… very large, strategic customers that Panasonic made the decision to take direct, but as a general rule, we’re through the channel 100 percent.
CP: Are changes in the industry impacting the direction of your partner program, channel strategy and product mix?
BW: One of the trends that we’ve seen just in the IT industry in general, we’ve seen it less in the rugged space but I think we’ll continue to see this grow, is the shift away from being a traditional VAR to being more of a managed service provider or something that’s a little bit stickier and more profitable. It’s something we’ve seen lag in the rugged computing space, but we also know that a lot of partners at this point are looking for ways to get out of that low-margin, transactional, sale-by-sale battle, and get to a model that’s more profitable and more sticky long term with their customer relationship. I’ve got a team of account managers, and they’re the ones supporting our partners day in and day out … so obviously this is a concern we hear pretty regularly: “How do we expand our business in a way that improves our profitability?” So we’re continuing to drive our partners to think through ways to basically package the products into their own unique service-delivery model. So depending on what that is, some of our partners are looking at how they wrap in some other value-added services that they provide. Others have gone down the path of forging software partnerships so that when they’re delivering our product, they have a unique combination of software that comes with that device. So anytime they can differentiate their offerings, it sets them aside … and allows them to have a more profitable business that locks in customers for a longer period of time.
CP: There seems to be more blurring of partner types. Is your partner program designed to accommodate that?
BW: … We’re flexible enough in our channel model that we’re able to support any type of partner. At this point, I do see a diversification of the types of partners that we have out there, the ones that are out there just trying to sell as many devices as possible, even at low margins, and we have some that are trying to really provide advances services. So that’s one of the things that has been a unique challenge for our team, is being able to figure out how we provide the right level of support for all these different partners when a lot of them are coming from different directions. But I also think it’s critical for us to maintain that diversity in our channel because that allows us to reach the maximum number of end customers.