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February 1, 2009
By Khali Henderson
As the game of musical chairs played out at top channel spots in the communications hardware business in 2008, Motorola’s Enterprise Mobility division looked beyond the usual suspects and tapped Janet Schijns as its vice president of worldwide channel and distribution.
Schijns spent the last 15 years as president of The JS Group, a channel consulting company that counted Motorola among its many high-tech clients. Prior to that she worked for Sandoz, a large pharmaceutical holding company, working in their medical equipment dealer channel. She also spent time at L’Oreal in its dealer network.
PHONE+ spoke to Schijns in early January. What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation.
How is your experience in channel consulting helping you at Motorola?
It’s definitely different experience for a channel chief. … I think that’s a good thing. I think you’ll see that — as an aside — more vendors looking for more unique experience in the person running the channel in working one on one with the channel partners.
Motorola Channel Chief Janet Schijns
I think the biggest experience from JS Group that helps me in the role is that I was intimately involved with a number of vendors and partners around their growth as well as recovery plans. That experience of working one on one and really being part of the team at a variety of vendors partners and distributors has been an experience that lets me in my new role really understand what our business partners businesses look like, what their business challenges look like and how their business really runs. …I think that experience is really helping me in this new role. I can feel exactly what their needs are.
… As an example, many of our partners today are expanding their solutions capacity. That comes at a considerable cost to their firm. …I understand the costs of that from reviewing in the last six years over 1,000 balance sheets with partners. I see the impact on their GS&A and their overall operating expenses. In my new role, that experience has helped me craft strategies that will help me reduce the cost of developing solutions and working on solution channel readiness for Motorola’s Enterprise Mobility group.
Engineering solutions for the channel takes some of that cost out. Our product groups are heavily engaged with my team on how to best engineer solutions for the channel to help take costs out of their business. That is a specific example of how my experience consulting with all their partners led me to understand their business and bring it in and develop a strategy around it quickly.
I read you were a consultant for Motorola/Symbol. Is that true?
It is true. Motorola is comprised of several different groups. I am in the Enterprise Mobility Solutions Group, not the mobile devices side or public safety side. My client was the same — the former Symbol basically. We were working with them on their internal channel talent development as well as externally with their partners as I mentioned earlier. That work was definitely a huge help in coming in. It obviously was one of the reasons for my selection. That work continues through me, but not through JS Group. Motorola did bring me on with full intellectual property for all the work I had done for JS Group. My team and I at Motorola are continuing that work. The mobility practice at JS Group has been shut down. The JS Group was sold to Mozam Consulting, which continues to do cloud computing and some of the other things that JS Group had done.
Since you’ve joined, have you made any changes?
Obviously there are always changes, right? I’ll go back one click and forward three. I think you know that we have about 9,700 partners worldwide. ..It’s about 4,600 partners in NAM and LAM. More than 85 percent of our business goes through the channel. That channel centricity will not change. We are a channel-centric company. It’s part of our DNA. We sell through and with the channel.
Our major strategic initiative for 2009 is putting the channel front and center in our go-to-market. To do that requires more than the traditional vendor-channel sales approach. It requires an approach that encompasses all elements of the business — from product design and engineering products for the channel to looking at the financial ROI that a partner has from a business to looking at financial alternatives as the economy creates pressures on credit lines to sales and marketing support services, call center, repair center, advanced services and regular services.
Putting the channel front and center in our go-to-market requires we look at every element in our and our channel partners’ businesses and how we can best embrace that to ensure joint profitability and joint reductions of costs. So, that’s been a very important strategic initiative for us as we move into 2009.
In regard to the channel structure, how does that make some changes? It means we enhance our investments in our solutions development for the channel. It means we enhance our support and our investments in channel marketing. It means we will enhance and support our investments in channel alliances with global solutions integrators, our distributors and many other influencers into sales. For example ISVs are having a stronger and stronger play in our channel program.
In April we will launch some fine-tuning to our award-winning Partner Select Program. Our program continues to be strong. We will add things around channel profitability. Deal registration will definitely be in our 2009 plans as will channel-solution readiness. That’s an umbrella term for ensuring that we are supporting the evolution that our end-user customers demand for full solutions and that our channel partners so wonderfully deliver.
