CRN Lenovo Special Issue October 2020 - Issue 1398

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Lenovo’s ‘flex up, flex down’ capability a key selling point PAGE 18


Teaching partners how to sell in a virtual world PAGE 21

Doing The Right Thing The ‘Lenovo story’ has been one of stepping up time and time again to help partners and customers in need amid unprecedented challenges. Now with a new Partner Hub, rich incentives and innovative products, the company’s next chapter is ready to unfold. PAGE 6

Lenovo’s Kevin Hooper, President, GM, North America Data Center Group and Matthew Zielinski, President, North America’s Intelligent Devices Group

The workplace just got a lot smarter. Get more done in your day with an additional screen on the lid.

Up to 10th Gen Intel® Core™ i7 processor Available at LENOVOPARTNERHUB.COM © 2020 Lenovo. All rights reserved. Products are available while supplies last. Lenovo is not responsible for photographic or typographic errors. Lenovo, the Lenovo logo and ThinkBook are trademarks or registered trademarks of Lenovo. 3rd party product and service names may be trademarks of others. Intel, the Intel Logo, Intel Inside, Intel Core, and Core Inside are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the U.S. and/or other countries. Product features and images shown may vary by specific model. Check with stockists for details.

Lenovo Thinkbook Plus - 7.75 x 10.5.indd 1

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CRN Lenovo SPECIAL ISSUE A Letter From 4 Kevin Hooper and Matt Zielinski

10 ‘Empowering’ Moves

New Partner Hub, other incentives have huge impact

Doing The Right Thing

12 Channel-First Mantra

Lenovo’s go-to-market model puts partners front and center

14 CRN Interview

Kevin Hooper on his ‘acquisition, growth and market-share push’

15 CRN Interview


Matt Zielinski on building ‘this generation of Lenovo’

19 No Competing On Services Customer stickiness is paramount

20 Call To Action

Rewarding partners for new deals

22 Innovation Delivered Lenovo raises the bar

24 ‘Making Some Noise’

Spotlighting strengths is the goal


Next-Gen Data Center The wave of the future has arrived

26 Device Differentiators

Portability, performance, collaboration get top billing

Device As A Service:

‘Flex Up, Flex Down’ Capability Key Selling Point Lenovo partners are seeing huge momentum with DaaS, which offers the ability to scale down the number of devices on demand— not just scale up.


Business Boost

For reprints and plaque requests, please contact The YGS Group at 800.290.5460 or CRN (ISSN 1539-7343), also known as Computer Reseller News, is published 14 times a year (February, April, June, August, October, December and 8 Special Issues) by The Channel Company, One Research Drive, Suite Suite 410A, Westborough, MA 01581, and is free to qualified management personnel at companies involved in the reselling/ distribution of computers/networking systems, software and services. One-year subscription rates for all others in the United States are $209.00; Canada $234.00. Overseas air mail rates are: Europe $380.00; Mexico/South America $380.00; Africa $380.00; Asia/Australia $480.00. Please mail all subscription inquiries along with checks or money orders to CRN, Dept. 100, P.O. Box 3608, Northbrook, IL 600653608. For renewals or change of address, please include the mailing address label appearing on the front cover of the publication. Periodicals postage paid at Worcester, MA, (and additional offices, if applicable). POSTMASTER: Send address changes to CRN, P.O. Box 3608, Northbrook, IL 60065-3608. FOR SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES call (877)705-5559 or go to Copyright© 2020 by The Channel Company. All Rights Reserved. Registered for GST as The Channel Company, GST No. R13288078, Customer No. 2116057, Agreement No. 40011901. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: APC Postal Logistics, LLC PO Box 503 RPO W Beaver Cre, Rich-Hill ON L4B 4R6


Enhancements to the Lenovo Data Center Partner Program include additional rebates for exceeding growth targets and acquiring new accounts as well as customer ‘talk tracks’ to help sell in a virtual world.

A LETTER FROM KEVIN HOOPER AND MATT ZIELINSKI 2020 has shown us that big events require big moments. Now, more than ever, the power of partnership has proven critical as the world navigates unprecedented challenges. As leaders of Lenovo North America, we are especially grateful for our Partners at this time, and we remain confident and optimistic that, together, we will continue to bring solutions that make the world a better place, for all. We’re proud that Lenovo solutions have facilitated collaboration at such a critical time. From helping the world pivot to a remote environment by providing essential technology to those adapting to working from home, to those having to learn and teach in all new environments, those innovating new ways to care for patients, and more. We also pioneered new technology—just recently releasing the ThinkPad X1 Fold, the world’s first foldable laptop, and our lightest ThinkPad ever, the X1 Nano. Whether employees are remotely visualizing data or creating analytics models across their disparate data streams, Lenovo has the ability to provide platforms, software or workshops to help organizations achieve their business goals. Together, we are bringing these big moments to our customers in a time when communication and teamwork are so vital. We have also delivered on our Channel-First commitment. From supporting you, our Business Partners, with trust and integrity, to investing in capabilities to better serve you. To that end, we launched the Lenovo Partner Hub—a brand new portal designed to elevate your Partner experience through all new means of connection, tracking, interaction, and customization. Time is valuable, and with this new Portal, we’ve created a tool that that allows our Partners to propel their business quickly and effectively. In this CRN special edition, you’ll discover even more ways in which Lenovo is engaging, and winning, with the channel—from new technology, increased services, and beyond. We are proud of this year’s joint accomplishments and look forward to continuing to innovate and increase our capabilities to better serve our Partners. We will deliver new products. New solutions. And new big moments that will continue to deliver critical innovations this year and for years to come. We cannot say thank you enough for your continued support, effort, trust, commitment, and ultimately your partnership. Thank you for helping us create big moments. Now, let’s continue to grow, to win, and most importantly work together to provide smarter technology for all.

Regards, Kevin Hooper President, Lenovo North America Data Center Group Matt Zielinski President, Lenovo North America Intelligent Devices Group



See what channel-first really means. When you sell Lenovo smarter infrastructure solutions, powered by Intel®, you don’t just get a vendor. You get a partner that always puts you, the channel partner, first — with sales tools and incentive programs designed to maximize productivity and profits. We always put you first, so you can always be ready for what’s next.

Experience real partnership

Intel and the Intel logo are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the U.S. and/or other countries. Lenovo and the Lenovo logo are trademarks of Lenovo. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. ©2020 Lenovo. All rights reserved.



As COVID-19 began to spread across North America earlier this year, solution provider powerhouse Microserve suddenly found itself providing an essential service as the end-user computing provider for all of British Columbia’s hospitals. And as a Lenovo Platinum partner, the Burnaby, B.C.-based solution provider found its close alliance with the PC maker to be pretty essential, too. One key element to keeping hospitals running was equipping many staff members with laptops to work from home. And that’s where Microserve and Lenovo came in, said Sylvain Jacob, vice president of sales for the solution provider. “Information is power in these situations. We were able to find out from the Lenovo team what was in-flight coming into the country in order for us to manage the demand,” Jacob said. “So when product landed here in the country, either at Lenovo or at distribution, we already knew what was coming in to support the customer demands.” Microserve ultimately supplied 3,000 Lenovo laptops for



