Tech Data Canada looks to blur broadline/VAD distinction

Greg Myers Tech Data

Greg Myers, vice president of marketing at Tech Data Canada.

With the launch of a new Technology Services division and a soon-to-debut revamp of its Advanced Technology Solutions Centre, Tech Data Canada believes it is blurring the line between broadline distributor and VAD.

While value-focused divisions, boutique operations and niches are certainly familiar territory for all three of the broadline giants, by broadening its support for high-tech solutions and expanding the kind of services it offers resellers, Tech Data seems determined to challenge rivals like Avnet, Arrow and Westcon on their own ground.

Greg Myers, vice president of marketing for Tech Data Canada, called the shift an acknowledgement of a changing marketplace.

Myers said the distributor has slowly changed over the last few years, starting with changes to the product mix the vendor offers, adding major plays like VMware that “by definition, require a bigger investment in tech support, in pre-sales resources, and in agility.”

“Supporting peripherals or client devices is very different than what’s required to support data centre rollouts,” Myers said. “With CTO solutions and architected programs and products, we’ve already seen the impact this is having on our vendor relations, our customers relations, and quite frankly, our P&L.”

New division

The crown jewel of the new effort is the new Technology Services division, headed up by Richard Toledo, formerly head of the distributor’s integration services team, and now manager of the Technology Services group. The division combines front-office functions (pre-sales support resources that previously reported into Myers’ marketing organization) with back-office functions (the distributor’s integration services, which Myers is quick to point out are in “Toronto and Vancouver, not Denver and Phoenix.”)

The division will combine Tech Data’s level-one and level-two support with its configuration capabilities, and will be used to focus on what’s next for solution providers, helping to identify new opportunities for resellers and enable them for those opportunities, Myers said.

All told, the distributor now has more than 30 Canadian staffers with technical certifications, and by bringing them together under the Technology Services umbrella, Myers said Tech Data will be able to tackle a variety of new opportunities and help the distributor and its resellers go where the market is going. That investment in technical staff has Myers throwing down the gauntlet to his distribution competitors.

“Nobody, broadline of value-add, has the number of certified engineers and technicians in country that Tech Data Canada has,” he said.

The new focus is resulting in new business for Tech Data Canada, Myers said, of types not traditionally in the distributor’s tool kit – the distributor is just beginning its second round of Avaya IP Office accreditation training for VARs with stops in Calgary and Toronto, and has seen its federal government business with HP grow as a result of offering more configure-to-option capabilities.

The company says the new division will “complement and collaborate with” its two-year-old Advanced Infrastructure Solutions division, which heads up Tech Data Canada’s charge in fields like server and storage, virtualization, network management and monitoring, and security.

A new ATSC

The second part of the company’s shift towards value and services will come with the re-opening of its Advanced Technology Solutions Centre (ATSC) in a few months. Having been expanded by 800 square feet to almost 2,000 square feet, the ATSC has been redesigned to show a wider array of data centre technology, including hardware and software from Cisco, HP, IBM, Avaya, Xerox, McAfee and a variety of others.

In its previous iteration, the ATSC featured some other vendors, but was built heavily around Cisco technology. Myers said the redesign was part of an acknowledgement of the actual scenarios solution providers and customers face in the data centre.

“The reality is that there are very few environments in the commercial marketplace that are a pure HP play, a pure IBM play or a pure Cisco play,” Myers said. “Cisco has been absolutely fantastic and really gave us our start with the ATSC, but they too recognize the opportunity to drive a strong Cisco message in the marketplace is at least somewhat a function of replicating the customers’ environments. WE all benefit – Cisco, Tech Data and the new partners, from increased utilization of the centre.”

Since opening the doors to the ATSC in 2006, Myers said Tech Data has hosted more than 400 engagements in the centre on behalf of solution providers, and he sees the rate growing significantly as a result of the expansion of the centre.

Myers said the ATSC will be differentiated in Canada because while rivals in distribution may have such demonstration centres, they are typically in the U.S., as with Ingram Micro’s Buffalo, NY-based Cisco lab or Westcon’s LEAP Centre out of Colorado; and vendors with demo centres typically don’t have amount of gear from the number of vendors that the new ATSC will feature.

Myers hinted that the new ATSC would debut this spring, although the distributor has yet to set a date for the re-launch.

A worldwide shift

As usual for Tech Data, the Canadian project is Canadian in origin, but Myers said it’s a similar journey for many regions at the distributor. The move towards value-added distribution “is running deep throughout Tech Data globally,” Myers said, being led by what it’s learned from its VAD business in Europe, TD Azlan.

“We’ve taken those cues and brought them home,” Myers said. “We all have a local market focus, but when we come together to share, we’re always surprised by how much common ground we’ve developed in each market.”

Already, he reported the distributor is seeing more vendors come to it for “what you’d think of as value-add initiatives,” plans that Tech Data would either have to scramble and re-organize to meet, or risk losing out to its VAD rivals. Having the Technology Services division gives the distributor a team that’s ready to place and incubate new opportunities that require “a higher level of skill when it comes to Tech Data,” particularly on technical terms.