Channel Chiefs 2017: If I Were A Solution Provider...

The View From Over Here

Ever wonder how your vendor partners view your business? If they were on the other side of the fence, running a solution provider business, would they target the same verticals and choose the same vendor partners?

If you were to ask, you may never get a straightforward answer. The vendors you work with are, after all, invested in your real partnership, not the world of solution provider make believe. But that doesn't make us any less curious.

We asked the members of the 2017 Channel Chiefs to put on their hypothetical hats on and tell us if they were starting a solution provider business today, what business they would focus on and why. Here are some of the best responses.

Acer America

Director, U.S. Channel

Philip Burger

If I started a business today, it wouldn't focus on hardware or software specifically, but more on training and education. My company would hire engineers, data scientists and technical professionals with teaching experience. Together they would develop curriculum to give other solution providers training and on-the-job experience in areas where we face talent deficits. The other VARs could save OPEX by not hiring this staff in house. I hear so many times "we have the money and the bandwidth to hire, but we can't find the right people." It's a problem people will pay to solve quickly.

Aerohive Networks

VP of Global Channels

Michael O'Brien

Everything-as-a-Service. Customers are looking for more OPEX-based solutions which can scale up and down with a business versus fixed CAPEX investments with set overhead. Mapping IT solutions to business objectives with managed services is key to success in the long term.

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company

VP, North American Channels

Jim Harold

If I were starting a solution provider business today, I would focus on building a managed services practice. Industry-wide, we are seeing a continued, growing move to the cloud and increasing interest in the 'as-a-service' model. For long-term sustainability and value, it is important to create a recurring revenue stream and innovative managed services, based on leading-edge technology. I'd focus on select high-growth areas such as security and mobility and on vertical markets such as healthcare and retail. I'd build strong customer references in each of these areas to help drive future growth.


VP, Global Distribution Sales

Julie Hens

If I were starting a solution provider today, the focus would be on professional services to help drive higher margins for partners, especially as customers focus on how technology can drive business outcomes. Beyond the margin, these services also create deep customer loyalty and stickiness for distributors and partners. I would focus on the growing Internet of Things market, and look to align with other partners in manufacturing, automation, healthcare, retail and finance that have built a business around security services, for example.


Senior Director, Strategy, Planning & Programs

Marc Surplus

First, develop a strong solution practice, potentially with a vertical expertise. This is critical to successfully differentiating your business and delivering business outcomes to customers. Second, build a strong customer lifecycle practice that focuses on Land, Adopt, Expand and Renew success. This ensures you have customers for life. Finally, offer a rich set of professional and consulting services, including DevOps, which leads to a very margin-rich opportunity with customers. We know these three areas are profitability drivers for solution providers today, and partners optimizing these skills will be better positioned to capture growth opportunities in the future.

Comcast Business

Vice President, Indirect Channels

Craig Schlagbaum

The world is moving towards massive specialization. In the 1970's there were essentially three sports channels on a weekend and the choices were limited on what you could watch. Today there are literally thousands of sports channels. The overall IT world of apps+ data connectivity is a very generalist space. But a specific focus in, perhaps, hospitality, banking, country club management, etc. will allow the solution provider to differentiate their capabilities. The unique platform the partner operates on and their focused knowledge is the value add that will endure and ensure profitability over the long run.

Dell EMC

VP, Global Channels Marketing

Cheryl Cook

The technology landscape is changing so quickly and as a solution provider you have to make business model changes. I'd be investing in hybrid cloud and hyper-converged expertise technically but my major focus would be on creating a partnership with my customers and solving their business needs.

Digital Guardian

Director of Channel Sales and Operations

Nick Urrea

In today's connected world, it has become increasingly clear that no organizations' information is safe from cyber threats. If I were creating a solution provider today, the business would be aimed at helping companies focus on protecting their customers' personal information and the company's trade secrets. Given the talent shortage in tech, organizations now more than ever are looking for experts who can guide them in implementing the most robust security strategy with fewer resources. A successful solution provider today should ultimately offer companies peace of mind for safety of their most sensitive information.


