Osama AlHaj-Issa, the Regional Channel Director for META at HPE Aruba, speaks about the qualities a channel influencer should possess
What is your career history to date and key career achievements?
I’ve been in the IT industry for over 20 years. I started my career as a systems consultant and product manager at Hewlett-Packard in Saudi where I worked for 6 years. I then moved to Microsoft as a pre-sales engineer, solution sales specialist, and product marketing manager.
My channel career got off to a start at my next company EMC where I was appointed as enterprise sales account manager. After a little under two and a half years, I moved to Cisco where I was responsible for handling the channel in Saudi and looking after business worth over $200 million.
Five years later towards the end of 2011, I was approached by Aruba Networks with an offer to head the channel across the Middle East and Turkey which was a challenging and exciting proposition for me. The company had superior technology and at the time when most IT companies were experiencing negative to stagnant growth, Aruba business was growing at a rapid pace.
I took up the challenge and have been with the company ever since. My main achievement was creating a commercial channel network for EMC in Saudi Arabia, Telco channel for Cisco in Saudi Arabia and finally the HPE Aruba channel across EMEA in 2016 which won the ‘best channel’ award.
What are your roles and responsibilities in the company as a channel influencer?
I am responsible for setting HPE Aruba channel strategy in the Middle East, Turkey, and African region and work with the sales and channel teams to support Aruba partners and distributors to grow profitable businesses.
Aruba channel team is also responsible for partner enablement and business development using marketing and sales planning practices. And I put a major focus on SMB business development through SMB partners and distributors.
What qualities should a channel influencer possess to lead the channel?
The following are some of the key qualities a channel influencer should possess:
- A laser focus on making partners’ business profitable.
- Strong ‘planning for growth’ capabilities with a long term vision for two years and good management skills in order to make sure that targets are achieved on a quarter to quarter basis.
- The capacity to stay updated on the latest technology trends.
What is your advice on finding success in the channel?
Be an advocate for partners and make sure partners invest in quality resources and stay up to date in pre-sales and post-sales skills. Also, minimise the time spent on operational aspects and focus more on business development and demand generation.
How would you assess the current state of the channel?
In terms of skills in the channel, while the region is not mature as yet, we are in a much stronger position than even a few years ago. We still have some way to go, however. This is why we still see channel players depending on technical support and expertise from their vendors, and from professionals who are from other markets and regions.
What is the biggest challenge facing the IT channel in the region?
Eroding margins by unfair competition and finding new leads.
If you could improve one thing about the channel business what would it be?
Have distributors stop undercutting prices on the same deal when a partner shops around for lower prices and have partners stop undercutting each other on the same end-user deal. This is a lose-lose arrangement every partner and distributor suffers from and keeps margins going down which translates into less willingness to invest in the business.
How can partners (vendors, distributors, resellers, and retailers) work effectively to generate growth in the channel?
Partners or resellers need to closely work with the vendors’ sales team on account planning and opportunity identification and development. Also, it is very important to fully understand customer pains and map them to HPE Aruba solutions to show value to customers. Having satisfied customers by means of proper deployment is key to getting new business and having healthy business from the installed base. New customers learn about this and bring new opportunities to grow the business.
Distributors need to invest in SMB demand generation and creation. Telesales, digital marketing and ongoing structured workshops for SMB partners on HPE Aruba solutions are important means of creating run rate in SMB channel. Growth comes from proper demand generation processes and spreading the activities to new SMB channels geographically or from competition channels.