The word ‘channel' is no longer relevant, according to NetApp's UK boss Elliot Howard, who said the phrase does not reflect the changing role of the way it works with partners.
Speaking to CRN at its Insight event in Berlin this week, Howard (pictured) said NetApp works with an increasingly diverse set of partners, meaning the word "channel" no longer fits the bill.
"I don't even like the word ‘channel' anymore because I think it's a phrase of the past," he said. "Our partners have always been key to our strategy. [But] I think the [word] channel, for me, conjures up a picture of a pipeline - you've got [a vendor] on the one end and the customer on the other and the channel is something you move a product through. I think those days are gone.
"The customer is left, right and centre to everything we do and our partners wrap themselves around the customer. Our job is to be able to reference and clearly articulate our value through our distributors and partners."
He said that NetApp is increasingly looking to work with other partners that are not traditional resellers, which is another reason why ‘channel' is not the right word any more.
"I'm also starting to think of it in terms of relationships now - it is not just about our traditional [reseller] partners, it might be a software vendor which is transitioning to an as-a-service model," he said "Rob Salmon [NetApp president] pointed out 28 per cent of IT budgets are going to be managed by line of business. We need to build relationships with people we know we can have a relevant conversation with [in order to sell] into the line of business."
Bill Lispin, NetApp's vice president for worldwide channel sales, agreed that the profile of its partners is changing.
"The value proposition partners are trying to provide is wrapped around a services-oriented approach," he said. "In fact, we do a partner profitability study and what we've seen is the partners which are most profitable are those that have already made that transition, or are already on the path... to offering a - I hate the word - solution.
"It's the hardware, software and services wrapper that is designed specifically to take care of their customers' problems. The channel is the traditional way of talking about it, but it really is a whole new value proposition which is enveloped in services that differentiate our partners from each other."
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