Panasonic Restructures, Arms VARs With End-To-End Solutions For Vertical Markets

Panasonic is putting the finishing touches on a major restructuring effort that will arm its channel partners with the ability to offer fuller, more end-to-end solutions for the enterprise, vertical markets and SMBs, the consumer electronics told CRN in a recent interview.

After announcing its global restructuring initiative last year, Panasonic over the past several months has condensed a sprawling list of product-defined business units into three primary, market-based segments: B2C, B2B Devices and Components, and B2B Solutions. Not only will this re-org help channel partners more easily navigate Panasonic’s enormous product portfolio, but it will afford them bundled, more full-fledged solutions to offer their end clients, explained Rance Poehler, head of Panasonic’s newly formed B2B Solutions group.

"For our channel partners, I think the biggest advantage is that they will have, under one set of terms and conditions, all Panasonic B2B technology," Poehler told CRN. "And one of the biggest changes in our company is, as we break down all these various silos between the individual Panasonic companies, we are creating these end-to-end solutions that we can offer our channel partners. So basically they can walk in -- whether it’s an SMB, a Fortune 1000 company or a government entity -- and offer really a complete Panasonic solution, including our services."

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Using digital signage as an example, Poehler explained how Panasonic’s new B2B Solution group pieces together different offerings to create a more holistic solution, saving resellers from having to do it on their own. Prior to the reorganization, if solution providers were interested in offering a digital signage solution, they would have to hunt down the different components -- including hardware, content monitoring, installation services and more -- within a myriad of Panasonic product groups.

But over the next several months, partners will start to have access to a bundled digital signage SKU that packages all of these components as a single solution. What’s more, pre-packaged, end-to-end solutions will also be available for specific verticals markets, including hospitality and food services. VARs, as a result, will be able to walk into these verticals armed with the ability to outfit them entirely with Panasonic solutions and services, ranging from mobility to security.

Larger solution providers, Poehler explained, will still have an opportunity to piggyback their own services or third-party components onto these bundled SKUs. But for smaller VARs, who may lack the bandwidth to offer services of their own, these bundles will prove especially valuable, as they round out hardware sales with larger, services-based offerings.

"It’s beyond just selling more boxes," Poehler told CRN. "As we create more verticalized solutions… our channel can make money selling these solutions. We can help them move from a box business into the solutions business, and I think that’s huge for our channel."

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Kelly Bousman, senior vice president of marketing at Tampa, Fla.-based solution provider and Panasonic partner AVI-SPL, agreed that a greater focus on the solution -- rather than the individual product -- poises Panasonic to be a one-stop-shop for fully meeting the needs of end users, particularly within vertical markets.

"The idea is that when you focus on the total solution, regardless of what the pieces of that solution would be, you are more likely to meet that customer need, rather than trying to say 'Does this product suite solve your problem?'" Bousman said.

Apart from equipping its roughly 1,200 North America partners with more holistic solutions, Panasonic is building a larger pool of in-house channel resources, said Bill Brennan, national sales manager and head of channel programs at Panasonic.

Panasonic employs a number of what it calls Partner Sales Managers (PSMs), which are called upon by resellers to answer any product-related questions and, more frequently, to help close deals. Over the past year, Brennan explained, the company has grown the number of PSMs to 64 – nearly five times greater than it was a year ago.

Brennan, who at one time was a Panasonic reseller, also noted that consolidating the company’s business units into market- rather than product-focused segments makes it easier for partners to hunt down the resources they need. Instead of having a unique contact for each individual product being re-sold, partners can now call one dedicated advisor.

"I was a Panasonic reseller and there were challenges at times when you would have to call various departments, because I had a breadth of Panasonic products," Brennan told CRN. "It was calling different companies basically for the support. Now, the real advantage is one contact that can make things happen for you across various product categories. It’s just a phone call away."

Bousman agreed. "Whereas before, we may have had to go 'oh let’s go to this division, and piece it together from this division'… it’s now solutions-focused rather than product-focused, which is perfectly aligned with us," she said.