urgent needs at health-care customers during March and April, while also supporting the needs of other customers including municipalities and private sector clients, Jacob said. “It was really that collaboration between our two teams that made this transition very successful,” he said. “It was a pretty intense moment. But we had a tremendous amount of customer satisfaction throughout all of that period.” Lenovo has been meeting customer needs during the COVID-19 crisis by keeping the focus on working hand in hand with partners, said Matthew Zielinski, president of Lenovo North America’s Intelligent Devices Group. “There are so many companies out there that say that they’re channel-centric or committed to the channel. But really, especially [against] a backdrop like this, talk is cheap,” Zielinski said. “We were the first out there to bring a Partner Stimulus Package to all of our partners when COVID hit. … And we have never once incentivized our own sellers to take business direct.” For Lenovo, engagement with partners has “ramped up in the last six months as we’ve gone into the lockdown and the effects of COVID-19,” said Kevin Hooper, president and general manager for Lenovo’s North America Data Center Group. “As [partners have] experienced challenges in their vendor supply chain, our fully integrated supply chain has actually helped us. We’ve gotten calls from channel partners that had deals on the table that said, ‘Your competition can’t supply this. Could you?’ And we’ve taken those deals.” Lenovo and its partners, Zielinski said, remain “very hungry” for growth in the business environment shaped by the pandemic. To that end, the company recently launched its new unified Lenovo Partner Hub along with a bevy of channel incentives acoss both business groups. On the product front, the new ThinkPad X1 Fold is stirring up excitement. “Whether you’re a new Authorized partner or you’re a longstanding Platinum partner, we are not going to take that relationship for granted,” he said. “We are with you every step of the way to go after new business and also business that is less about the financial aspects, and more about doing the right thing for those that need technology the most.” Doing the right thing for customers and partners has been at the heart of Lenovo’s mission from the very start of 2020. Starting in January, before the coronavirus had fully stretched its deadly grasp across the world, Lenovo created the customer-centric motto, “Act as if life depends on us. Because it does.” “We had dozens of customer situations, mostly hospitals and health ministries, who contacted us in crisis because they were not set up for remote workers or the volume of patients they were getting through the system,” said Wilfredo Sotolongo, chief customer officer for Lenovo’s Data Center Group. “We started saying inside Lenovo, ‘Act as if life depends on us. Because it does.’ It changes your demeanor.” When a large regional health-care organization in Canada needed to accommodate an influx of patients and rapidly create a remote workforce, it turned to Quebec-based Lenovo Platinum partner ITI. “As COVID happened, people started urgently asking, ‘We need services. We need laptops. We need equipment. We need it now,’” said Patrick Richer, vice president of sales, enterprise


and education at ITI, formerly known as ProContact. ITI was able to boost the health-care organization’s capabilities by implementing Lenovo ThinkAgile HX hyperconverged infrastructure while also providing more than 1,500 Lenovo devices, including ThinkPad E590 laptops as well as Lenovo Tiny and Yoga desktops, winning the more than $1.5 million deal. “Working with Lenovo on the device front, but also the data center [front], we were able to design a solution that was scalable, resilient, better performing, and deploy it rapidly while also continuously engaging with the Lenovo team. In no time, our customer was up and running,” said Richer, adding that ITI’s Lenovo sales are growing at a double-digit clip in 2020. “That was a big success for us. The customer appreciated it. The collaboration with Lenovo was key to all of it.” Lenovo’s ability to ship products has also helped some of the world’s most vital financial organizations keep the economy moving. When COVID-19 arrived in full force in the U.S. earlier this year, solution provider Groupware Technology became the lifeline for one of the largest financial institutions in the country. Groupware led the charge in designing, installing and providing ongoing support to revamp the customer’s IT infrastructure on a foundation of thousands of new Lenovo ThinkSystem SR630 and SD530 rack servers. “With the start of 2020 and COVID-19 hitting, they needed to be open for business to support millions of their customers around the globe to ensure that they could access their money and were able to process any kind of government benefit they were receiving,” said Dawn McCale, vice president of sales at Campbell, Calif.-based Groupware, a Lenovo Platinum partner. Lenovo was able to allocate the resources and components Groupware needed, even adjusting its supply chain methodologies and routes to make sure the delivery was on time for the customer. Groupware, for its part, expedited the building of the customer’s racks to make sure they were production-ready at the time of delivery, enabling the large financial institution to continue to provide service to millions of people without skipping a beat. When it came to working with Groupware, Lenovo “pivoted their supply chain and was able to accommodate some of our financial services customers and expedite their shipments to make the production schedule,” said McCale, adding that Groupware’s Lenovo sales are up 84 percent this year compared with 2019. She’s not alone. Numerous channel partners told CRN that Lenovo, more than any other IT vendor, has been critical to their sales growth during the COVID-19 crisis. From massive virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) use cases to arming the new remote workforce with devices across the world, Lenovo has been doing what it takes to meet the needs of its global customers, regardless of their size. For many, those needs have accelerated as COVID-19 sped up digital transformation efforts or projects, such as VDI. “Many customers had two-year road maps to get to a

full VDI implementation, but they accelerated that,” said Hooper. “Then they found themselves starting to ask the question, ‘OK, who can supply this? Because now we have this opportunity with a little bit of downtime to upgrade all of our internal infrastructure to support people working from home’—but you have to get the equipment to them and you have to be able to support it. That’s where it picked up. So VDI has been a great use case for us.” Sales Booming During COVID-19 Pandemic After a rocky fourth fiscal quarter, which was impacted by the closing of Lenovo’s Wuhan, China, manufacturing facility due to the pandemic, Lenovo is now flourishing as it continues to supply businesses with the critical IT infrastructure and workfrom-home products they need.

For Lenovo, engagement with channel partners has ‘ramped up in the last six months as we’ve gone into the lockdown and the effects of COVID-19. As [partners have] experienced challenges in their vendor supply chain, our fully integrated supply chain has actually helped us.’ – KEVIN HOOPER, PRESIDENT, GM, NORTH AMERICA DATA CENTER GROUP

Lenovo reported first fiscal quarter total revenue of $13.3 billion, up nearly 7 percent year over year despite the global economic disruptions caused by COVID-19. Net income jumped 31 percent year over year to $213 million. While many competing vendors are reporting data center infrastructure sales declines in 2020, Lenovo’s Data Center Group is on the rise. This bodes well for channel partners as indirect sales account for 85 percent of Lenovo’s total Data Center Group revenue, executives said. In its first quarter, revenue from Lenovo’s Data Center Group skyrocketed almost 20 percent year over year to $1.6 billion due to sales spikes in both VDI and high-performance computing. Hooper said that total revenue for the Data Center Group in North America was up 33 percent year over year during Lenovo’s first fiscal quarter, which ended June 2020, mostly due to VDI infrastructure upgrades. In Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group, meanwhile, PC shipments in the U.S. are up 8.7 percent for the first three quarters of 2020, year over year, research firm Gartner reported in October. That includes a 28.8 percent spike in U.S. shipments for Lenovo during the first quarter, when PC demand surged practically overnight because of the shift to remote work. Like Lenovo’s Data Center Group, the Intelligent Devices



Group has seen no slowdown in its channel charge during the COVID-19 crisis. It has continued to support and invest in partners even amid an unprecedented market situation that has frequently involved unheard-of demand for PCs and monitors, Lenovo executives and partners told CRN. Numerous partners pointed to Lenovo’s Partner Stimulus Package—which was unveiled in late March for Intelligent Devices Group partners, just weeks into the crisis in North America—as a pivotal move in helping shore up their businesses and allowing them to stay focused on customers.

