XChange: EMC, Lenovo Execs Agree That Partners Are Route To Success

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EMC and Lenovo delivered back-to-back sessions during Tuesday's Tech Symposium at XChange Solution Provider. And despite having two very distinct product portfolios, their messages echoed one another closely: Partner nourishment is key to success.

EMC Vice President of Worldwide Channel Marketing Fred Kohout kicked off his portion of the session with an admission, acknowledging that EMC is viewed "sometimes as a great channel partner, but sometimes not." But Kohout assured the crowd that the storage giant underwent a "cultural shift" when launching its unified storage solution VNXe, and is morphing quickly into a channel-led company.

[Related: XChange Solution Provider 2012 Coverage]

The solution, which is EMC's first-ever to sell exclusively through the channel, prompted the company to completely revamp its partner program. After noticing that a number of partners had "fallen off over time," Kohout said the "channel-first" strategy under which VNXe was developed has resulted in the recruitment of nearly 2,000 new partners in the last year.

"Things can change," he said.

Chris Combs, director of the North American channel atLenovo, shared in Kohout's channel-first sentiment. But instead of stressing a newfound commitment to its partners, Combs shed light on how vastly the Lenovo channel has grown over the past two years, and its plans to keep the momentum going.

Combs said that the PC maker's portion of indirect sales has grown 20 percent since 2009, with its channel budget and investments jumping an even larger 150 percent. What's more, he said Lenovo has reduced the complexity of its partner program, narrowing the 27 "complex" program choices to a more manageable eight, and is launching new brand awareness campaigns to boost its channel presence in vertical markets, such as K-12 and health care.

"We have a clear, consistent strategy, and excellence in execution," Combs told solution providers. "We are particularly focused on growing this client business, and you guys are the route to that. Hopefully we have madeenough changes to convince most of you."

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