VARs Applaud Access Distribution's Sales Reorg

Access President and CEO Anna McDermott unveiled the sales reorganization Tuesday in a keynote speech at the distributor's New Frontiers conference, held this week in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Under the plan, Westminster, Colo.-based Access set up a Mature Technologies division led by Mike Hurst, the new vice president of mature technologies, to oversee vendors in markets such as servers, storage, services and software. These vendors have an established channel program, and their technologies have reached critical mass.

The distributor also created the Emerging Technologies division, led by Scott Zahl, the new vice president of emerging technologies. The division will provide turnkey channel programs to vendors with up-and-coming technologies that have fast-growth potential, such as network security, VoIP, wireless technologies and network forensics.

Mike Thompson, president of Groupware Technology and Computing, a Campbell, Calif.-based Sun Microsystems solution provider, said the Access sales reorg makes sense, noting that it's important for channel development partners (CDPs)--Sun's term for distributors--to capitalize on new vendors and technologies.

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"The CDPs need to get focused on emerging markets," Thompson said. "Sun took a point [of margin] away from them. So they need to move ahead with emerging opportunities."

Vendors in the mature technology and emerging technology segments require different approaches in sales and support, said John Murphy, executive vice president of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based Sun solution provider.

"Emerging vendors don't have channel recognition," Murphy said. "Such a split [by Access] is very helpful to those vendors. For the channel, we get a ramp-up of qualified technical and sales support for such vendors from the distributors who can support them."

With separate sales and support for emerging technology, it's easier to incubate new vendors for the channel, said Scott Friedlander, executive vice president at GTSI, a Chantilly, Va.-based government VAR. And he should know: For the past five years, GTSI has split sales into new technology such as mobility solutions, network security and physical security, and mature product lines such as servers, storage and software.

"All these tie into different marketplaces," Friedlander said. "We make sure all three have their own presales and engineering expertise."

McDermott said the Access sales reorg in part reflects the changing value proposition of distributors. "As we look at the supply chain, look at Gartner reports about how vendors want to do more direct, we saw the importance of being prepared to move our services to where we can do more value," she said. The emerging technologies market is underserved by distributors, which are well-positioned to help fledgling vendors get into the channel, according to McDermott.

"Most emerging vendors, when they go through distribution, are going through smaller regional or value-added distributors," she said. "That's not to say they aren't in bigger distributors. But most big distributors don't have the time to work with them. But the VADs are successful with them. So we feel, why not us?"

Hurst said his Mature Technologies division and Zahl's Emerging Technologies division are separate businesses with their own profit-loss systems. One factor behind the reorg came from changes in vendor channel programs, especially from Sun, which now is emphasizing channel management over distribution skills and logistics.

"We need to approach distribution in a new direction or risk becoming commoditized," Hurst said.

Vendor consolidation, such as Sun's acquisition of StorageTek and EMC's acquisition of RSA and VMware, also played a role, he added. "So instead of developing new technologies, they are scooping up companies with the needed intellectual property," he said.

The Mature Technologies division will concentrate on systems, storage, software and service, and to be No. 1 in those areas, it's key to know exactly what VARs and vendors want, Hurst said.

"Sun, Hitachi Data Systems and other partners are looking for more value-added services, not just logistics. I need to know how to bring in their full portfolios, how to drive customer adoption of that portfolio, and how to get resellers to understand that if they come along for the ride, what they are getting out of it."

Hurst cited as an example the Symantec-Veritas merger, which resulted in the need to recertify and retrain solution providers. "But there's no way Symantec can do it by itself," he said. "We're investing in helping them with their channel capacity issues. We're the broker for their go-to-market strategy."