‘There are so many companies out there that say that they’re channelcentric or committed to the channel. But really, especially [against] a backdrop like this, talk is cheap.’ –MATTHEW ZIELINSKI, PRESIDENT, NORTH AMERICA’S INTELLIGENT DEVICES GROUP

A core component of the Partner Stimulus Package was the inclusion of a flat rebate structure, enabling more predictable earnings for partners in recent quarters. To accomplish this, Lenovo eliminated all target-based programs, so that Intelligent Devices Group partners were not required to hit a certain threshold to earn back-end rebates. In addition, Lenovo provided those payments to partners every 30 days—instead of the usual 90 days—while also offering a 30-day extension on financing for qualified partners through the Lenovo Partner Financing Program. “Lenovo has stepped up to the plate,” said Susie Smith, general manager of Twotrees Technologies, a subsidiary of Woodard Technology and Investments, a Lenovo Platinum partner based in Wichita, Kan. “They were the first to come out with some type of stimulus package for resellers. They have ensured that we are rewarded for promoting Lenovo and putting Lenovo in the front of our product offerings and they’ve done a great job of being transparent, with weekly calls on the supply issues. They’ve just been a very supportive partner.” Lenovo’s Partner Stimulus Package was the right move for partners at just the right time, said Shelliy Cymbalski, vice president of marketing and partner programs at iT1 Source, a Lenovo Gold partner based in Tempe, Ariz. With the flat rebate of the Partner Stimulus Package, “we didn’t have to spend any time trying to adapt or understand whether we were going to hit our goals,” Cymbalski said. “They just took that problem away. It was just a great thing that Lenovo did for their partners.” Lenovo has also committed to continuing one element of the Partner Stimulus Package, the extended financing, for



partners through the end of 2020, executives said. The COVID-19 crisis has been a tailwind in many ways for Lenovo and its Intelligent Devices Group partners, some of whom have seen booming business in 2020 as the PC has become a critical product in the business world once again. In particular, Lenovo’s portfolio of ThinkPad and ThinkBook business notebooks, small-form-factor desktops and Chromebook education laptops have seen unprecedented demand, according to the company. Add to this Lenovo’s channel focus and product innovation, and the company has succeeded at capturing a wide array of new customers in the U.S. and Canada this year, executives said. Looking ahead, Lenovo plans to maintain its emphasis on bringing in new customers via partners as the company’s PC business seeks to vault from No. 3 to the No. 2 spot in North America by 2022, Zielinski said. To that end, Lenovo recently launched new partner incentives to help “make sure that we stay on the growth tear that we’ve been fortunate enough to achieve these last couple years,” he said. Simply put, “we want this generation of Lenovo to be the best Lenovo our partners and customers have ever known,” Zielinski said. Flexible Supply Chain Lenovo’s recent growth during the coronavirus pandemic isn’t by sheer luck. In fact, the Data Center Group pivoted in early 2020 to bolster its manufacturing strategy to make it unmatched in the industry, according to Lenovo’s Sotolongo. As many of its competitors faced IT supply shortages this year because numerous manufacturing facilities were forced to shut down during COVID-19-related lockdowns, Lenovo’s Data Center Group product supply chain has remained mostly uninterrupted. “You didn’t hear about Lenovo getting hit bad at all because of supply chain restrictions because of the pandemic,” said Sotolongo. “The reason for that is because we own our own supply chain. Most people don’t realize that one of the differentiating factors of Lenovo in this industry is we own our supply chain end to end. We design our own boards, our own products, we make and integrate them, we box them, we test them and we ship them. Most of our competition is not integrated end to end like us. They end up using outsourcing for manufacturing services, outsourcing of support services—we don’t do that.” Lenovo owns many manufacturing facilities across the globe—from China and India to Mexico and North Carolina. Because of this, Lenovo was one of the first to get a taste of just how impactful the coronavirus would be on the global supply chain when it was forced to temporarily close its Wuhan facility. “We realized, ‘Wow, this is going to be a big mess. We better start planning for the worst.’ So we began to really architect our supply chain so we can build anywhere and ship anywhere,” said Sotolongo. “That gave us an incredible competitive advantage because it’s no secret that my two top competitors had very serious supply chain constraints through the pandemic. That opened doors for us, not only


with customers, but also with partners. Partners that had difficult situations with customers that needed something— like a hospital or laboratories or a doctor’s office—we were able to serve them quickly. So we reconfigured our supply chain to do this, and it worked beautifully.” Lenovo’s Data Center Group supply chain stronghold throughout 2020 has been a major benefit for channel partners. Solution providers said when other vendors couldn’t provide the needed IT products their customers were quickly clamoring for, Lenovo stepped up to the plate and delivered. “When the urgent requests started flowing in, ‘I need something for next week. We need desktops tomorrow. We need 200 devices for the medical units that we’re putting together for testing. How fast can you have it?’—Lenovo was always in stock depending on the model,” said ITI’s Richer. “With other vendors, sometimes you would receive ETAs for two weeks or three weeks, which is way too long. So with Lenovo, what we did was we started identifying the types of equipment on the data center side and device side that would be required so that we could plan ahead with their executive team in trying to forecast what would be required. In doing so, we were able to shorten the delivery time quite significantly.” Due to its flexible strategy, Lenovo’s Data Center Group was able to shift its supply chain through different shipping ports and mechanisms to be able to get products into the hands of customers in order to meet tight production schedules. “They used air. They used ships. They went through different countries to route around the areas that were closed off to COVID,” said Groupware’s McCale. “It’s been a great success for Lenovo and Groupware.” That said, manufacturing and supply for the Intelligent Devices Group has not gone as smoothly in all cases due in part to component shortages. Availability of student-friendly Chromebooks has been especially low across all manufacturers, as demand has soared as a result of widespread remote learning. Multiple solution providers told CRN that they’ve seen shortages and order delays in recent months for Chromebooks from all vendors, including Lenovo. When asked about Chromebook supply, Rob Cato, vice president of North America channels in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group, acknowledged that “the headwinds that we’re facing right now are certainly challenging.” “It’s really important for us to try and do everything we can to get products to the schools and the students that need them the most,” Cato said. “We’re continuing to work through the best way to do that—through a combination of working closely with our suppliers all the way through our global supply chain, and then ultimately with our sales and logistics team, and making sure that we get product to the customers as fast as we can.” Lenovo, Cato said, is “not satisfied until every student and teacher that needs a device has one. We’ve got to be able to solve that quickly and effectively for those school districts out

there. That’s our No. 1 priority. We’re not going to be satisfied until we get that done.” Eye On The Mission Countless customers are still contacting Lenovo and its channel community, urgently looking for infrastructure and devices to keep business afloat and employees safe. “They call you up on Thursday, order on a Friday, and they expect the delivery on a Sunday—that kind of stuff. And we pulled off quite a few of those because they were not set up for remote workers or the volumes of patients they were getting through the system,” said Sotolongo. The new mission—“Act As If Life Depends On Us. Because It Does”—has enabled Lenovo and its channel partners to make inroads with net-new customers at a rapid pace. For example, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York in early April, a New York-based hospital, for the first time ever, reached out to Lenovo in dire need. “They said, ‘I don’t have enough tablets for my caregivers to handle the incoming load of patients. And by the way, I don’t have the infrastructure to support the VDI solution needed for those tablets.’ This was yet another company that had not done business with us before,” said Sotolongo.