SVP of Worldwide Sales

Francois Daumard

I would start a managed service provider with a tight vertical focus and key practice areas in security, business continuity and cloud services. Cloud migration and management will still require the software and management skills of MSPs and IT service providers. Security is a non-stop threat to business productivity, privacy, uptime and brand reputations. Business continuity and security go hand-in-hand, because at the end of the day, keeping clients productive is what pays the bills.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

VP & GM of North American Channels & SMB

Scott Dunsire

Customers are demanding solutions to specific business needs, rather than discrete infrastructure components. To address this, the market needs more partners who can provide a consultative and advisory practice. A new solution provider would do well to focus on solutions that play well in industry verticals and deliver a unique partner persona that illustrates their value proposition. Leading with a consultative motion, rather than a product focus, will enable the partner to differentiate themselves.

HP Inc.

VP, Head of Channel Marketing & Operations

Vincent Brissot

3D printing. That first rule when deciding to launch a business is… is there actually a business? With a total available market of $14 trillion, the whole manufacturing industry just waits to be redefined by 3D technology capabilities.

HP Inc.

VP and General Manager, Americas Channels

Stephanie Dismore

My focus would be on the desired outcome a customer wants to create. I would pick a vertical focus and enable a team that has resources, training and certifications to help the customer create an environment that works for them. We would be able to understand workflow, needs and requirements to optimize without the handcuffs of current business models. The idea is to start from the inside and work out to create the best solution. Bottom line, the future is all about understanding the customers' business, workflow and pain points and provide expertise as a consultant for that specific environment.



Marc Dupaquier

I would focus on cognitive, cloud-based solutions to help today's digital businesses achieve digital intelligence. The explosion of digital content and data makes it impossible for humans to master it all, but cognitive solutions can help us make sense of that information, and even solve for complexity and stay ahead of the ever-changing expectations of our customers.


Director of Distribution Sales, Americas

David W. Allen

Making IOT solutions accessible to all sizes of customers, especially SMBs, and providing the analytical capability to help monetize the wealth of data and information flowing from these solutions.

Red Hat

Senior Director, Global Partner Marketing

Margaret-Ann Bolton

In the new model of technology acquisition, I would focus on multiple ways of delivering technology and solutions to my end-user customers. Having choice allows customers to choose implementation strategies that best fit their business requirements and their ability and propensity to consume technology. It would be a blend of on-premise, hosted and cloud-based solutions. The economics of IT are changing in a way that we need to be flexible and agile in how we deliver solutions to customers and allow them to consume it in a way that makes the most sense for their business at that moment.


EVP, Partners and Alliances

Alan Laing

Conversational commerce through the development of AI and bots for business users. These solutions would help to create business efficiency, simplicity and empower millions in a single business model through a reduced administrative burden.


VP, Worldwide Alliances and Channels

Harry Gould

I would focus a solution provider business on identity and access management. It's truly the hottest area of cybersecurity, which is one of the most important and lucrative markets of our day. 43 percent of all data breaches come from within the company and its ecosystem of third parties, but with proper identity governance and controls, businesses can reduce this risk. As breaches are becoming less of a possibility and more of an inevitability, data breach prevention [can provide] a strong ROI for any company.


VP, Worldwide Alliances & Channels

Tony Beller

I would focus on HR and customer service outsourcing. Those are two massive markets with lots of opportunities. These markets haven't been penetrated by service providers.


VP of Business Operations

Kerry Sherman

Advanced data analytics and machine learning (artificial intelligence). It's an area that is taking off because of the vast amounts of data and the sophisticated algorithms that can digest it, both of which are available now. Business of all sizes are gaining access to decisioning tools that many thought would only be available to the largest of organizations. The market just got really big and is getting a lot bigger.

WatchGuard Technologies

Director, Channel Programs

Coletta Vigh

If I were starting a solution provider business today, I would be very focused on the exact target market that I was going to service. In today's hyper-competitive market, it is important to not just be a "me-too" generalist. Security continues to be an outstanding business to invest in, and I would ensure that I had the technical competencies in my organization to be able to provide the value-added services that my customers would require.