Channel: A marathon, not a sprint

Channel Post speaks with Graham Porter, Head of Channels – Middle East at Veeam Software about challenges that the IT industry is facing today and his role in ensuring smooth channel operation.

Graham Porter, Head of Channels, Middle East at Veeam

What is your career history to date and key career achievements?

I have been very fortunate to start my channel career covering most of Western Europe, which stood me in good stead for when I moved to the Middle East in 1994. My first role as a graduate was with IBM in the UK in 1984, which is was a very fortunate beginning since it gives you instant credibility in the industry. Since then I have covered the MEA region with some great vendors such as HP, Sun Microsystems, Cisco and now Veeam.

What are your roles and responsibilities in the company as a channel influencer?

I look after channels and distribution for the entire Middle East region, a large and varied geography.

What qualities should a channel influencer possess to lead the channel?

A channel influencer must think of the channel as a customer, as well as an extended sales team and route to market. With any customer you need to build trust and relationship and it has to go both ways; vendors should not focus only on their own agenda.

What is your advice on finding success in the channel?

Show the channel you care, be clear with them and if you have bad news tell them to their face. Also, as a vendor it is necessary to have a strategy and be able to explain it. So think about complementary products you would like your channel to carry and what profile the channel should have in terms of their customers, verticals, other vendors, services etc. I have also seen too many cases of short term relationships based on one or two deals which is not about overall success but only short term gains. Channel is a marathon and not a sprint.

How would you assess the current state of channel?

The channel in the region has gone through a very tough time in the last year and a half, as credit and payments from customers have been a huge issue. Increasingly DSO (days sales outstanding) has been extending to 60+ days in most cases and in more extreme cases it has become 1 year which affects cash flow terribly.

What is the biggest challenge facing the IT channel in the region?

I think the IT infrastructure business is in transition and many companies, whether vendors, distributors or resellers, are struggling to come to terms with the future. Most customers are trying to reduce cost and are still not getting much innovation out of IT to contribute to their bottom line as a business.

If you could improve one thing about the channel business what would it be?

It’s all about value and being different, unfortunately being the best on price is not the best place to be. It has to be about the portfolio and the service and some “secret sauce” to make you stand out.

How can partners work effectively to generate growth in the channel?

Growth is the holy grail, but the only real sources of growth are when either the economy grows and the opportunities grow with it or you find a new product/service and get incremental growth from that. This is likely to generate only small revenue in the beginning but would be with high margin. Another approach could be taking the market share from a competitor but this typically happens at the expense of margin. So increasingly people look at the installed base to cross-sell and up-sell.