‘Partners that had difficult situations with customers that needed something—like a hospital or laboratories or a doctor’s office—we were able to serve them quickly. So we reconfigured our supply chain to do this, and it worked beautifully.’ –WILFREDO SOTOLONGO, CHIEF CUSTOMER OFFICER, DATA CENTER GROUP

The New York hospital’s cry for IT help came on a Saturday morning. At that point, Lenovo had shut down a factory in North Carolina because of the nationwide quarantine lockdown. However, Lenovo made the decision to reopen the factory with a limited set of employees and went back in that Saturday. The employees were able to build the tablets, package them up with Lenovo servers that had been shipped from another North America Lenovo manufacturing facility, and send the products on Sunday to the hospital in New York. “We didn’t even talk about pricing. It was like, ‘If you’re going to accommodate more patients by doing this, let’s go.’ In the end, we ended up donating part of that equipment. But from Saturday morning to Sunday—from a closed plant, to an open plant, to shipment and support and eventually implementation—that’s a Lenovo story. We acted as if life depends on us.” 




Lenovo Partner Hub, Empower Incentive Have Partners Closing More Deals, More Quickly BY KYLE ALSPACH At solution provider CommQuest, the opportunity to win new customers with Lenovo PCs has shifted into higher gear during the events of 2020. Mark Sanchez, CEO of the Loganville, Ga.-based company, said that equipping organizations with Lenovo devices for remote work has led to new customer wins, including a large financial services firm in the Northeast and a municipal government in the Southwest. And the opportunity for growing his business through gaining new customers with Lenovo PCs is far from over, Sanchez said—especially as Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group is now offering an additional partner incentive for acquiring new customers. Lenovo debuted its new Empower incentive on Oct. 1, which provides an extra 2 percent bonus for partners on sales to a new customer. “We’re going to be able to benefit from that incentive because we’re doing [new customer acquisition] anyway,” Sanchez said. “That’s just going to enable us to do more.” The new Empower program is just one indicator that even as the COVID-19 crisis persists, Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group is keeping its foot on the gas when it comes to

‘The real benefits [of Partner Hub] are going to come from our ability to aggregate big data, and then present it back out to our partners to really accelerate and change their sales motion.’ –JEFF TAYLOR, Executive Director, North America Channel Strategy, Operations, Intelligent Devices Group

engaging and investing in solution providers, Lenovo North America executives and partners told CRN. Other recent moves have ranged from the debut of the new Lenovo Partner Hub site, to the expansion of engagement



initiatives such as Communities and Channel Chatter, to investments aimed at optimizing seller relationships between Lenovo, distribution and partners. The moves show that Lenovo is relying more heavily on its partners in response to quickly evolving customer needs emerging from the COVID-19 crisis, Lenovo executives said. “We believe that our philosophy around empowering all of our partners to go achieve their goals is actually a unique philosophy out there in the industry and one that we’re going to continue to invest in,” said Jeff Taylor, executive director for North America channel strategy and operations in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group. One of the vendor’s biggest recent channel investments is the Lenovo Partner Hub, which launched in late July. The site unifies all tools, portals and business lines for solution providers, and covers both Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group and Data Center Group. The Lenovo Partner Hub integrates everything from the performance dashboard, to order-tracking capabilities, to deal registration and pricing, all in one location. Crucially, the site includes a new pricing platform, the Lenovo Bid Platform, where partners can submit special pricing requests and deal registration requests. Also key is the Lenovo Partner Hub’s personalization, as the site shows a different view to each user based on his or her role. Taylor said the participation of partners in the Lenovo Partner Hub has been “phenomenal,” with more than 15,000 partners registered as of the end of September. That outpaces Lenovo’s initial goal of registering 12,000 partners by the end of October. The Lenovo Partner Hub has been a “big transition” for Lenovo and its partners but is already making a difference, said Rick White, co-founder and president of vision21 Solutions, a Lenovo Gold partner based in Wake Forest, N.C. “Now that we’ve got that understanding of how to utilize the new Partner Hub and pricing tools, those have been able to help us close a few competitive deals. We’re able to get quicker response times on bid pricing,” White said. Taylor said that updates to the Lenovo Partner Hub now in the works will improve the speed for pricing even further— while other upcoming enhancements will focus on providing useful data back to partners.


“The real benefits are going to come from our ability to aggregate big data, and then present it back out to our partners to really accelerate and change their sales motion,” said Taylor, adding that partners can expect more updates on this from Lenovo in coming weeks and months. Meanwhile, with the new Empower incentive, Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group is seeking to drive the acquisition of a larger share of the North American PC market. The 2 percent bonus is available to partners both for new customer sales and for sales to existing customers that haven’t purchased in the past 12 months. “It’s not just about growing our customer base, but it’s more about helping our partners to be more sustainable and to grow their own businesses,” said Cassie Jeppson, director of North America channel programs in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group. Lenovo also recently introduced several other incentives that partners can use to “elevate their earning potential,” Jeppson said. The new incentives are available for services and for sales of workstations, accessories, displays and premium devices, she said. In terms of winning new customers, Lenovo executives pointed to higher education as one key vertical. “We’re looking to take that to the next level,” said Reed Kalagher, senior director of public sector and higher education in Lenovo North America’s Intelligent Devices Group. “We’re looking to become a bigger player in this [higher-education] market overall.” Higher education is also one of the newest verticals that Lenovo is focusing on through its Communities initiative. The initiative delivers targeted information to Platinum and Gold Intelligent Devices Group partners based on their market focus, and initially included three Communities—enterprise, SMB and K-12 education. In 2020, Lenovo added Communities covering higher education, health care, and state and local government. Even before the COVID-19 crisis arrived, “one of the key things that we wanted to focus on [in 2020] was enabling our partners and providing communication to them in a way that we hadn’t done in the past. And so we put a lot of emphasis around enablement and around partner communication,” said Rob Cato, vice president of North America channels in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group. “I’m very excited to say that we’ve made a lot of strides there. We’ve accomplished a lot in the last 12 months.” Along with Communities, Lenovo has emphasized partner engagement with its Channel Chatter initiative, which provides communications to partners across newsletters, podcasts, videos, webinars and mobile apps. Lenovo’s partner communication and engagement initiatives have played a crucial role in enabling an effective response to the COVID-19 crisis, partners told CRN. “They’ve been very transparent and continued to communicate with us,” said Susie Smith, general manager of Wichita, Kan.-based Twotrees Technologies, a subsidiary of Lenovo Platinum partner Woodard Technology and Investments. Smith said she takes part in Lenovo’s K-12 community, which

meets every two weeks and has “very frank discussions” about the latest issues members are facing. Lenovo representatives and K-12 partners take part in the meetings. “The Communities are very good at focusing attention on what products and services they have to sell, and how they fit in today’s environment—whatever today’s environment is,” she said. Lenovo executives have also stepped up their own individual efforts around connecting with partners during the crisis. Marshae Mansfield, vice president and chief customer officer for North America in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group, said that prior to the pandemic she held one-on-one calls with 15 top partner sales leaders once per quarter. After COVID-19 hit, she moved those calls to once a month. “My relationships during this time have really strengthened with our channel community,” Mansfield said. “We’ve been able to make sure that we stay connected and that we’re on the same page. It’s proved invaluable.” Other new Lenovo initiatives have sought to make it easier for partners to get sales-related support. A service that’s set to be piloted in Canada, the Lenovo Information Center, will

‘[Empower] is not just about growing our customer base, but it’s more about helping our partners to be more sustainable and to grow their own businesses.’  –CASSIE JEPPSON, Director, North America Channel Programs, Intelligent Devices Group

provide a phone line as well as online chat within the Lenovo Partner Hub for technical sales and post-sales support. “We believe this will increase the service level, increase the access and increase the speed for our partners to be able to communicate with us,” said Chris Fabes, Canadian channel leader for Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group. Relationships between distribution and partners have also been critical during the pandemic response. And Lenovo executives said interactions with distribution have run more smoothly thanks to efforts to bring together representatives from distribution, partners and Lenovo sellers—including through on-site events, held just before the pandemic, that aimed to solidify relationships. “The biggest thing that I’ve seen is the way that our distribution teams are now connecting directly with our partner sellers,” said Stacey Goodman, director of U.S. distribution in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group. “Before, you would have this linear communication going on—from the [distributor] to the VAR, and then maybe to our [channel account manager], and then back. Now we’ve really joined everybody together, and everyone is talking to each other much more efficiently and much more effectively.” 




