Tech Data's Shaun Shuler on stage at Tech Data Partner Summit 2018.

Tech Data: Financial Necessity Driving Partners to Embrace Third-Platform Technologies

Shaun Shuler, Tech Data's senior vice president of sales for enterprise solutions for the United States, talks about partners increasingly looking to add security, data analytics and IoT.

(Pictured above: Sales SVP Shaun Shuler on stage at Tech Data Partner Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, Nov. 5.)

At long last, Tech Data's partners finally are accepting and ready to adopt third-platform technologies after seeing declines in their revenue and profit.  

That's according to Shaun Shuler, the IT distributor's senior vice president of sales for enterprise solutions for the United States. He welcomed attendees Monday at the start of this week's Tech Data Partner Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona. The theme of the conference is "Transformation Awaits."

Originally focused on big data and analytics, cloud, mobility and social, the third platform has evolved to include IoT, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented-reality devices. The second platform is focused on the client/server system and remains a high priority for SMBs. Upgrading PCs remains a top priority for this market.

Rich Hume, Tech Data's CEO, told attendees his company is focused on hybrid cloud, with "compelling" relationships with Amazon, Microsoft and IBM Cloud, as well as analytics and IoT. The company's strategy is investing in next-generation technologies, strengthen its end-to-end portfolio of products, solutions and services, transforming digitally and optimizing its global footprint.

"Everything has to drive a better result for our customers," he said.

In a Q&A with Channel Futures, Shuler talks about all the changes partners are dealing with and how his company is helping partners adapt to new business models.  

Channel Futures: Tell us about your role with Tech Data.

Shaun Shuler: If you think of the legacy technology solutions partner base, that is the customer base that my sales team works with. So I have inside sales and field sales for the United States. I’ve been with Tech Data for 13 years ... and I was with Arrow Electronics for seven years prior to that, so in distribution for about 20 years.

CF: How is digital transformation impacting your business? 

SS: There’s so much going on right now in the overall customer base and we really are thinking through what is next, and our partners are driving us to what is next. We’ve been talking about digital transformation and this move to third platform for the last probably seven years … and really at the Partner Summit a year ago it was really when partners came back to me and said, "Hey, this whole cloud and security, and IoT and analytics, it’s now affecting my business" ... they started seeing some revenue and profit declines, which then impacted business. So we’ve had these really robust conversations over the last year as we’ve transformed our business and moved into just a better motion with each of our partners because they are very intentional about how we can go make money in the cloud, how to partner in the cloud, how Tech Data through StreamOne and our digital platforms can help them accelerate their success, and how they can wrap their services around the cloud business. So it’s been really fun having those conversations, and then much more intentional conversations around security, data analytics and IoT than we ever have had before. So this last year really feels like, "OK, now we are going forward and everybody’s embracing the third platform. At the same time, we have to pay the bills and still a lot of hardware, software and services are being sold and consumed throughout the ecosystem. It’s kind of fun to watch this evolution go.

CF: So everything is continuing to grow, as opposed to demand for some technology waning?

SS: We’re really seeing all of it continue to grow, and we had a customer of ours, as an example, sell a cloud solution to a big pharmaceutical company and it’s just now getting processed and it’s going to result in $200,000 in monthly recurring revenue, and they believe that will grow up to $500,000-$600,000 over the next 18 months. That type of intentional change into monthly recurring revenue is so impactful on our business and we’re so excited to see that because this is exactly what we’ve been talking about. It’s important for customers to have that sort of base and it’s really important for us to be able to have that as well.

CF: In terms of needing to change and adapt, is it a combination of partners relying on Tech Data and in turn Tech Data relying on those partners?

SS: Absolutely. I love the word partnership and I think that is so important. It’s a three-legged partnership and it has to be with our vendor community, all of the vendors, no matter how they go to market — and our customer base. That very intentional relationship between the three of us is making a difference at the field level. I have a customer right now – a very large reseller – who actually came to us and said, "We want your client execs, our field sales team, to be engaged in some growth projects that they have around some specific vendors." And this is the type of engagement or entanglement that we are doing, and it’s a big investment on Tech Data’s part to have execs that go out to the marketplace in a brand-agnostic way, but go to drive line-of-business and business solutions on behalf of our partners. The best part of that for me was our partners asking us to be in the meeting with their end customers. And I don’t think there’s any better compliment than knowing we are in a partnership where we need to be there alongside one another, taking cost out of their model and helping them grow, and yet still being a great partner in the overall ecosystem.

CF: Are you seeing a lot more interest in and acceptance of third-platform technologies?

SS: There is a great deal more ... and we made heavy investments in that, so we were truly betting on the future in doing that, and I believe that future is now and it’s starting to pay off. All of the messaging and marketing, and real work that we have done — our Practice Builder program is really robust; we have taken that out to many of our partners and our partners are building practices around security, around analytics and around IoT because of the expertise and really the thought leadership that our team within each one of those next-generation platforms take them forward. So it’s a very repeatable process and very important for us to move forward.

CF: Is this conference a big opportunity for you to hear from partners? What type of feedback are you looking forward to hearing?

SS: I’m looking forward to hearing the real feedback. There [are] a lot of things that we’re doing well, but there [are] so many things that are opportunities that we can do far better. I’ve been in four customer meetings already this morning before the main stage, and in every one of those, we had a list of things that we’re doing and operational excellence, and the great thing was there was a time where we weren’t as efficient operationally, and we have corrected that and invested in our inside sales capability. Now we are being more strategic. So it’s really fun to get into the conversations with each of our partners about where we’re going. We have a couple of customers here recently that have talked to us about the challenge of their sales force and how they transformed their business because the sellers that they currently have … are staying in the same sales motion as they always have in the second platform. They don’t even know how to go sell in the cloud or in next-generation technologies. So either training your sales force differently and maybe segmenting that, or potentially setting up different companies under the same umbrella to go drive those results.

CF: What do you hope partners learn and can make use of when they get back home?

SS: This is a lot to consume. We throw all of these facts and figures and everything out there, and it does make your head spin a little bit because we all know that we need to transform; we’ve heard that word so often, and sometimes it’s overused. But it’s true in everything that we’re doing. We are going to come out of this with actions in the one-on-one meetings that we have with each of our customers, and we have put together a business plan. That’s why we invest in the client executives to work with each of our customers to know their strategy so that we’re not bringing something that doesn’t go along with their strategy. So it’s our strategy collectively, but it fits into our vision, and by developing those plans together, my hope and my thought is that we will execute and we will drive new business and new ways, while still growing out the second platform, which is still very robust and is still growing right now.

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