Hitachi Vantara stepping up focus around partner engagement

Hitachi Vantara has been intensifying its channel focus this year, with a new portal, pricing tool, and eLearning modules, and partner satisfaction has increased as a result.

Radhika Krishnan, Chief Product Officer and General Manager, Hitachi Vantara

Hitachi Vantara has had a significant channel presence since the company’s creation from three other Hitachi companies went live at the start of 2020. Historically that presence has been in the midmarket, which the company calls its commercial segment. The channel business has been expanding upmarket however, assisted by multiple recent changes to policies and the addition of new tools for partners’ portfolios.

“I came on board about six months ago, and before this had spent a lot of time in mid-range channel-focused businesses,” said Radhika Krishnan, Hitachi Vantara’s Chief Product Officer and General Manager, whose senior channel-focused roles included tenures at Lenovo and Nimble Storage. “I worked with partners for the longest time. Vantara has a very strong high-end enterprise portfolio, but there has been significant recent focus on driving partner transformation, and the  company is putting a ton of focus around partner engagement.”

Krishnan emphasized that the channel engagement has become broader as well.

“Hitachi has had a very strong orientation to the high end of the market, but there is also a recognition now that the channel and the midrange are just as critical to us,” she said. “Transformation is hard but when it’s being measured and tracked by senior execs and the board, the focus changes, and that’s where we are today.”

Hitachi Vantara segments its markets into three groups – Platinum, Enterprise and Commercial.

“The Commercial segment is 100% partner led,” said Kimberly King,  Hitachi Vantara’s VP of Global Strategic Partners and Alliances. “We are focusing a lot of investment and solutions around that. In Commercial, we are seeing partners embrace our technology and VSP E-Series platform. We are also engaging distribution more, and more new partners are coming from there. Arrow and Tech Data provide our North American distribution, but we aren’t overdistributed. We don’t see 25 partners competing for the same deals.”

The Enterprise division also now sees much of the business go through the channel.

“72% of our enterprise business is with and through partners,” King said.

The way in which the sales organization works with partners has also been changed substantially.

“There’s lots of change happening from my perspective,” King noted. “We completely embraced our partner community as we rolled out our digital selling program.  Before, it was a regionally-run team. Now, it’s one consolidated global team under me. With that, we rolled out our digital selling platform. Phase One was in July-August 2020, and Phase Two was in January of this year.”

Krishnan also said there has been a significant improvement in the ease of doing business with the company.

“Channel partners care deeply about how easy it is to do transactions,” she said. “We have had a 10% increase in one hour approvals, and generally shorter approval times. It’s a dramatic transformation from a standpoint of how we drive transactions.”

Kimberly King,  Hitachi Vantara’s VP of Global Strategic Partners and Alliances

King said that new partner portal and the Partner Velocity pricing tool, which was rolled out in Q1, are major factors in the improvement. While the company also enhanced its channel program at the start of year, it was more an issue of making tweaks to the core program. The adoption and support of partners around the online tools, on the other hand, has had a critical impact.

“We saw a 32% increase in adoption in the first 30 days of new portal, with a 225% increase in new log-ins, and 85% satisfaction from this first phase.” King indicated. “The adoption and support of partners around these online tools has been critical.”

King also emphasized that the new pricing tool has had a huge impact.

“35% of all pricing is no touch, with immediately approved pricing, and 65% of all quotes are approved in less than hour,” she said. “79% of special pricing is less than 4 hours. We went from taking weeks to under four hours.”

On April 1, Hitachi Vantara have rolled out a new eLearning program.

“We saw 15 eLearning modules per partner being used in the first 30 days, which completely flipped the old ratio on its head,” King said. 343 partners were involved in this time frame. “The new modules are easier to adopt and easier to use, and previously, partners had to use a third-party platform.”

Partner satisfaction with deal registration has also increased, and now is close to 85%.

“We have also worked hard to make the products easier to use and sell by partners, just as we have to make it easier for customers to consume them,” Krishnan said. “We have improved ease of use, particularly in the midrange. He simplified the analytics and automation capabilities of our Ops Center management suite to make it easier for mid-range customers. When I was at Nimble we were AI pioneers with InfoSight, and we are working to introduce more ML and AI here. Look for more on this to come.”