‘Bold Commitment:’ Lenovo’s Channel-First Initiative Puts Partners Front And Center


When Kevin Hooper took the reins of Lenovo’s Data Center Group last year, he brought with him a vision and go-tomarket strategy to bring Lenovo into “its rightful position” in the IT market. “It was to be channel-first,” said Hooper, president and general manager for Lenovo’s North America Data Center Group, who joined Lenovo in February 2019. “The goal was to create a material change in the go-to-market strategy for Lenovo, which was to make a bold commitment supported by legal and human resources that we would pass all net-new business to the channel, and that we would be channelfirst all the time. So a year later, we’re not changing. That Channel-First strategy not only has delivered, but it has also protected us through this last six months of lockdown and the effect of COVID-19 for a couple of interesting reasons.”

‘Channel-First was about anything that was net-new incremental, anything that Lenovo found, we would not take it direct. We would always engage channel partners.’ –KEVIN HOOPER, President, GM, North America Data Center Group

Prior to Hooper’s Channel-First initiative, 57 percent of the revenue from Lenovo’s North America Data Center Group came from indirect sales and 43 percent from direct sales. By the end of Lenovo’s fiscal year 2020, which ended in March, 66 percent of the company’s North America Data Center Group revenue came from indirect versus 34 percent direct, representing a 9-point increase in the channel’s favor. “That wasn’t a share shift, that was incremental growth. Our direct business stayed roughly the same. So all of our



sales growth came from the Channel-First initiative,” said Hooper. “Channel-First was about anything that was net-new incremental, anything that Lenovo found, we would not take it direct. We would always engage channel partners. It gave us an opportunity to recruit partners—not just by having the material changes that we’ve made in our programs, but I can provide them with a hot lead, and we are going to help go and work and close the deal with them. Our growth in the overall market has all come from the channel.” Hooper’s Channel-First initiative has been a massive success for Campbell, Calif.-based Groupware Technology, whose Lenovo sales are up 84 percent in 2020 year over year. “Lenovo is one of those companies that we just trust to do the right thing,” said Dawn McCale, vice president of sales at Groupware, a Lenovo Platinum partner. “One of the cool things Lenovo does is they have executives who are happy to meet with CEOs and CTOs to brainstorm ideas to solve the customers’ top corporate objectives like increasing profitability, finding a competitive edge, taking out a competitor—big things like that. They’re really good thought leaders in that way.” Lenovo partner PCPC Direct, meanwhile, has been doubling down on its partnership with Lenovo with great success, both prior and during COVID-19. Recently, Houston-based PCPC Direct teamed with Lenovo to build a “VDI use case on steroids” for a large oil and gas customer that needed to move to a remote workforce, said Michael Walsh, sales executive at PCPC Direct. The offering—dubbed PCPC’s RemoteViz Solution—included Lenovo ThinkSystem SR650 rack servers and switches, software from Nvidia and Red Hat, virtual GPUs and Lenovo ThinkPad P1 laptops—with all of the underlying technology being a Lenovo SKU. For the first time ever, the customer’s employees, which include geophysicists and scientists, were able to efficiently and effectively work from home. “We did it end to end: the host end, the data center end and the client end, which is all Lenovo [ThinkPad] P1 laptops and brand-new 4K touch screens. It’s really a slick solution,” said Walsh. “The customer glows when he talks about it and how wonderful and beautiful it is.”


PCPC owner Joe Vaught said his company’s relationship with Lenovo is invaluable. “I get more calls and more help and more offerings to partner with Lenovo than I do with anybody else. They’ve become more quick, agile and friendly. I’ve got great upper-level support,” said Vaught. “My value and my customers’ value with Lenovo has probably more than doubled [in 2020]. My business is swinging up with Lenovo. I never, ever had to call for help—I had it coming my way first.” Before Lenovo’s Channel-First strategy was implemented, in Lenovo’s fiscal year 2019 the company had about 2,950 net-new customers purchasing through channel partners. In fiscal year 2020, Lenovo had around 3,950 net-new customers buying through channel partners. “So not only were they new customers, but there were 1,000 more of them,” said Hooper. “We are on an acquisition, growth and market-share push, and we’re delivering on it.” As part of this Channel-First initiative, Lenovo launched a revamped partner program in April and has also brought on 54 new channel partners, including many global systems integrators, to its Data Center Partner Program. Since January, Lenovo has also doubled the total number of Lenovo Platinum partners, which is the highest status in Lenovo’s partner program. In a move to win even more partner mindshare, Lenovo this year hired Steve Biondi, a longtime industry veteran who was Avaya’s former global channel chief. Biondi, Lenovo’s new North America Data Center Group channel chief, quickly hit the ground running, launching a revamped partner program in April that included new additional rebates for exceeding growth targets and acquiring new accounts. In terms of boosting profits, Platinum partners can now earn nearly 40 percent more for similar year-overyear performance. Biondi also ramped up presales and technical support to enable faster and more personalized responses for channel partners by increasing the Data Center Group’s back-office resources by 30 percent. In addition, he focused heavily on pushing a competitive bid program that included new incentives aimed at displacing the competition. Biondi said COVID-19 hindered many vendors’ supply chains, rendering partners unable in some cases to fulfill customer orders. However, with Lenovo’s unique manufacturing and diverse supply chain capabilities, the company began to court solution providers during the coronavirus pandemic, leveraging its nearly always-in-stock product supply. “Around June, we started approaching some of our competitors’ partners to say, ‘Look, deals are perishable. Customers need to have stuff now. If we can help you, let us know.’ So we put a program together to say, ‘Let us help you. We’ll take care of you the way we take care of the rest of our partner base.’ That’s been working,” said Biondi. “We’ve got almost three dozen partners from our competition that have never done business with us before that are now doing business with us. … We are winning, and it feels pretty good right now.”

Lenovo also has relentlessly been doubling down on new tools and resources to boost channel sales and simplify the deal process. In a blockbuster move for the channel this summer, the company launched its new partner portal, the Lenovo Partner Hub, to give partners more tools and foster greater collaboration between channel partners and Lenovo’s sales teams across all its business groups. Designed for Lenovo’s Data Center Group and Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group partners, the Lenovo Partner Hub provides a single access point for tools, resources and personalized information that is most relevant to solution providers’ needs, geographic markets and past history. It includes a streamlined and integrated pricing engine with deal registration and a new customer bonus; digital marketing assets and partner-ready services; faster turnaround on rebate payments; and a dashboard that provides snapshots of sales performance, KPI tracking and personalized sales summaries that allow deals to close faster.

