, to grow market share – using more of a tailor-made approach to both partners and vendors.”
“We are in a unique position to do that because of how we work locally and globally. Vendors may be after new markets, moving into SMB, some have made acquisitions and need to push those new elements into the installed base. There are variations in all their requirements. And partners want to know how to service customers on a European or global level.
There are skill shortages and a services gap that Exclusive can help partners with, in services, devops and as they broaden their footprint, he adds.
Europe is different for Exclusive; it is the largest part of the operation and is the DNA of the organisation. The way it works mean it has to expand globally as well as in other parts of Europe. “Most of our vendors come from the US, but the company is EMEA-based. We want to grow EMEA just as much as the global market. There are still lots of opportunities.”
“Geographically we are looking at new markets, and this will continue, both organically and through acquisition expansion. We are always having new conversations about technologies and markets and need to understand what vendors want to achieve. Sometimes it is technologies matched to certain territories or wherever; we communicate this internally to see where it will go.”
“On resources, in the last few years we have provided services globally, talking with vendors about the areas they are looking for – and with partners who will use our resources in presales, training or professional services. We look to expand that business, which is profitable for us.”
Partners have the customer relationships, but services can be a good return for partners if they get it right. They sell technology and services, looking to vendors as well as distribution to fill any gaps, he says. “Services have good stickiness with customers; we look to support partners who want to grow this way.”
“There will always be new competitors and new entrants to the channel – in security and cloud in particular and there is a base for the majority of our partners. Our cloud business is continuing to expand and we are seeing new cloud openings from traditional vendors, especially in security.”
Having moved across from spending the last three years running Gigamon (an Exclusive vendor), and Juniper before that, he says he is keen to see how the channel is evolving. “With the growth of the company in portfolio and coverage, it is a chance to drive it forward, we’re still in growth and looking for new opportunities, either with new vendors, adding new customers, or with new models in go-to-market. There really is no better place to be,” he concludes.