Channel TalkInterviews

Taking the ‘Channel First’ Strategy Far and Wide

In an exclusive interview with Arabian Reseller, Alaa Bawab, the General Manager at Lenovo’s Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG) for the Middle East & Africa, talks about the Lenovo 360 program, the company’s channel community, and its commitment to the region

Tell us about the Lenovo 360 program?
Lenovo 360 is a new framework that gives our channel partners a 360-degrees perspective across the full breadth and depth of our portfolio – from ‘pocket to cloud’ – and which enables partners to create complete, end-to-end solutions for customers.

In April 2021, we reorganized our three core business units, Intelligent Devices Group, the core PC and IoT business, Infrastructure Solutions Group and a new Solutions and Services Group focused on verticals and services, and Lenovo 360 unites IDG, ISG, and SSG into a single framework to leverage the full power of our offerings.

Lenovo 360 has been designed in collaboration with our channel partners, to target the opportunities we see emerging in the global technology landscape through advanced solutions such as IoT, edge computing, analytics, and AI. Forty-seven percent of global channel businesses want to be able to deliver all levels of service to their clients, and Lenovo 360 is intended to enable our partners to do just that.

We are now going to partners with a unified platform, one channel team, and structure, with new resources, a new approach, and increased ease of engagement so that our partners can focus on these opportunities with the comprehensive ‘as-a-service’ solutions that clients want, based around in-demand areas including enabling workforce productivity and collaboration, infrastructure flexibility, sustainability improvements, and solutions created for specific verticals.

The Lenovo 360 framework is founded on the three pillars of “People”, “Programs”, and “Tools”. For people, we will combine our best-in-class technical and market expertise, with our partner’s specialist knowledge, to develop best-in-class solutions. Under programs, Lenovo 360 is the foundation of our global program, which will offer unique benefits to specialized partners. The program will focus on growth, customer acquisition, and solution competencies that trigger an expansive set of benefits for our partners. For tools, Lenovo 360 will deliver tools that simplify channel engagement and provide efficient and reliable pricing, quoting, partner protection, and support.

How big is your regional channel community?
As a 100%, ‘channel first’ company, while we can’t disclose actual partner numbers, everything we do in the Middle East is done through our channel partners. In Q3 of our fiscal year (Oct -Nov) the efforts of this channel community helped us to reach our highest level of growth since 2019, which illustrates the strength of our regional channel.

Do you offer different levels of partnership for your channel?
There are no barriers to participation in Lenovo 360, and the framework is intended to be flexible enough that all of our partners can join Lenovo 360 and experience the benefits for themselves. The new channel framework is open to all partners working with Lenovo on the devices and infrastructure side. What we are focused on with partners is to encourage them to understand the opportunities to expand their business by going deeper with existing customers and attracting new customers to take advantage of Lenovo 360.

How do you onboard partners into this program?
Lenovo 360 is part of our ‘channel first’ strategy, and the emphasis is on ease of engagement and supporting and empowering partners. We don’t want to create any barriers to access or excessive onboarding processes, rather we want to create a framework that complements our partners’ skills with Lenovo resources to address the opportunities they have with their customers.

In the META region, it is clear from IDC’s predictions where those opportunities lie – spending on security (hardware, software, and services) is expected to grow 7% to top $3.76 billion, and spending on public cloud services will grow 27.3% to surpass $6.8 billion, SaaS apps will account for 41% of public cloud software spending, spending on AI will grow 24.7% to total $1.2 billion, spending on RPA (Robotic Process Automation) software will grow 47.5% to cross $159 million, spending on Big Data analytics will grow at 8.1% to reach $3 billion.

The greatest opportunity lies in addressing these advanced spending priorities and providing customers with “as a service” offerings – in fact, according to Markets&Markets, the global market for managed service providers is expected to reach $355 billion by 2026. Lenovo 360 is designed to capitalise on all of these trends and priorities. Channel partners will have direct access to Lenovo’s global experts in ‘as-a-Service’ and subject matter experts to enable them to build vertical-based solutions.

Partners will be able to sell and customize solutions from Lenovo’s consolidated as-a-Service offerings, and our experts will help our partners to build complementary service delivery models via the Lenovo 360 ecosystem. In addition, Lenovo 360 will ensure that partners can quickly get onboard with the full range of solutions through turnkey marketing materials and campaigns that enable them to go to market at the same time, on top of activations such as training, certifications, and channel marketing playbooks, and our Lenovo Partner Hub.

How has the program been enhanced compared to its earlier avatar?
The big differentiator for Lenovo 360 is moving away from traditional models and encouraging our partners to look at selling solutions and “as a service.” The Middle East market saw a surge of digital transformation projects during the pandemic, and now that businesses have seen the benefits of digitization, we expect to see even greater sophistication and uptake of advanced solutions such as AI, data analytics, automation, and new models of delivery.

The aim for Lenovo 360 is to make sure that all of our partners are familiar with the full breadth and depth of our offerings, and that they understand that Lenovo can support them to leverage the whole portfolio, plugging in additional expertise from Lenovo as required, to be able to deliver solutions that fulfill every requirement of each individual customer.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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