‘We’ve got almost three dozen partners from our competition that have never done business with us before that are now doing business with us. … We are winning, and it feels pretty good right now.’  –STEVE BIONDI, Head of Channels, Alliances, North America Data Center Group

“Our new partner portal is really important,” said Biondi. “If you’re an [Intelligent Devices Group] partner or a data center partner, it’s still one interface. We’re going to start now to leverage that global platform that works in both sides on the Lenovo camps for our partners.” Hooper said the next step in his successful and ongoing Channel-First initiative is inviting more partners into the fold by bringing along net-new customers to match with the channel around emerging opportunities such as highperformance computing. “The next turn of the crank is to take areas where we’ve been particularly successful, like high-performance compute where we’ve seen substantial growth, and to build channel relationships where they can leverage our capability and expertise,” said Hooper. “That’s not something that is particularly natural when you get into something that’s as technically intensive as high-performance compute, but we’re doing it. We’re doing it right now. We’re deliberately building a channel, and we’re deliberately inviting channel partners into those opportunities because we think that’s where the future lies.” 



‘We Are On An Acquisition, Growth And Market-Share Push, And We’re Delivering On It’ BY MARK HARANAS

Kevin Hooper, president and general manager for Lenovo’s North America Data Center Group, in an interview with CRN said he is bullish about winning market share from the competition through his Channel-First initiative, technology vision and new customer acquisition. Hooper is a channel veteran with more than two decades of IT experience. Soon after joining Lenovo in early 2019, Hooper installed the Channel-First go-to-market strategy, mandating that Lenovo leverage channel partners in as many deals as possible. What’s one key channel statistic that gets you excited? Prior to announcing my Channel-First initiative, we had about 2,951 net-new customers purchasing through the channel. In the fiscal year that ended [March 31], we had 3,946 new customers. So not only were they new customers, but there were 1,000 more of them. That is what’s helping attract channel partners to work with Lenovo. We are on an acquisition, growth and market-share push, and we’re delivering on it. What types of new partners are you recruiting? We’ve competitively recruited from our No. 1 and No. 2 competitors. And that’s ramped up in the last six months as we’ve gone into the lockdown and the effects of COVID-19. As they’ve experienced challenges in their vendor supply chain, our fully integrated supply chain has actually helped us. We’ve gotten calls from channel partners that had deals on the table that said, ‘Your competition can’t supply this. Could you?’ And we’ve taken those deals. We added 54 new partners because we went on a recruitment [push] and essentially reintroduced ourselves to a number of partners, and these aren’t just new partners who did one little transaction [with] one little portion of our portfolio—we added 54 metal partners. How are you helping partners make more money and win new deals? We’ve materially moved the compensation toward opportunity and performance, rather than just participation. But we’re not just saying, ‘We will pay you more for your performance.’ We’re saying, ‘We will pay you more for performance, and we’re going to line it up with enablement programs with resources to help you. We’re going to help you drive marketing campaigns.’ In this virtual world, I can be on a different continent and I can still participate in a customer event. For example, there’s virtual wine tasting that we do with partners and customers. So it’s about delivering on this commitment of Channel-First.



What technology markets is Lenovo pushing partners to attack? We’ve now aligned globally around four major solution areas in the market: analytics and AI; hybrid cloud; Everything as a Service; and then edge solutions. Those four areas are absolutely paramount and front and center in every conversation that I have. As CIOs are out there trying to figure out how to survive in the new normal and what the world is going to look like, what are the real ramifications going forward long term? People are going to be returning to a very different landscape, a different set of collaboration requirements and a very different set of requirements of having some of those workloads closer to where people are. We think it’s incredibly important as we’re on-boarding new partners to say, ‘Look, we’re not just going to empower you with the technical conversation, we know you’re good at that. What you’re looking for is another business line within your business strategy to help you facilitate your own growth and your own financial goals. Let’s not just talk to you about the widgets we have on the truck, let’s talk about the way we’re going to market so we can do this in collaboration with each other.’ Can you talk about your direct versus indirect strategy? I’ve batted 1,000 percent over my career when I’ve had a customer say, ‘I want to go direct.’ Because I pick up the phone and I say, ‘Tell me what you want. Don’t make an assumption that you understand the financial mechanics and the financial model. Talk to me about what you want. You want a direct relationship so that you can pick up the phone and call the supplier if something goes wrong. I can give you that. You want a direct relationship because you think you’re going to get the best deal. Don’t manage my business for me. I will make sure that you’re comfortable because we both have to be comfortable with the financial mechanics, but there are certain things that I’m going to want to do in terms of providing you with another set of eyes and ears that can help you with respect to the types of things you’re doing. That’s going to be my channel.’ 

‘We Want This Generation of Lenovo To Be The Best Lenovo Our Partners And Customers Have Ever Known’ BY KYLE ALSPACH

Matthew Zielinski, president of Lenovo North America’s Intelligent Devices Group, says the company is well-positioned to continue its channel-driven “growth tear” in the North America PC market. Zielinski spoke with CRN about the PC demand outlook, the Chromebook supply situation and his message for partners.

How sustainable do you think this huge demand for PCs will be? Could the demand in 2021 be a lot lower? We’re bullish. I think demand will stay very consistent. Demand in public sector will stay consistent because we’re just getting started in terms of equipping every student with a PC. I don’t see an end in sight with that effort. Consumer is extraordinarily strong. And even in the event that those two hotter areas settle, our SMB business has been very stable. I think over time, as we get past this, we’ll start to see the entire SMB market back at a growth trajectory. As we turn the corner through COVID, one of the softer areas this year has been certain verticals in our corporate enterprise business. Certain industries have just been decimated, and have been in no position to go out and refresh PCs. As we get through this, that’s going to have to pick back up again significantly. We’re No. 1 in the world [in PC market share], but we’re still No. 3 in North America—and that leaves us with significant headroom. Now, we’re No. 3 closing in rapidly on No. 2. But despite what happens in the world around us from a market standpoint, we’re still very hungry and very focused on share growth. And that bodes well for our partners because we’re just not letting our foot off the gas. Regardless of what happens macro-wise, there is new opportunity. There is new opportunity in services. Companies are now largely remote—and to the extent our partner community and Lenovo can offset what was traditionally done in a standard IT organization, that’s a huge opportunity for all of us. We see that business growing significantly. What is your strategy with partners for getting to No. 2 in North America? SMB is critical to us. Our growth in SMB for the last two years has been astounding. We clearly want to continue to work our way to a solid No. 2 in SMB. And that really is about empowering our channel and acquiring new partners to chase businesses that we haven’t historically had access to. SMB will be a springboard that helps us

get [to No. 2]. No question. And also if you look at the corporate space, we’re so focused on working in that space with the partner community. There is no strategy to incentivize direct sales versus indirect. As corporate bounces back, those are [sales] that are not gone—they’re just on hold. What can you say about the Chromebook supply situation and what the state of your response is to that? It’s been a tough year. Anytime the global PC market shoots up by a double-digit percent—when the year before it was flat to up or down a single-digit percent— the supply chain just can’t handle that. The good news is that’s starting to get better. And our goal—and we’re well on track to this goal—is to have the largest Chrome[book]capacity in the industry. And based on owning most of our own supply chain, we’re in the best position to make that happen. … By the time we get toward the end of this year, and early into next year, things become much more robust. We’re working around the clock to make sure that we’re very well positioned to service all [the demand] that’s out there. What is your message to partners? Whether you’re a new Authorized partner or you’re a longstanding Platinum partner, we are not going to take that relationship for granted. We are with you every step of the way to go after new business—and also business that is less about the financial aspects and more about doing the right thing for those that need technology the most. The second thing is, we’re going to control what we can control. We can control our engagement, we can control our tenacity, we can control our programs, we can control our investments. And we’re going to be focused on all of those things to make sure that we stay on the growth tear that we’ve been fortunate enough to achieve these last couple years. I’ve always said that we want this generation of Lenovo to be the best Lenovo our partners and customers have ever known. 



