As managed services integrates partners more tightly with the business issues of their customers, specific choices and investments around key vertical markets becomes more important than ever. That's among the viewpoints expressed by Gavin Miller, vice president of solutions sales and marketing at Avnet, the Phoenix, Ariz.-based distributor.
"We launched a number of initiatives aimed at helping partners to transform their businesses," Miller said. "In the beginning, I think they typically sold technology for technology's sake. But circumstances have changed, and those days are over. It's now about using technology to solve business problems. We believe the best way to do that is to understand the end-user's specific needs, and the best way to do that is to look at them from a vertical and business transformation perspective. How do they go about making their decisions? What are the key issues in the industry from a business perspective, and how can we help those partners to solve those business problems?"
Miller advises that partners begin with a detailed look at their customer base in order to determine which vertical markets map the most closely to their offerings. To an extent, this is about looking at historical revenue sources, but it is also incumbent upon the partner to look at how the markets are evolving and are likely to continue to evolve into the future.
"Consider where the market is growing because you want to participate in that growth," he advised.
Avnet started looking at the healthcare market several years ago. "We realized that they were consuming a lot of technology, so we spent a lot of time figuring out how and why they were consuming those technologies, and how our partners would be able to participate in satisfying those demands. From that, we developed a new practice geared towards helping our partners transition successfully towards practices focused on specific vertical markets."
Such programs have emerged as an important means of distributor differentiation, he added. Whereas success at one time could be gained from squeezing a bit more cost out of the sourcing model, many of those practices have already been optimized. Therefore, successful distributors today need to focus on how to further cultivate and foster the various players in the supply chain.
"If we are not growing our suppliers' revenue, then we are not going to continue to be relevant to them," he said. "If we don't help our VARs and MSPs grow their revenues, were not going to remain relevant to them either. So from the distributor standpoint, it's about finding that sweet spot that serves both of those constituencies."
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