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With New Customer Focus, Improved Programs, 'Lenovo Is Getting It Right'

Lenovo is making big bets with the channel, overhauling its programs, realigning partner resources and refocusing on its customers, Executive Director and Channel Chief Rob Cato said at the 2018 Best of Breed Conference in Philadelphia.

Lenovo has turned the corner, putting the inconsistency and lack of focus that in recent years hurt its channel relationships and results behind it, said Executive Director and Channel Chief Rob Cato.

Now, the company is making big bets with the channel, overhauling its programs, realigning partner resources and refocusing on its customers, Cato said at the 2018 Best of Breed Conference in Philadelphia.

"I feel like for the first time, Lenovo is getting this right," Cato said. The company will begin to turn a profit in its data center business by the end of the year, he said.

The company has adopted a more customer-focused strategy over the product focus that Cato said whittled away at Lenovo's relevance with customers and partners. Along with the change in focus, the company has rearranged its channel operations.

Cato said Lenovo sales reps covered as many as 50 or 60 partners, but that number has been drastically reduced. "We've got that down to 10 or 12," Cato said. "We've leveraged our extended resources better."

The company has also clarified the tier structure of its channel program, giving partners a more defined path through its Authorized, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels. "As you grow, you're going to get more and more [benefit]," Cato said.

Cato said deal registration was particularly inconsistent under the old channel operation, with sales reps in different locations applying it differently. "Now we have a much more robust deal reg program," Cato said. Lenovo channel account managers and end-user sales reps are not required to complete a new training regimen to keep the system focused, Cato said. Along with that, the company has instituted a system for quick price quotes, he said.

Aaron Marks, a vice president at ArcSource, a Berkeley, Calif., solution provider that works with Lenovo said he has high hopes for the new Lenovo after inconsistency drove ArcSource to competing vendors.

"He's acknowledging a lot of the challenges we've had, for sure," Marks said. "They've got a great product, and I like their prices, but we've had challenges with them over the last five years with availability and just getting the product shipped from distributors. We moved away from Lenovo servers, but I like Lenovo servers, and I'm hoping they're going to get better."

Marks said the new quick quoting system was particularly attractive. "I haven't seen it yet," he said. "He's announced the Lamborghini, and I want to get in. I'm looking forward to that."

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