Lenovo unveils channel transformation in response to partner feedback from Accelerate

The changes involve restructuring the deployment of Lenovo resources to better support partners, new rewards for alignment and new logos, and changes to improve slow pricing policies – although a big one won’t roll out until next year.

Rob Cato, Lenovo’s North American channel chief

At their spring Accelerate Lenovo channel event in Las Vegas, Lenovo heard an earful from its North American partners about things that the channel believes could be and should be improved. Some of this stemmed from last year’s changes to the compensation model that partners disliked. Some of it related to a cumbersome process for approval of deals. Some of it also related to a perception of drift in Lenovo’s North American operations since their halcyon days here some years back. Now, the vendor is responding with what it is terming an aggressive transformation to get back on track with its channel and increase their mutual prosperity – although some of the specific details are not being made public at this point. A key theme running through all of it is a pledge by Lenovo to be a stronger partner to its channel.

“We’ve made some significant channel transformations around how we will optimize investments for growth, around financial, marketing and human elements, to drive to both SMB, large market and K-12,” said Rob Cato, Lenovo’s North American channel chief. Cato, an IBMer who came to Lenovo with IBM’s PC business in 2005, moved to the channels job in April.

“We want to take our level of engagement with partners to a new level,” Cato stressed. “We want more strategic alignment with partners, so that we pursue similar objectives as we go forward. We also want to get back to growth and acquisition – rewarding partners for growing business and for acquiring new customers.”

In order to improve the strategic alignment, Lenovo has restructured the deployment of its own resources to work with partners more effectively.

“We are aligning our field sales field and end user resources to be better aligned with partners,” Cato said “Our Costa Rica cell centre – 100 people strong and one of the best investments we have ever made – will have responsibility for working with our Authorized and Silver partners in the U.S. Previously it was a combination of field and sales resources. Now each Authorized and Silver partner will have a dedicated support person in that call centre to support their business.”

Lenovo Gold and Platinum partners will also receive better support, with the redeployment of the full capability of Lenovo’s field resources and sales teams.

In Canada, it will work a little differently, with alignment of field resources continuing to be coordinated out of the Markham ON office.

Cato said that Lenovo will also work a lot harder to make sure that they are clear with partners about expectations.

“A lot of the Accelerate feedback made it clear that this was an issue, and so we want to make sure partners in all four tiers understand how they get rewarded,” he indicated. “We didn’t go a great job at this in the past.

“A big part of the change is to make sure that we are investing more in partners that want to grow with us, in our targeted areas, specifically SMB, large enterprise and K-12,” Cato added.  “We will invest in partners to grow the SMB business, and reward them for new customer acquisitions. People haven’t heard us talk about growth and acquisition much lately. But our business is now healthy again, and we can get back to growth. This transformation reinforces that the channel is the way we will grow our business, especially in the SMB segment.”

Specific details on that will follow later, Cato said.

“We will also align with the Lenovo transformation around customers,” Cato said. “In the past we have been product-focused. Going forward, it  means leveraging and using our channel more than we ever have before. We will reward them for growth, and for aligning with us around the customer community. Those that grow at or above market level will be rewarded.”

Exactly how this will roll out isn’t clear, because Lenovo doesn’t want to make these details available for competitive reasons.

Cato said Lenovo is also making changes to deal with channel complaints about inefficient pricing policies.

“We are giving them new tools and resources,” he said. “We were told at Accelerate that we were slow in responding to pricing. Our goals on speed-to-price is to get to less than 24 hours turnaround. We have started some pilots where we have seen that kind of turnaround already, where we are working closely with the partner to identify the exact needs of the customer. The feedback at Accelerate was that it would take days and sometimes weeks for turnaround. There was a need for big-time improvement there.”

The major new tool here is a futures.

“We are introducing a bid desk responding to SMB opportunities now,” Cato said. “At the same time, we are creating a more interactive and personal digital experience through the Lenovo Partner Network. It will provide more information on products and services, better digital engagement and enablement.

“The timeframe for these Lenovo Partner Network enhancements is likely to be around next spring’s Accelerate event,” Cato added.