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Partners Seeing Huge Momentum In Device-As-A-Service Deals BY KYLE ALSPACH

John Stamer VP, Americas Services, Intelligent Devices Group

Wendy Welch Sr. Director, U.S. Distribution, VAR Sales, Intelligent Devices Group


Rick White is one of the many Lenovo partners now gearing up for a big shift in the way that PCs are sold as the current economic environment accelerates consumption-based Device-as-a-Service offerings. “I think that’s just the way of the future,” said White, cofounder and president of vision21 Solutions, a Lenovo Gold partner based in Wake Forest, N.C. White is far from alone in thinking so, particularly as demand for Device as a Service (DaaS) begins to pick up steam. Lenovo first launched a DaaS offering in the North American market four years ago before relaunching the offering in its current form two years ago. But it wasn’t until the upheavals of 2020—which have prompted customers to increasingly demand consumptionbased offerings for all of their IT needs—that Lenovo’s DaaS has begun to see major traction, executives said. “The Device-as-a-Service pipeline that we’re starting to see at Lenovo is growing pretty exponentially,” said Rob Cato, vice president of North America channels in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group. In response, Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group is doubling down on its efforts to expand DaaS and other recurring revenue opportunities with partners Along with packaging together PC leases, support and software into a monthly subscription, Lenovo’s DaaS offers a key differentiator, said John Stamer, vice president of Americas services in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group. That differentiator is the ability to scale down the number of


devices on demand—not just scale up, Stamer said. This ability is crucial for customers in the current environment, where workforce size will be a major uncertainty for the foreseeable future at many businesses, he said. The “flex up, flex down” capability—combined with the growing popularity of as-a-service IT models—has led Lenovo’s DaaS offering to gain momentum in 2020, Stamer said. “Our pipeline is the highest we’ve ever seen,” he said, noting that a “significant portion” of Lenovo’s DaaS deals have been delivered by partners. “There’s an extreme pressure to minimize spend. Financial flexibility and agility are key. All those things fit this as-aservice consumption model,” Stamer said. Without a doubt, there is a major shift in thinking among customers from buying PCs outright to paying for the use of them over time, said Susie Smith, general manager of Wichita, Kan.-based Twotrees Technologies, a subsidiary of Lenovo Platinum partner Woodard Technology and Investments. Among the K-12 education customers that Twotrees focuses on serving, DaaS eliminates the need for bidding out contracts and adds predictability to costs, Smith said. “I see that Device as a Service—and not just Device as a Service but Everything as a Service—is a direction that the whole industry is going to go,” Smith said. “I think you have to start planning it out—it’s a requirement.” Meanwhile, Lenovo is also focused on determining how its solutions can fit into—and enable—other recurring revenue opportunities for partners, executives told CRN. This includes ensuring that Lenovo’s go-to-market, channel programs and enablement models are prepared to support traditional resellers that are expanding into managed services, said Wendy Welch, senior director of U.S. distribution and VAR sales in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group. For example, because sales cycles are different for MSPs, Lenovo is evaluating how to build a program stack to enable predictable, consistent earnings for them, Welch said. “The seasonality of an MSP can look very different than for a traditional VAR,” she noted. Lenovo’s efforts are about ensuring that the company understands the capabilities and the key infrastructure requirements for MSPs, Welch said. “Then, we’re analyzing what that does to buying trends— for hardware, software and services—to adapt and create relevant channel program models and earning potential that resonate with their business,” she said. “As we look to grow and increase our partner base, we need to ensure that we’re relevant for the various types of partners that exist in the marketplace.” Stamer said the focus on services is critical for Lenovo and its partners, as the PC market remains highly competitive. “To get new customers and keep existing customers, the competition is fierce. But it’s proven that if you put the customer in the right solution and you attach services, the customer experience increases—and that overall relationship with that customer is improved,” Stamer said. “So the key message that we’ve been talking with partners about is we have to get these customers in the right solutions and add in the right services and software that will help keep them happy.” 

No Competing On Services When Lenovo says it doesn’t want to compete with its channel partners in providing margin-rich services to customers, the company has not wavered. In fact, Lenovo channel executives wear their Channel-First strategy as a badge of honor that solution providers say is a major differentiator in the vendor market landscape, one that boosts their profitability. “I don’t recall at any point in time seeing Lenovo delivering a services engagement with one of our customers,” said Patrick Richer, vice president of sales, enterprise and education at ITI, a Quebec-based Lenovo Platinum partner. “Some other vendors have a big services play. In some cases, especially in large enterprise organizations, they’re going to go direct, which [does not happen with] Lenovo. At the end of the day, we want to bring value to the table. We want the customer to rely on us.” Lenovo’s Worldwide Data Center Group Channel Chief, José Luis Fernandez, said Lenovo’s goal is to enable its channel partner community to reap the sales margins from selling their own services while at the same time increasing customer stickiness. “We enable our partners to sell their services, not only their installation capabilities, but their professional services also as part of our solution—that’s key. That is extremely attractive for any channel partner,” said Fernandez, who is also president and general manager for Lenovo’s Data Center Group in Latin America and the Caribbean. “The fact that they don’t have to compete in any given deal and can boost their profits to the maximum level when winning a professional services project, that is extremely attractive for any channel partner.” Fernandez said, unlike many of his competitors, Lenovo champions partners to include their own portfolio and managed services offerings into the overall solution. “Selling the hardware is always nice, but selling the hardware and the services is much better, more profitable, more repeatable and generates more customer stickiness,” he said. Last year, CRN parent The Channel Company’s IPED Consulting Group conducted a survey with more than 500 solution providers for its “2019 State Of Partner Profitability: Funding The Future” report. The report found a direct correlation between gross margins and a solution provider’s revenue mix of services sales versus product resale. The average



The Lenovo Channel Partner Advantage:

gross margin for a solution provider is 22 percent if its total revenue is 78 percent product resale and 20 percent services. That gross margin climbs to 28 percent when services account for 34 percent of total revenue versus 59 percent product resale. For a solution provider whose services sales account for 68 percent of total revenue, gross margin skyrockets to 45 percent. “The services are definitely more profitable. Lenovo is great about that,” said ITI’s Richer, whose company’s total Lenovo sales are up double digits in 2020. With Lenovo pushing partners to attach their own services to deals, customers want to reach out to their solution provider when IT challenges arise. “I want the customer to call ITI to say, ‘Hey, I’m facing COVID. I need additional devices. I need some help with some things.’ We want to deliver a clear and secure experience to our end users,” said Richer. “It’s not just about the hardware, it’s about providing the expertise, providing design, providing infrastructure, software and services. For us, the goal is always as much as possible to leverage our presales team. And working with a vendor like Lenovo that helps us push that forward with their program and own sales team is very beneficial.” Fernandez believes many competitors that dub themselves as “channel-first” to the partner community fail to back up that motto in the sales trenches and go-to-market delivery. “When we say ‘Channel-First,’ we back it up with 85 percent of our total Data Center Group revenue coming from partners,” said Fernandez. “Some companies talk about channel-first, but only half of their revenue goes through the channel.” With channel partners now more than ever relying on services to drive profitability and grow their business, Lenovo understands the importance of not competing against the channel on various managed services opportunities, he said. “All the partners are looking at, ‘How do I provide managed services to continue to be relevant and be able to have the profit that I’m looking for?’ By partnering with Lenovo in that managed services space in particular, it really sets us apart because we aren’t going to compete with them,” said Fernandez. “We are going to allow them to really leverage and capitalize on the margins that they can make in that space.” 




