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BoB 2017 Roundtable: Channel Execs Discuss Recurring Revenue, Expanding Wallet Share And The Ideal Partner

Sophos' Regina Vignone, Samsung's Greg Taylor and new Fortinet channel chief Jon Bove fielded questions from Axispoint president and CEO Dan DiSano at the 2017 Best of Breed conference.

How are best-of-breed technology vendors empowering the IT channel?

With that question in mind, Axispoint President and CEO Dan DiSano conducted a Q&A session Tuesday morning at The Channel Company's 2017 Best of Breed conference, where new Fortinet Channel Chief Jon Bove, Sophos Director of Channel Sales, East, Regina Vignone and Samsung VP of Sales-Enterprise Greg Taylor discussed several channel trends.

Topics the panelists addressed include how their companies are enabling partner growth, driving cloud services revenue and encouraging profitability.

[Related: Best Of Breed 2017 Conference]

"Fear not – this is a story about optimism and growth," DiSano said.

With Fortinet and Sophos on stage, security naturally became a focus for many solution providers attending the session, such as All Covered managing director Jason Wright.

"Security, for a long time, has been an afterthought. It's been an insurance policy. It's been, 'Let's fill the customer full of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) and hope they buy something.' You can't take that approach anymore," Wright said at the end of the session. "What we've started doing is taking basic or even advanced security-level services and baking them into our standard managed services offering, so it's not even an option. It's driving efficiencies and saving us from labor we'd have to exert to remediate problems we might not have otherwise had."

What follows is an edited excerpt of DiSano's in-depth conversation with Bove, Taylor and Vignone.

What is your channel strategy? How do you develop healthy and prosperous partnerships with the channel?

Bove: Our core channel strategy is ensuring we have alignment with our field sales organization. I have a laser-focus on ensuring we have a channel go-to-market that can support each of our vertical strategies and also our market penetration strategies. Driving value through our partner ecosystem that allows them to differentiate and gain additional wallet share from customers they serve today.

Taylor: The table stakes are: does the company make high-quality products? Each of us demonstrates that we make a state-of-the-art, high-quality product. It's the softer side of things Samsung is working on to help partners be engaged both in becoming more knowledgeable in some of the growing markets through our LMS and also utilizing our demand-gen platforms to create more revenue and higher growth for your companies.

Vignone: We do no business direct whatsoever. Field engagement and the field relationships our team has with the channel is very important to us. Providing education, awareness and programs for our partners to be profitable is really what we focus on.


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What are those big growth areas for you and the channel? Where can we focus on in the future to really grow the business?

Vignone: Innovation is very important to us from a program perspective as well as from a technical perspective. We just introduced a cloud security partner program. That's specifically benefitting our partners from a revenue stream perspective within the marketplace under AWS and Azure. That's really important to us. As the IT industry continues to expand its focus on the public cloud, how do our partners be profitable on the service and the technology that can be deployed on that infrastructure?

Taylor: From the display perspective, everything you create and everything a customer develops – all of the cloud, IoT, big data – it all needs to be visualized. Whether on a desktop, in a hallway, conference room, board room, in any public space, everything needs to be visualized. From a mobility perspective, productivity is becoming incredibly important. The two tie together very well. People are looking to be on the go, always on. Mobile's the right platform for that. Secondly, they want to see it back and have it shared with many people in a large format.

Bove: With more and more workloads moving away from traditional networking, we really have to take a different approach to how we provide security, direction and consulting to end customers. With the proliferation of IoT devices, workloads moving to the G Suite, Office 365, AWS, it provides organizations like yourself a fresh opportunity to develop consulting C-services, and really attach yourself to organizations that have platforms that can meet these ever-changing needs. We increasingly see they're not so much trying to attack networks anymore so much as individuals. There's a lot of value channel partners can provide by working with best of breed organizations.

You mention gaining a higher share of the customer's wallet. We all care about that deeply. How are you helping the channel do that?

Bove: We recognize that point solutions are probably falling out of favor. We're trying to provide our partner community with a fabric that's allowed to enhance that security posture from IoT all the way to the cloud. We do a lot of research and development, investment into our WhiteHat hacking organization to stay ahead of those bad actors and really provide wallet share expansion through the deployment of multiple technologies throughout our partner base.

Taylor: The word solutions has got over the past decade. I think it's shifting more to the outcome. The end user is looking to solve problems. For those who are really listening to what the end-user's challenges are, there's a tremendous amount of services that go along with the sale of hardware.

