Channel Post speaks with Osama AlHaj-Issa, Regional Channel Director, Middle East, Mediterranean and Africa at Aruba, an HPE company about his role as a channel leader in building a successful and sustainable channel.
What is your career history to date and key career achievements?
I have been in channel since 2004. My main achievement was creating a commercial channel network for EMC in Saudi Arabia, Telco channel for Cisco in Saudi Arabia and finally the HPE Aruba channel across EMEA in 2016 which won the ‘best channel’ award.
What are your roles and responsibilities in the company as a channel influencer?
I am responsible for setting up the HPE Aruba channel strategy in the Middle East, Mediterranean & African region as well as work with the sales and channel teams to support Aruba partners and distributors to grow profitable businesses. The Aruba channel team is also responsible for partner enablement and business development using marketing and sales planning practices. I also focus strongly on SMB business development through SMB partners and distributors.
What qualities should a channel influencer possess to lead the channel?
A lazer focus on making partners’ business profitable is a must for someone heading the channel. Other important traits include, having strong ‘planning for growth’ capabilities with a long term vision for at least two years and good management skills in order to make sure that targets are achieved on a quarter to quarter basis. The capacity to stay updated on the latest technology trends is another aspect that a channel leader must stay on top of.
What is your advice on finding success in the channel?
In order to build a sustainable channel, be an advocate for your partners, make sure that they invest in quality resources and stay up-to-date in pre-sales and post-sales skills. Also, it is important to minimise the amount of time spent on operational aspects and focus more on business development and demand generation.
How would you assess the current state of channel?
In terms of skills in channel, while the region is not mature as yet, we are in a much stronger position than even a few years ago. However, there still remains a lot of ground to cover. This is why we still see channel players depending on technical support and expertise from their vendors, and from professionals who are from other markets and regions.
What is the biggest challenge facing the IT channel in the region?
I would say the biggest challenges are eroding margins due to unfair competition, and finding new leads.
If you could improve one thing about the channel business what would it be?
That would be to get distributors to stop undercutting prices on the same deal when a partner shops around for lower prices. In turn, partners also need to stop undercutting each other on the same end-user deal. This is a lose-lose arrangement that every partner and distributor suffers from and only ends up in lowering margins and reduced willingness to invest in the business.
How can partners work effectively to generate growth in the channel?
Partners or resellers need to closely work with the vendors’ sales team on account planning and opportunity identification and development. Also it is very important to fully understand customer pains and map them to show value to customers. Having satisfied customers by means of proper deployment is key to getting new business and having healthy business from the installed base. New customers learn about this and bring new opportunities to grow the business. Distributors need to invest in SMB demand generation and creation.
Telesales, digital marketing and ongoing structured workshops for SMB partners on HPE Aruba solutions are important means of creating run rate in SMB channel. Growth comes from proper demand generation processes and spreading the activities to new SMB channels geographically or from competition channels.