A committed relationship

STEFAN VAN DE GIESSEN, Networks Unlimited Africa

 Providing partner support during the pandemic highlights the companies that pay attention to people and the future.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the best and worst in humanity. Crises like this worldwide viral tremor forge the foundations of corporate ethics and define how organisations approach their people, suppliers and customers. There are those that are cutting throats and stepping over the bodies to get their slice of a dwindling pie, but, perhaps surprisingly, there are many that have done the opposite. Intel, Microsoft, Lenovo, Dell and Ingram Micro are just some channel players that have created support structures for their partners and resellers. From covering shipping costs to free training to pandemic-specific stimulus packages, these global organisations have been targeting pain points throughout lockdowns and restrictive trading regulations so their flailing partners can survive. And they’re not the only companies making a difference on the virtual frontline.

In South Africa, the channel has not been sitting idly by, watching customers and partners sink slowly beneath the complex regulations of the local lockdown. There have been positive stories, remarkable moments and ingenious solutions designed specifically for the local context and its challenges.

According to Stefan van de Giessen, cyber security manager at Networks Africa, partners have responded with initiatives aimed at helping members of the global IT community. “The responses of some of our vendors to the crisis have been noteworthy in terms of their holistic nature and care for the wider community.

“Fortinet made its entire self-paced catalogue of advanced training courses available for free until the end of 2020 so that IT professionals could expand their knowledge and skills on-demand. Cofense is offering free access to Cofense Intelligence for 90 days to help companies stay on top of phishing threats, and RSA is offering new clients free access to its multifactor authentication solutions for a limited time.”
Safety and security
These companies have come together to create solutions designed to address the growing security threat that hovers over remote working and remote access, allowing for the channel to address priority client needs within limited budgets and a compressed economy. Cisco also provided solutions relatively early in the process, with free offerings and cloud-based services that included Webex and security solutions to help organisations move to remote working with greater ease and efficiency.

Another company that stepped up early on in the pandemic is Konnect Africa. It provided free broadband connectivity to clinics in South Africa, where terrestrial networks were unable to provide appropriate bandwidth. Says CEO Jean-Claude Tshipama: “The deployment was undertaken by local ECNS-licensed distributor Logical Wireless and will provide each site with 300GB of data monthly, for several months.”

Then there is Zoho. This global tech company implemented fixed local currency pricing for all its applications for South African businesses to help ease the impact of currency fluctuations. This is probably one of the most relevant and helpful moves that any global company could make for the local market. In addition to fixed currency costs for more than 45 applications, the company has developed a three-month subscription fee waiver programme for qualifying small business customers.
“Zoho seeks to provide its software solutions at a fair price, protected from exchange rate fluctuations. Customers are also guaranteed privacy and security of their data,” says Andrew Bourne, country manager, Africa, Zoho Corp. “We’ve also localised pricing for Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt.”
Growth in the time of a crisis
IBM Global Financing rolled out a variety of financing options to help the channel manage cash flow more effectively while remaining capable of providing relevant solutions to the market. The company also added enhanced solutions and capabilities to its digital platform of resources for vendors. These were designed to help partners manage their customers and market more effectively and to potentially find alternative channels and options to drive growth during the pandemic. Nutanix introduced a Special Financial Assistance Programme that gives partners extended payment terms so they have much needed flexibility and liquidity.

From the hyperscaler to the mid-range manufacturer to the enterprise-level vendor, the channel has not sat back and expected partners to blindly stumble forward into a future defined by uncertainty. The solutions on offer vary – some are perhaps just a nod to the crisis while others seem to have been crafted directly on top of very real pain points – but they are a testament to the mindset of the companies and their commitment to their partners. What lies ahead is anybody’s guess, but one thing is certain: those companies that made an effort to support customer and partner are those that will likely remain on the business horizon for some time to come.
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