“Yes, there’s the usual throw away line that distributors are just a bank, or a credit provider or a warehouse — but the warehouse in particular doesn’t come into play when we’re talking about cloud.”
Traditionally, distribution survived to support the partner through engagement and enablement. In 2017 however, cloud has rewritten reseller and distributor relations.
“We place a lot of value on distribution even through the cloud,” Brook said. “Lots of distributors have a cloud marketplace but unless the back-ends become more sophisticated, it’s still a manual process from a billing perspective for partners.
Denis Valente (Exclusive Networks)
“On the whole, there is still a lot of work to be done because billing must be seamless, less manual and less time consuming.”
As explained by Brook however, the conversations with partners are changing, reflecting the evolving role of distribution in cloud.
“Before it was just about providing a price on X, Y and Z, but distributors are having deep conversations and helping resellers transition from VARs to MSPs,” Brook added.
Following a historic focus on transaction management, partner recruitment, training, on-boarding and longer-term sales support however, cloud-focused partners can sometimes struggle to see the future value of wholesale distributors.
“It’s a historical artefact,” Elliott said. “If you’re starting out in the market today why would you use a distributor? As a business, if I know what I need and I can buy it straight from the vendor then what value does a distributor add if it’s just download and off I go?”
According to Elliott, success in the cloud is defined by agility, with partners better placed to go direct over leveraging distribution.
“I’m not disputing the historical role of the distributor but in the context of cloud and in a digital economy, I don’t need distribution,” he said.
Through time, there have been numerous transitions in the IT products and services market that put the role of the distributor in question.
Yet in 2017, distribution continues to show its strength, providing cloud services and support to a blend of traditional, transitioning and born-in- the-cloud partners.
“Value-add is an over-used term and comments around distribution aren’t new,” Shannon acknowledged. “From a vendor perspective, we provide scale and make it simpler to sell into areas of the market previously unattainable.
“From the partner perspective, our value proposition doesn’t change in the cloud because we are still normalising technologies and processes and making it easier for resellers to do business. Cloud simply makes our role different, but not irrelevant.”
For distribution to remain relevant in the cloud, Shannon said the industry is innovating faster, investing in tools and processes to ensure platforms are up-to-speed with the market demands of the channel.
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