To that end …we are actually launching a Why the Channel Campaign? …Speaking as a channel advocate overall, I think most vendors have embraced the channel to one level of another are driving revenue and solutions through their channel, but I think that all vendors can amplify the visibility of the channel in the market and extend the channel’s reach by showcasing where the channel is successful and adds value to the end-user marketplace. I think while many vendors have said, “We sell through the channel,” there’s always room to show how channel partners for firms like Motorola are an extension of our solutions to the customers and make sure the end-user audience understands the value the channel brings to their businesses.
Is there something specific that you will be doing?
We will be launching our “Why the Channel?” campaign that will go to internal and external stakeholder audiences. We will take our PartnerSelect messaging out in a multifaceted campaign, so that we make sure that the partner messaging is everywhere, all the time in everything we do. It’s really an effort to explain the important role of our channel to all audiences we touch and benefit from those solutions.
Is this an advertising campaign?
Advertising, public relations, Web sites. …We want to make sure the message gets out there and we promote the channel’s value and extend the market reach of our partners more than we ever have before.
End users are questioning the value of every supplier they do business with wanting to understand the value adds that different suppliers, vendors, partners, etc., bring to their business and how they get the best value. This is a time for all vendors, Motorola included, to double down on their message of how the channel delivers value. Although we all know about the advanced solutions capabilities of our partners, about their ability to have loyal and truly satisfied customers, we need to make sure there is heightened visibility of partners in the value ecosystem to end-user customers. We are taking on a campaign on it, but I think all vendors should be reinforcing the value of their partners during difficult economic times to the end-user customer.
I think they take it for granted that everybody knows the value of the channel and by saying that you sell through channels that everybody knows what the value of that channel is. We are getting back to the basics in 2009. The basics are that the channel provides unique value adds that we need to educated end users on.
Can you explain how your channel is set up?
We have open reseller categories with limited access to specific products.
We have authorized resellers, which would have a little more products available, programs, etc. They buy through our distributors and receive enhanced benefits over the open reseller category.
Then we have business partners and solutions partners. Those two levels receive channel account management coverage and more benefits. They traditionally bring a specific solution coverage competency and capacity.
Then, we have premier solutions providers and premier business partners. Those are the very top levels that have invested in specific solutions and specific business areas that have entitled them to be in a premier level because they deliver such an advanced value add to the end users in their community. That’s based on capacity, coverage and competency.
How will the recession impact your channel partners?
It’s an interesting question. I guess the economists have finally declared it a recession. That took a long time. …
I think I’ll start with a story: When pilots fly a plane they only time they really get to fly is when it’s turbulent. So, when you talk to them, they actually like the turbulent times because they can take control back and fly the plane. The channel partners are the same. …In good times, it’s easy to let certain things get on autopilot. Now that there’s a recession and a little tougher economic times, it causes business owners throughout the channel to take a second look at what they need to focus on. Can they really be all things to all people? Can they carry every vendor’s products. Can they continue to provide free services and not charge customers for the value-adds they deliver. The answer in a recession is they may not be able to.
I think the biggest impact of the recession on our channel partners is it will cause them to take a closer look at where they are spending money in their business and what the profits and ROI is. That’s going to extend from their relationship to us, to their end users, suppliers, employees, contractors and consultants. They are all going to challenge everything they do as a business. They will look at it from a laser-focus standpoint, saying, “Where do I eliminate expenses, actions, things that we do, so that I can double focus on other areas that are more profitable and more sustainable in a difficult recession.”
I told this the other day to a partner and he said I should explain it every time. So I am going to say it: The sun has more energy power than a laser. But the sun is big ball of light that heats everything slowly. It would take an extended period of time on a very difficult surface to fry an egg or put a hole in a piece of concrete. A laser with significantly less power than the sun — about a millionth less power — can actually burn a hole in concrete because its energy force is focused. The sun is broad-reaching and warming. This is the year that they won’t take the “sun” approach where they want to shine a little warmth on everything. They’ll take the “laser” approach and they will decide where they can really cut through.
Are you expecting that those partners that go through this exercise will be better for it in the end, or will you expect to see some partners not make it through this?
I think we‘ll see partners better for it in the end. Those who don’t do it will be worse off. The partners that continue to try to be everything to everyone will have difficulties this year. There are very few partners that can sustain that model and use every strategic area in their business. There has to be a renewed effort on focusing resources, time and money. At the end of the day, channel partners have a limited capacity. Every company has a limited capacity based on resources. You have to focus those on areas that are sustainable. I think we’ll see a consolidation of efforts. The partners who do that will be very successful. They will take share. Historically that’s been the case.
