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Lenovo Looks to Fuel a Return to Growth Through “Channel Transformation”: Page 2 of 2

A wide-ranging series of policy and partner program changes instituted this month by North American Channel Chief Rob Cato (pictured) are designed to get the hardware maker back on track to recording consistent market share gains. By Rich Freeman

“We wanted an end-to-end solution that had everything in the box, or in the solution, that the customer needed, with our partner’s services wrapped around it,” Cato says. Lenovo, he adds, has similar offerings for smart workspaces and meeting rooms, and is investigating solutions for the retail and healthcare industries as well.

Achieving a “new level of engagement” with partners is another of Cato’s top objectives for this year and beyond.

“We want to make sure that we’ve got all of our resources, all of our partners, covered in a way that allows us to be deeper and more strategic with them,” he says.

Based on channel input, Lenovo is working to make those resources more pertinent to partners as well. The partner program now includes “communities” dedicated to the SMB, K-12, and large enterprise segments that are designed to make it easier for resellers to find information and resources related to the specific markets they pursue.

“We have to be aligned with them from a relevance standpoint and making sure that our goals and their goals and our objectives and their objectives are the same,” Cato says.

Lenovo’s partner program reset follows a turbulent year marked not only by Kinlaw’s exit but by that of North American President Emilio Ghilardi, and his replacement by Matthew Zielinski, as well.

Last fall, meanwhile, the company laid off two percent of its global workforce. Though few of the partners Cato spoke with after assuming his new role questioned the wisdom of that cutback, many requested earlier, more frequent, and more detailed explanations of such moves in the future.

“They were asking that going forward, we make sure we communicate with them on some of these changes,” he says. “We’ve got to make sure we do that and do that very effectively.”

Other priorities for Cato in the months ahead include augmenting Lenovo’s lineup of customer-facing technical support offerings.

“One of the biggest areas that we’ve got to go focus on as a company is having the right services in conjunction with our partners,” Cato says. “I would say over the next six months or so, you’ll continue to see us bring out different offerings.”

Also set to arrive at some point in the next year is a more personalized, interactive “digital experience” for partners aimed at helping them find information online more easily. That project too is informed by partner input.

“It was difficult for them to understand their earnings, how they made money with Lenovo, how much they were making, and what those investments were for,” Cato notes.

Cato hopes the ultimate effect of all his ongoing efforts is to restore the channel’s once strong faith in Lenovo.

“We’ve got to get back to some of the tenets that made us great in the past, which is being simple and consistent and easy to do business with,” he says. “The tools that I talked about before and the [bid desk], those are vitally crucial to our getting back to sort of that simple, predictable, and consistent mantra that Lenovo was known for in the past.”

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