The year-long process of splitting Hewlett-Packard in two is well behind us, and the half focused on HPE servers, storage, network related solutions, relies on the partner community extensively. HPE provides expertise around traditional on-premises IT and hybrid cloud, and its channel business is led by Zachary Dickson, HPE’s channel chief, who’s worked in the partner community space for more than seven years. He’s also Canadian. More than 70 per cent of HPE’s hardware revenue comes from partners, and the company’s HPE Partner Ready Program is one of the most popular – and profitable – in the market. We recently had a chance to speak with Dickson.
CDN: What led you into a career within the channel?
Dickson: Great luck. It came during a time of restructuring here at HPE when an opportunity arose and I was quick to pursue it. I realized quickly that the path forward is harnessing the power of this incredible channel in Canada. It was a no-brainer to get in and start building some of the relationships and strategies that will serve not just HPE but the broader tech industry for a very long time.
CDN: What are the three largest areas of responsibility in your current role in channel management?
Dickson: Responsibility number one is being a channel champion within our own organization. Going to bat for and with our channel partners as their interests are constantly being competed with ours. And the real success in this role is finding swim lanes that we can share together where we can build strategy and execute on it in a frictionless manner. The second piece is going in the other direction – inspiring trust and preference with our channel partners around HPE. That manifests itself in different ways, but I think as channel professionals, we’re all responsible for making an impact with partners…not just showing up to vendor events with coffee and having casual conversations. We look to be a change of agent and help partners change their business with the help of the company we represent. And three, this is a people business, so maintaining the relationships and building bridges with another channel leader or executive teams on our side, or even seller engagements at the street level moves the needle. It’s a daily battle you need to stay on top of.
CDN: What can the Canadian partner community do better to ensure the partner ecosystem is one where companies can thrive?:
Dickson: It’s amazing how often I have conversations with channel partners and they ask if I know anybody, or if I know of someone who is available for a certain role because they’re looking. And to me, that means the pool of talented individuals who can take on direct selling or channel management roles isn’t where it should be. It’s a countrywide problem, but I think there’s a role C4 can play and us as IT professionals can play to drive a meaningful and clear path towards a becoming a channel professional.
CDN: What are some lingering misconceptions about channel management?
Dickson: A notion we need to dispel is that this isn’t a sales job. Channel professionals that are very successful view themselves as salespeople first. They may not be in a room talking to a customer positioning a solution, but if they take the right mindset of working with a partner or vendor, you can impact sales on a much broader scale. And i think that gets lost sometimes.
CDN: What piece of advice would you give anyone entering the channel?
Dickson: Jump in with two feet. The relationships that you build in the channel are ones that serve you for a very long time. To me, that has been the greatest learning for the past several years. This community is small and tight-knit, and C4 is a wonderful example of that. Having a network like that is completely invaluable, and those are the types of relationships that last.