Do you have any partner-enablement initiatives for 2009?
We’ve seen significant results from a pilot program that we’ve done with the Motorola partners around socialized networking. One of the key enablements that every vendor and specifically Motorola is seeing is that the more complex solutions require a more complex ecosystem. That ecosystem many times is comprised of many partners, app developers, ISVs, service providers, etc.
We are launching a key partner-enablement initiative for 2009 around socialized networking to allow partners to work together to provide the best solution. That’s being done in a Web 2.0 environment. We are very excited about it because it’s taking costs out of the partner business by reducing the amount of time it takes for them to identify the best team to put at the table when they are in front of a customer.
When is that starting?
Next month. We did some beta testing obviously. It’s planned to come out in Q1. We are pretty excited about it.
I hate to use this word because it’s your business, but it’s an interesting “experiment,” too.
Web. 2.0 is at the crossing the chasm from early adopter to mainstream, so it’s a fair word. How do we build a socialized network that empowers our partners to work together and be that team that can’t be beat? There will be some elements of learning that have to occur in all of us as the Internet expands its impact on our lives. It’s definitely a bell curve of learning.
I equate it to the Christmas morning feeling when you get your first bike and it’s in a box. You open it up and see that it’s pieces of a bike. You are very excited. But your enthusiasm for the bike wanes as you put it together. Once the bike is together, your enthusiasm skyrockets as you are able to ride the bike.
So I think [for Web 2.0], 2008 was “there is a bike under a tree.” 2009 is actually putting it together. It’s going to be [a year of] for partners and vendors putting their Web 2.0 strategy together so they can ride the bike. That’s a journey. It’s the owner-enthusiasm curve.
The bike will probably be a better model over time?
Exactly. You have to invest to get a better mode of transportation. I do believe Web 2.0 is a better mode of transportation for partners’ businesses.
What specific products/solutions will be hot in the coming year?
If I look at what are the hotter solutions sets, definitely voice is coming into enterprise mobility. We’ve launched some specific solutions around that.
Our core many years ago was retail, right, but now the whole retail supply chain — transportation and logistics and the manufacturing of products — are becoming hot solutions sets as those traditionally clipboard environments are looking at how mobility in the warehouse and mobility in the truck can help them same money and time.
Finally, a continual growth area is health care. …Health care assets are expenses. Asset tracking for health care as well as patient management solutions are becoming key areas for providers to focus on in 2009. Health care is a bubble market; people still get sick even when there is a recession.
RFID, as a final mention, RFID is really beginning to cross the chasm. It was a great idea for a long time. But, we are seeing some very specific success stories both in the warehouse as well as in retail. …We have been doing test pilots of RFID. They have delivered ROI in a sub-one-year environment. I point that out because there has been a lot of news lately around end-user customers wanting a shortened ROI cycle in tough times.
We can wrap up by talking about any challenges for the channel in 2009.
I think the biggest challenge for channel partners is taking a laser-focused look at their business and making sure that they are offering a truly differentiated value add for their customer and that is where they are investing their time and money. During economic downturns, you have to really understand how you are managing your business. To do that, you really have to focus on where you solve business problems for your customers. That’s going to be key. Understand where you solve the business problem. What’s your value add? Double investment there; reduce investments where you don’t have a differentiator.
Is there anything you would add?
I would tell your readers to look at the business needs of their customers and not becoming myopic about the specific technology that’s going to supply the end need.
Here’s my last story: Smith Corona typewriter way back in the day … was approached about doing word processing and said, “No, we make typewriters.” The reality was they made communication vehicles. By becoming myopic about what they supplied to deliver to the customers’ need, which was to formally communicate something to someone, their belief was that their end-user wanted a typewriter. That has turned out not to be true, when you look at the fact there are more text messages sent than there are people, more e-mail sent than there are verbal conversations. You can see that a letter, which is less than 5 percent of all communication, was not the answer. So, they didn’t realize they were in the business of helping customer formally communicate something.
Partners should really take a step back and look at what they are delivering to their end user customer and not be myopic about the technology they use to deliver it.
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