Lenovo N. America Pres. Ghilardi To Partners: 'Stay With Us' For Growth, Execution

Lenovo North America President Emilio Ghilardi has a message for the company's channel partners: Growth will come to those who stick with us and move as fast as possible into the market for hyper-converged infrastructure.

"Stay with us. You're going to get growth, and you're going to get simple strategies that we can execute together," Ghilardi told the more than 1,200 Lenovo partners who attended the company's Accelerate conference this week in Orlando.

It's been a tumultuous couple of years for Lenovo, which in late 2014 bought Motorola Mobility from Google, as well as IBM's x86 server business and has struggled to formulate a cohesive strategy for either while also cycling through executives at the upper levels of several of its businesses.

Related: Lenovo Channel Chief Kinlaw Takes On New Responsibilities And Talks About The PC Dogfight With HP And Dell

Now, Ghilardi says his executive team is stable, and the company's strategies around the data center and mobility have been refocused and simplified.

"Data center is a critical part of our growth strategy, our growth engine," Ghilardi said, noting that Lenovo's channel program has been arranged in tiers and organized around specialties, including hyper-converged infrastructure, where it partners with Nutanix, Pivot3 and others.

"Hyper-converged is a big deal," Ghilardi said. "It's where we want to go. We don't have much to lose with the so-called traditional IT. That's why our strategy is to go as fast as possible into this new architecture. Hyper-converged and hyper-scale are changing the landscape, and we want to be in the driver's seat."

Ghilardi said Lenovo partners increased their spend with the company 28 percent last year compared with the prior year. He called the increase "massive" and "radical."

"It means once we work together and win together, we continue down the path," he said. "the more we do, the more successful we are, the more we are connected with customers and the more they buy from us."

Tom Guagliardi, executive director and co-owner of Harrisburg, Penn.-based distributor D&H, said he's seen "fantastic" growth between 40 percent and 50 percent with Lenovo over the last two years. "As boring as it sounds, it's about customer involvement and understanding where they want to go," Guagliardi said.

While the market is still dominated by one- and two-rack servers, Guagliardi said, hyper-convergence is "on the verge," and Lenovo is formulating a strategy based on value and flexibility, which positions it well to compete head-on with industry heavyweights like Dell EMC and HPE.

"They're a power," Guagliardi said of Lenovo. "They have their eye on the ball, and they're up against two marketing giants in Dell EMC and HPE, and the [HP Inc./HPE] split will go a long way toward making [Lenovo] even stronger."

Lenovo says it does nearly 90 percent of its North America business through partners. Ghilardi said the company grew overall unit shipments last year in the "high single digits," but saw 11 percent year-over-year growth in the channel. As such, the channel will play a key role in carrying out Lenovo's three-pronged strategy of maintaining leadership in the global PC market, growing its data center and mobility businesses and bringing new devices to market.

"As a partner, you want to work with somebody who has a vision, a multi-year vision, not just about today, this quarter, this year, next year, but down the road and I guarantee you this is what we are," Ghilardi said.

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