Former GE Access ‘fax boy’ offers channel perspectives

KEYSTONE, Colo. — GE Access is counting on technical leadership, services, customer focus, growth and globalization to maintain its growth, its vice-president of marketing and vendor relations told channel partners Wednesday.


his first-ever keynote address at GE Access’ annual New Frontiers conference, Scott Zahl, vice-president of marketing and vendor relations, said the company is harnessing its employees and partners to create a channel platform.

Building upon this year’s theme, Zahl emphasized the importance of imagination and innovation.

“”Access Graphics was born with an innovative idea to create a channel platform that’s world class,”” said Zahl, who started working at Access Graphics 14 years ago as a “”fax boy,”” taking invoices and passing them to sales associates. (GE Capital IT Distribution Group bought Access Graphics and Integration Alliance in 1996 and re-branded the company GE Access in around 1999.)

A Victoria, B.C.-based GE Access customer said Zahl’s message at Wednesday’s keynote address holds true for his experience with the distributor over the last 9 years.

“”(GE Access’) corporate culture is one that we subscribe to,”” said Britt Hilton, director of sales at Myra Systems Corp. “”Partner relationships are very important to succeed in this industry.

“”They’re interested in our success and not just in providing a product. We make use of their marketing programs, market analysis and account planning.””

Zahl pointed to the introduction of Direct Account Access and OneTech support as examples of GE Access’s technical leadership. OneTech offers solution providers and their customers one contract, one call and one source to help resolve technical issues across multiple vendor lines including Sun, Nokia and Check Point.

Under services, Zahl discussed GE Access’ recently-launched Multi-Platform Service Program (MSP), which allows its solution providers to sell additional services on multiple platforms including IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Cisco Systems Inc. MSP, which was developed in partnership with Sun, was introduced as part of the distributor’s Channel Services portfolio.

Laura McLellan, vice-president of business strategies at Gartner Inc., told executives at the conference that profitable services last year saw an average gross margin of 35 per cent among firms in the U.S.

“”People with services businesses are seeing their margin go up,”” said McLellan, referring to resellers in the consulting and systems integration business. McLellan said the Canadian market tends to be behind the U.S. but the numbers will apply here.

Gartner predicts that by 2007 one half of all IT services sold in the U.S. will be to other IT service providers and not to end users. By 2009 one half of IT sold in U.S. will be sold as a service and not as product. In 2010 the ratio of business process services to all other IT services in the U.S. will be equal, said McLellan. All of these predictions are within .6 to .8 probability.

Despite the use of software to improve customer service, Zahl said people still prefer to do business with people.

“”You won’t have any trouble reaching people at Access,”” he said. Zahl added that the average tenure of an inside rep is six years and five years for a field rep.

“”Some companies try to cut transaction costs by using an automated system,”” said Zahl. “”At GE, it’s the opposite.””

The Partner Connect Web site, for example, lets partners browse GE Access’ product catalog, search for SKUs, view and download quotes, view orders and invoices and request price lists. “”It means getting better access to information,”” said Zahl.

The Web site also features customer quarterly surveys and a partner feedback button for partners.

Zahl said GE Access has signed on five new vendors this year including F5 and McData, and plans to continue expanding the partner community.

“”Many technology vendors are realizing the value of the channel in bringing their products to market,”” he said, adding that partners should think globally even if they’re selling locally. “”We’ll be there to help you navigate. We’ve built a channel platform that’s second to none. We must not forget our roots.””

New Frontiers wraps up Wednesday.

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