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Lenovo To Appoint North America Channel Chief As ‘One Lenovo’ Strategy Comes To Partners

For the unified PC and data center channel strategy in North America, ‘I want there to be one person that’s going to be responsible for all of that and have ownership of all of it,’ said Lenovo North America President Vlad Rozanovich.

The unification of Lenovo’s PC and data center businesses is now beginning to roll out to partners, and the initiative will include the appointment of a North America channel leader for the company, Lenovo North America President Vlad Rozanovich told CRN.

The creation of the new role is among the changes that Rozanovich is instituting following his hire in June, following a 24-year career at chipmaker AMD.

[Related: Lenovo’s Vladimir Rozanovich On Windows 11, Taking Market Share And The ‘One Lenovo’ Rollout]

The “One Lenovo” strategy focuses on integrating Lenovo’s PC and data center businesses more closely, to create synergies in the way the company develops solutions and goes to market with partners. The company plans to debut its new Lenovo 360 channel program, based around the “One Lenovo” approach, in early 2022.

The two sides of Lenovo’s business are already working together more closely with Rob Cato and Steve Biondi, channel chiefs of Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group and Infrastructure Solutions Group, respectively, starting to do joint customer meetings, Rozanovich said in an interview with CRN.

Internal training has begun to make sure that IDG salespeople understand the ISG portfolio, and vice versa, he said.

“We implemented some cross-selling engagements across all of our sales teams—not just the channel partnerships, but all of our sales teams. As we go into our next fiscal year, I’m going to start talking about them interchangeably,” Rozanovich said. “I’ll be making sure that the teams are up to speed on the technology on both sides and the innovation on both sides. The channel partner alignment is happening as we speak.”

Shelliy Cymbalski, chief marketing officer at Tempe, Ariz.-based iT1 Source, said that Lenovo’s communication about the upcoming “One Lenovo” shift and Lenovo 360 partner program has been “fantastic.”

“As they’re going through ‘One Lenovo’ and Lenovo 360, it’s clear that their people actually know what’s going on and they’re providing us with updates,” Cymbalski said.

At iT1 Source, which partners with Lenovo on both the PC and data center sides, the initiative inside of Lenovo looks like it will simplify working with the company as well as create new growth opportunities, she said.

“What it means is that if you’re talking to a field rep on a deal, everyone from Lenovo is going to have knowledge on both product families,” Cymbalski said.

In terms of growth, Cymbalski said she sees an expanded opportunity to bring Lenovo’s PC and data center solutions to existing customers that are looking to do a refresh in one of the two areas—but who perhaps haven’t used Lenovo solutions from both sides in the past. The “One Lenovo” emphasis will “double our efforts” to bring Lenovo data center solutions to existing PC customers, and vice versa, she said.

Looking ahead, to help drive the “One Lenovo” alignment in the channel, Lenovo is planning to put a channel leader in place who will “manage that entire umbrella of business. We’re in the process of doing that now,” Rozanovich said.

“The goal is that we will have a channel leader for One Lenovo for North America. I want somebody on my staff that’s going to handle everything channel across our business,” Rozanovich said. “Over the next year we will have both ISG and IDG coverage of accounts. But I want one channel leader … I want there to be one person that’s going to be responsible for all of that and have ownership of all of it.”

Both Cato and Biondi are “great candidates” for that position, he said. “We have two absolutely amazing leaders who are leading that business. The way I look at it right now is they are acting as leaders of this combined One Lenovo today,” Rozanovich said.

Regardless of who ends up filling the role, Lenovo plans to make the hire internally, he said.

With “One Lenovo” and the forthcoming Lenovo 360 channel program, the ultimate goal is for partners to only have to deal with one organization across PC and data center—providing a dramatic simplification for partners, Rozanovich said.

“Eventually we want to get to the point where [it’s one system] for things like reporting and incentives and rebates and all of that. That’s some of the complexity we want to remove,” he said.

Instead of having medal levels such as Platinum or Gold for each side, the “ideal end state goal” is to have just one level for the whole Lenovo business, Rozanovich said, though he doesn’t currently have a timeline for when that might happen.

At Loganville, Ga.-based CommQuest, CEO Mark Sanchez said he’s looking forward to seeing how Lenovo brings its two sides together—and believes it should represent a growth opportunity for his company, which has focused mainly on Lenovo PCs to date.

“I welcome that change,” Sanchez said. “It gives us an opportunity to get back into server, since we currently haven’t been doing that.”

Setting partner medal tiers that include sales of both Lenovo PCs and data center products would also be beneficial, as long as Lenovo doesn’t add other requirements or increase the bar for hitting the top-tier Platinum level, he said. “That would definitely help us,” Sanchez said, whose company is a Gold intelligent devices partner of Lenovo and is aiming to reach the Platinum tier during Lenovo’s current fiscal year.

Lenovo does plan to make sure that there remain targets in place for both sides of the business for any partners that prefer to just focus on one side or the other, Rozanovich noted.

Ultimately, among the biggest focus areas for the “One Lenovo” initiative is ensuring that the company continues its strong commitment to going to market with channel partners, he said.

“I’m hearing so much noise in the market about how our competitors are not treating their channel partners well—reducing incentive rates, pulling customers back in [to direct]. You will always see Lenovo be a channel-first company,” Rozanovich said. “We want our channel partners to be extensions of our sales force. That’s the way we get from No. 3, to No. 2, to No. 1 in the [North America] PC market—and that’s how we grow in the server market.”

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