Vignone: Services are key. What Sophos has brought to the table is Synchronized Security. That's where our end-point and firewall are communicating together. To give our partners the capabilities to simply deploy, manage and monitoring, but also trust the security solutions that you have in place are going to work. Ransomware is an epidemic. It's not just targeting Fortune 100 orgs. Your SMB customers are being affected … to give you the management capabilities and the training is very important.


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Cloud is experiencing tremendous growth. How are you helping your channel companies drive revenue and position themselves with cloud services?

Bove: It just goes back to investment in technologies meant to prevent attacks across Office 365 environment, SaaS-based applications. As workloads move to the public cloud, we've got to be able to transform the security solutions we deliver to the market to protect against what are non-conditional solutions and non-traditional vectors in which we communicate.

Vignone: Azure and AWS, they provide security for their own infrastructures. If your customers are leveraging the public cloud and putting your data around there, they have white paper that specifically focuses around vendors in providing security for that infrastructure. A lot of people forget about that. It' important to us, whether it's server protection or firewall that can be deployed on AWS or Azure, that you have that level of security just as you would on-premises.

What are you doing to help solution providers drive more recurring revenue?

Bove: We're totally focused on driving more services attachment through managed services, help desk services and enablement and professional services. One of the things I'm trying to drive at Fortinet is how we talk to partners about our program. This is not selling a box and renewing a box. We want to look at what is the lifetime value of our customers? How can we help you build an impactful cash flow generation engine?

Taylor: A lot of people look at the display as a hardware sale – a one-and-done. The opportunity for the end-customer is really the entire ecosystem. You've go the installation, the sale of the tech, the management, and hosting of the content. You have the ongoing service revenues to maintain the installation. You have the monitoring. The services go on and on. You can leave anything on the table you want. It's important he ecosystem you build for your company include multiple partners, so it's not a Samsung-only solution. You may work with AWS from a hosting perspective.

Vignone: The education and knowledge within our channel community is very important to us – training and enablement, not only from sales perspective but also from a technical perspective. Providing use of our solution from our entire deck that partners can use to protect themselves, and also educate their users. Giving you the programs to be profitable on our solution within the services you're expanding to your customers. Providing ease of use to manage and provide root cause and reporting on what has been happening in your customers' environment, so that you can deliver to customers why they need to leverage your managed services.


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What's your ideal solution provider that you want to partner with?

Vignone: We are about building long-standing relationships. Engagement is key for us. Because we're 100 percent channel-friendly, we don't sign up everybody and anybody. We want to make sure it's not only a fit for your organization, but also ourselves. We will invest time, effort, training and marketing support if you'll do the same with us, to help drive business and capture more customers and demand.

Taylor: We'll take transactional revenue all day, but at the end of the day we're looking for mutual partnership where you're looking to put messaging in front of your end customer that's intriguing about how the experience is changing and the visual world of everything they do. Or how mobility is moving and how mobility is a practice, whether it's a purpose-built device or utilization of a mobile phone within their business.

I coach our teams to make sure we've got that alignment to the sales organization. We want to make sure we're going to market with the right partners that can deliver their own services attachment. Sound organizations with about a 60-40, 70-30 balance of hardware to services delivery. We want to make sure we have partners that allow us to scale at the market segmentation we're focused on. We want to get as much as we give.

What is your next challenge in business, and how can partners prepare for that challenge?

Bove: My code is my biggest challenge. In the security space, it's not rocket science: the bad actors are focusing on breaches, leveraging vulnerabilities, NSA toolkits. We don't know what we're up against until we're up against it. My goal is to ensure we've got a channel supporting our go-to-market that can help us drive to our corporate goals and expand our customer base.

Taylor: IT's back-end market awareness. Our reliance on you not only for your salesforce but also your demand-gen engines that help create messaging around the visual market and how much it's changing. The commercial visual market as one example is a $2 billion business today, and forecasted to grow potentially up to $4 billion in three years. That's a huge piece of opportunity. A lot of companies don't understand the difference between commercial and consumer, or the application. We need your to help deliver that message.

Vignone: Continue to innovate yourselves. Products you might have been looking at and leveraging five, 10 years ago may not work in today's environment. These adversaries are providing ransomware-as-a-service now. You need to continue to have a layered approach, look at best of breed solutions and look at partners that can provide that full end-to-end security that fit well within your customer base.

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