TD SYNNEX plans to unite its Varnex and TechSelect partner communities into a single company-wide membership organization.
The distribution giant discussed the forthcoming change with ChannelPro at its CommunitySolv event in Orlando. Held yesterday and today, the conference brought together members of SYNNEX’s Varnex partner community and Tech Data’s TechSelect community for the first time since those two companies merged in a $7.2 billion deal announced last March and completed six months later.
“That’s definitely the plan,” says Kaye McMillan, the distribution giant’s vice president of sales and communities, adding that the company will take its time about putting the plan into action.
“We recognize that there’s a lot of history that we need to be respectful of, and that the partners are very loyal and tied to their communities,” she says. “We will still have a Varnex and TechSelect for FY23, but by this time next year, or as we go into our FY24, we will have built out a combined community.”
McMillan has headed CommunitySolv, the umbrella organization for Varnex and TechSelect, since August following the departure of Sammy Kinlaw, previously the distributor’s senior vice president of North American sales communities. The decision to create a single community for the entire company is a change in direction from Kinlaw’s plan to operate Varnex, TechSelect, and a third, legacy SYNNEX community for cloud and mobility partners called Stellr independently of one another based on an analysis showing each group had different members with different business models and purchasing habits.
McMillan describes the decision to merge Varnex and TechSelect instead as an extension of the decision to merge their former parent companies. “We’re becoming one TD SYNNEX,” she says. “Why would we keep that separation between the SYNNEX history and the Tech Data history?”
The same logic went into the decision to hold this week’s first-ever CommunitySolv conference, following Varnex and TechSelect events earlier this year, she adds. TD SYNNEX will no longer hold separate meetings for those communities going forward.
“It just made a lot more sense in terms making sure that they’re getting the same messaging at the same time from the same leadership team,” McMillan notes.
Combining the communities will give members more opportunities to network with a wider range of peers as well as greater clout with the distributor’s vendor partners, according to Bob Stegner, TD SYNNEX’s senior vice president of North American marketing.
“They’ll have a bigger voice now,” he says. “Size matters.”
Vendors appreciate the new strategy too, according to McMillan. “They want to get exposure to the entire community, and not just be focused on one community or the other,” she says.
CommunitySolv has been popular with vendors since its creation, in fact, according to Vice President of Product Management Kristi Kirby. “They’re happy with the access to the partners. They’re happy with the ability to engage more broadly,” she says, pointing to the more than 60 exhibitors in the expo hall at this week’s show as evidence.
“They’re all here,” she notes.
Peter Larocque, president of North American technology solutions at TD SYNNEX, called the CommunitySolv organization a “big bet” for the company during a keynote presentation yesterday morning. McMillan points to Larocque’s presence at the show, along with that of CEO Rich Hume and Americas President Michael Urban, as proof of how important CommunitySolv members are to the company.
“They’ve made a lot of investments in growing the team that is supporting communities,” she says of the three executives.
Some of the justification for that investment stems back to the “Varnex 2.0” strategy that SYNNEX leaders announced two years ago, which aimed to turn a traditional peer-to-peer knowledge sharing organization into a way for the company’s most loyal partners to collaborate on end-to-end, money-making customer solutions. The merger, Stegner notes, “kind of threw the brakes” on that transition. “Now that we’ve crossed that wonderful bridge, we can move forward on it.”
To underscore CommunitySolv’s new status as a revenue source for both members and TD SYNNEX itself, the group now resides within the distributor’s sales organization. “We can actually measure our leadership team against results within the community on growth,” McMillan says, adding that the connection to the salesforce will make identifying potential recruits easier as well.
“Who knows the partners better than the sales team?” she asks.
CommunitySolv currently has some 1,200 members in North America, including over 200 new ones this year. “Thoughtful growth” beyond those numbers is among McMillan’s objectives for 2023.
“We don’t want to get too large, and we want to make sure that we have partners that are going to be investing in the community with their time, with their commitment, and with their engagement,” she says.
Building a roadmap for combining Varnex with TechSelect and aligning their membership benefits will occupy her attention in the coming year too, along with devising a strategy for Stellr, which TD SYNNEX views as a logical home for managed service providers in its partner base. MSPs are “absolutely a focus area” for both Urban and Larocque, according to McMillan.
“We took really kind of a tactical pause about how we wanted to focus on our MSP partners,” she says. “Right now, the vision is that it would really be an overlay community within CommunitySolv.”
Helping partners navigate a recession, should one materialize, is among TD SYNNEX’s shorter-term priorities for CommunitySolv, Stegner adds.
“Maybe we can put some programs together that help them on shipping. Maybe we can put some programs together to help them on travel,” he says. At a minimum, he continues, members will get plenty of input on the current and evolving state of the IT industry from a very large company with an elevated vantage point on those topics.
“They’re going to be relying on us to communicate with them so they can make decisions,” Stegner says. “We can’t tell them how to run their business. That’s a personal thing. But what we can do is help give them guidance.”