In this sponsored Q&A, part of the run up to the CRN Sales and Marketing Awards; NetApp's vice president, EMEA Partner Organisation Kristian Kerr (pictured), shares his thoughts on how the channel has coped during the global pandemic and how the vendor plans to help them stay profitable
What has been the biggest challenge for NetApp over the last few months?
Our sales environment has changed overnight, which brought new challenges for generating business. Face-to-face meetings aren't possible, and customers are overwhelmed with rapidly firing up the capacity to support thousands of remote workers. NetApp, like every organisation during COVID 19, has had to change how we work to keep our team and communities safe and shift to digital wherever possible in order to serve our customers in the most professional way possible.
What achievements have NetApp been most proud of since the lockdown?
NetApp understood that our partners are now facing unprecedented challenges with COVID-19 and need to be prepare for an uncertain future and how to quickly and effectively support their customers needs. We are committed to being the best partner we can be as we all weather this storm. We also recognise that the impacts of this crisis won't disappear overnight. We are looking out for their long-term sustainability and profitability by adjusting our partner programs and providing additional resources to support our partners. We have also expanded NetApp's business continuity offerings for partners with new tools for optimising their customers' NetApp investments and to help them address key risk areas.
How do you think the channel in general has coped during these challenging times?
I am very impressed by the agility, expertise and commitment that our partners have demonstrated during this unprecedented crisis to enable our customers to manage thousands of employees who are now working remotely. Our partners faced the same challenge as NetApp to maintain business continuity while protecting the health of their employees.
We have seen first-hand how our channel partners have have done everything possible to help their customers running during these difficult times, and if this experience has taught us anything it's that we have to lean on one another when times get tough. From finding innovative ways to fulfil technology requirements to agreeing new financing terms, there has been incredible work happening in IT over the last few months.
At times like these, it's really important vendors, partners, resellers, distributors, and end-users keep working together and help businesses continue to operate in the face of adversity.
What does the channel need to do going forward to keep this momentum going?
The top priority is to stay connected, shift to digital and stay productive in the new normal. It's business critical to use all the collaboration tools and resources that we have to help your customers manage their IT, protect their datas and support their remote teams.
As business continuity plans are rolled out to support work-from-home initiatives, many organisations are seeing their production systems used at a scale or growth trajectory that's beyond normal expectations. With NetApp Active IQ, our partners are able to analyse customers capacity trends over the next 30 days, including cloud and on-premises infrastructure and identify applications that might be running hot or storage systems that are overburdened. On top of this, partners need to have a forward-looking planning to empower their customer lead successfully their digital transformation. With NetApp's Data Fabric they have the ability to simplify and integrate data management across cloud and on-premises to deliver consistent and integrated hybrid cloud data services.
How do you think the roles of sales and marketing teams will evolve as we eventually move out of these challenging times?
No doubt that the COVID 19 has changed the way we interact with our customers and partners and we have learnt how to be more efficient in our communication and think digital first.
I have been able to talk to many of our partners in EMEA in the past few weeks and I feel that I have been closer to our channel. We all know that there will be a 'before' and 'after' COVID-19, and I would like our team to keep the best practices of our digital learnings in this challenging time. We are currently seeing that a lot of things work just as well remotely, could be a chance to revisit processes and drive simplification across the business, in times of crisis, health becomes first priority. Further down the road, we all have to find what's positive and learn.
Why is it important for channel firms to enter awards like the SMAs?
The CRN Awards are an important event for NetApp and our partners, we have been participating for many years, and it's a great opportunity to network, learn from each others and take the time to look back on our performance. We are really impressed by the innovation this year to maintain this really special event in a virtual environment. It's actually a celebration every year of the channel community and we are proud to be part of it! Thanks CRN for welcoming NetApp.
The Virtual 2020 Sales and Marketing Awards are taking place over three consecutive days from 14 - 16 July. To watch the awards programmes, please register here.