34 top UK vendor leaders outline channel priorities

UK channel leaders including Microsoft’s Orla McGrath, Cisco’s Dominic Pierce and Dell’s Rob Tomlin open up on their channel priorities, bugbears and partner philosophies in inaugural CRN Vendor Power list

Doug Woodburn
clock • 4 min read
34 top UK vendor leaders outline channel priorities

The UK's top vendor channel bosses have laid out their priorities and future bets in CRN's inaugural Vendor Power list.

The feature encompasses Q&As with 34 UK leaders from the channel's most widely carried vendors, including Microsoft, Cisco and HPE.

Collectively, they head up partner organisations that orchestrate the lion's share of UK B2B IT hardware, software and cloud sales.

Big guns get a grilling

Each channel leader took on up to 18 questions on their partner strategy and themselves, including on their priorities for the year ahead.

In his Q&A, Dell vice president UK channel Rob Tomlin cited accelerating collaboration between channel partners and Dell's sales team among his targets for the next 12 months. The hardware giant has doubled its channel business over the last three years, he claimed.

HPE's UK channel & MM/SMB director, Lewis Simmonds, is targeting the recruitment of more XaaS partners, while HP's UK & Ireland channel director Neil MacDonald unveiled plans to invest in data and insights. Lenovo recently moved to give partners easier access to its full portfolio, its UK boss Neil Sawyer (pictured below) said, meanwhile.

The vendor chiefs were each asked to outline their channel philosophy and the size of their partner base.

While ConnectWise (2,500), Cisco (2,000), Fujitsu (1,500), Adobe (1,400) and SonicWall (1,200) all work with over 1,000 UK partners, others have narrower UK channels, with Check Point, F5 Networks and Mitel all working with 400 or fewer partners.

Rare metals losing their lustre?

Amid talk that traditional metal-based channel programmes are losing their shine in an increasingly cloud-based world (with Microsoft's Gold badge about to be axed), our top channel bosses were also quizzed on how they see channel programmes and engagement models evolving over the next few years.

SAP's new PartnerEdge Cloud Choice model rewards partners for delivering good outcomes for clients, SAP UK & Ireland chief partner officer Celine Cazali stressed.

Simon Aldous, director, partners & channels, Google Cloud UK&I, was among those to stress the need to reward non-transactional partners.

"The detachment of the influence chain from the transaction chain is an important consequence of the move to cloud. As such, we need to ensure that we view each separately and provide the necessary levels of enablement, incentives, rewards and support for partners across these two critical areas of customer engagement and experience," Aldous said.

"In the cloud consumption world, you need to have a partner base that can drive continuous engagement with the customer. It's so much easier to switch out technologies in a cloud ecosystem, so channel programmes should evolve to incentivise partners to sustain those continuous touchpoints," added Andy Corcoran, UK and Ireland channel sales director at VMware.

Indirect dealings

How important is the channel to these vendors?

While many of the smaller vendors included stressed that they operate a channel-only model, even those market giants with a strong enterprise and government pedigree often count partners as their primary route to market.

Lenovo's Sawyer said 97 per cent of the PC vendor's business goes via its channel partners, with Cisco and HP's channel leaders pegging their channel businesses at above 90 per cent of their sales.

"[That is] reflective of the UK & Ireland market," confirmed Cisco's Dominic Pierce (pictured below).

The execs opened up on how they manage direct-vs-channel conflict when it occurs, with Broadcom's Roy Borden revealing the vendor has a "100 per cent neutral" compensation scheme for sales reps no matter whose paper the deal is deliver on.

"Within the SMB space, we have moved the full product lifecycle under our Aggregation 2.0 partners. From quote through to level 1 support, this is 100 per cent channel owned and delivered," he added.

Partner peeves 

We also asked the vendor leaders to open up on what traits they most value and scorn in partners.

Loyalty, integrity and innovation were three recurring positive characteristics, while laziness and duplicity were cited as common bugbears.

"It can be frustrating when a partner backs several competing vendors in the same opportunity," said Tom Corrigan, director, EMEA distribution and systems integrators at Mimecast.

"Unfortunately, we still see some partners wanting to do account mapping. That's outdated. From experience I can say it's much more effective to sit down and use and share data and insights and work out who we should target together with that shared knowledge," added HPE's Simmonds.

The 34 leaders in our Vendor Power list were selected on the basis of the inclusion of their company in the recent CRN Vendor Report, which rated the channel's most prevalent vendors across four core categories.* CRN Essential subscribers can read an Executive Summary of the report here.

Find out who made our inaugural Vendor Power List here.

*The 45 vendors invited to put forward a UK and EMEA representative for these articles were: Adobe, Apple, Avaya, AWS,  Barracuda, Broadcom/Symantec, Check Point, Cisco, Citrix, Connectwise, CrowdStrike, Datto, Dell, ESET, Extreme Networks, F5 Networks, Fortinet, Fujitsu, Google, HP Inc, HPE, IBM, Intel, Juniper, Lenovo, Microsoft, Mimecast, Mitel, N-Able, NetApp, Netgear, Nutanix, Oracle, Palo Alto, Poly, Salesforce, Samsung, SAP, SonicWall, Sophos, Trellix, Veeam, VMware, WatchGuard, Zoom

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