Call To Action: Emphasizing Communication, Rewarding Partners For New Business Rob Cato, vice president of North America channels in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group, says the company isn’t easing up in its support of, engagement with and investment in partners. Cato spoke with CRN about Lenovo’s Partner Stimulus Package, focus areas with solution providers during the COVID-19 crisis and the biggest investment areas going forward.

Rob Cato VP, North America Channels, Intelligent Devices Group

What was the goal for your Partner Stimulus Package, and what did you achieve with it? The goal for the Partner Stimulus Package was for us to show that we were listening to their concerns and to the uncertainty around the market and the environment from COVID. And that we realized the pandemic was weighing heavily on them. So it was really to take away the concerns that they had around their ability to execute against targets, to get financing, to extend financing for their customers. It was really [to help] them be able to run their business and get the ability to have predictable earnings from Lenovo. The feedback that we’ve gotten has been outstanding. We’re going to continue some of those elements as we go forward into the second half of our fiscal year. We’re still evaluating their feedback on which ones are working the best and making sure that we continue those where we can. What are the top two or three things you’ve been focusing on with partners during the pandemic? [Even before the pandemic] one of the key things that we wanted to focus on in 2020 was enabling our partners and providing communication to them in a way that we hadn’t done in the past. So we put a lot of emphasis around enablement and partner communication. I’m very excited to say that we’ve made a lot of strides there in the last 12 months. A couple of things stuck out to me. One is we’ve established a consistent plan around Partner Advisory Councils and getting feedback from all of our partners— not just the top partners, but really our Silver, our Gold, our Platinum and our NSP [National Solution Provider] partners. We shared last year in May that we were launching our Partner Communities to focus on those segments of the market where we felt like [we] had lots of opportunity and were going to help our partners organize themselves




around those industries, like K-12. We’ve added a few more since then. We’ve added higher education, we’ve added health care, we’ve added a state and local government community—in addition to our K-12, SMB and commercial communities. So we’ve started to expand that. And I think our partners really appreciate it because we’re talking to them in the language [of their] market segment. We’re not sharing messages, communications or marketing materials that don’t apply to the part of the market that they’re focused on. We’ve launched Channel Chatter, which is our communication vehicle and strategy framework, out to our partner community. We’ve established that in a consistent way for them to receive what’s going on with Lenovo, and make sure that they’re informed on what Lenovo is doing. And then the latest one that we’ve just recently launched, in July, is our Lenovo Partner Hub. That was three years in the making and was based on feedback from our partners. It’s around having that single portal, that single place for partners to get all of their information—as well as do deal registrations, get pricing, find product information, find marketing materials. We’ve done a lot there in the last 12 months to improve our overall enablement and partner communication. What will be the biggest areas for channel investment going forward? We’re going to continue to focus on the Lenovo Partner Hub. This is not an endpoint—it’s a starting of a journey with our partners. So we’re going to continue to invest in making that a robust tool, and really the place to get all of your partner information. As far as other areas go, one is acquisition of new customers. As the No. 3 market-share company in North America from a PC standpoint, we need to continue to grow our business. We need to have a strong channel in order to do that. So we’re going to continue to reward our partners and help them, from a profitability standpoint, to be very successful when they help us bring new customers into Lenovo. We have a new program [for this] that we’re calling Empower. It’s a bonus incentive for our partners focused on acquiring new customers who haven’t purchased from Lenovo in the last 12 months. Right now, with the way that the market is in North America, we certainly want to reward partners for finding new business opportunities. 


Boosting Partner Profitability: Steve Biondi Talks New Programs, Channel Enablement Ahead BY MARK HARANAS When Steve Biondi joined Lenovo’s Data Center Group this year as head of channels and alliances for North America, his goal was to revamp its partner program to boost profitability and align Lenovo’s internal team with the channel. Biondi’s efforts came to fruition in April when Lenovo launched major enhancements to the Lenovo Data Center Partner Program that included additional rebates for exceeding growth targets and acquiring new accounts; allowing Platinum partners to earn upward of 40 percent more for similar year-over-year performance; and increasing the Data Center Group’s back-office channel resources by 30 percent to better support partners. Biondi has more than three decades of IT experience working for IBM, VMware, Micro Focus and most recently as Avaya’s global channel chief. In an interview with CRN, the industry veteran reveals that he has some new tricks up his sleeve to boost partner profitability and channel enablement.

‘We’re Fixing Enablement’ “Money is clearly important and so is making margins, but at the end of the day partners can’t sell our stuff if they don’t know how to sell it. I spent a lot of time over the past few months around enablement. We’re fixing enablement and the talk track on how to talk to customers. More and more customers from RFP to deployment are doing it all virtually. That puts different kinds of challenges in front of you to say, ‘Now I have to be able to provision technology schematics.’ So for each of our solutions now we have a ‘crayon-ready’ version: something that can get them interested; a ‘business-ready’ discussion: why doing business with Lenovo makes the most sense and why it brings you the most value; then what I call ‘nerd-ready’ on the deployment side that says, ‘Here’s how you configure this stuff if you can’t allow for people to come on-site.’ If we can go out and help you, we’ll do it in person. But if not, I want to be able to show you, ‘Here’s exactly how you do it.’ ”

‘True MSP Model’ For Platinum Partners “Before the end of the calendar year, we’ll launch a true MSP model for all of our Platinum partners and distribution partners who are putting up managed services within their own communities or leveraging other platforms to provision workloads. We want to work with them there. If they want to put their own business model on top of [our gear], we’re going to embrace that. It’s slightly different than what our competition is doing because they’re [selling] infrastructure and they’re forcing people to provision workloads—that takes a lot of time and it’s a little clunky. We’re just going to go out there and say, ‘How do you go to market today in a managed service provider world? Leverage our gear. We’ll take care of everything in the background. We’ll manage it. We’ll support it. We’ll make sure you get the latest upgrades on all the new technologies, and you just run your business on it. Come work with us.’ That’s something that we’re in the final stages of getting out there and deployed. It allows for customers who are more and more interested in leveraging [an] as-a-service [model]. The MSP model will leverage TruScale [Infrastructure Services] where customers and partners want it, but we’ll also give them the flexibility to say, ‘Hey, we just want to run our stuff the way we run it on your platform because it’s the most reliable and best-performing gear out there.’”

New ‘Separate’ Systems Integration Track “I’m standing up a Systems Integration track because more and more of the big, global systems integrators are having to act like resellers. By establishing a separate track for them, we give them the kind of prices that they’re looking for and the support they’re looking for, but also making it part of the deal registration process and making sure there’s good value across all of our partners and no one is being treated better than the others. That becomes important.”

Steve Biondi Head of Channels, Alliances, Data Center Group

‘Deeper Incentives’ For Cross-Selling “We’re aiming at our Platinum partner base to say, ‘If you’re an Intelligent Devices Group Platinum partner and there are opportunities to bring in data center, let’s talk about deeper incentives, deeper margins, better rebates, free enablement, free certification, to get you up to speed. And vice versa.’ The Platinum partners can make close to double digits incremental in terms of margin. The rest of our partner community can make good commission there as well. It’s not a documented program on our partner portal today, but stay tuned. By the end of the year, you’ll see something more aggressive in terms of making all partners aware of what they can do there and how they can make more money selling all of our stuff.” 




Innovation Delivered: Partners Hail Lenovo For ‘Challenging The Norm’ BY KYLE ALSPACH

When Lenovo recently began taking orders for its trailblazing foldable laptop, the ThinkPad X1 Fold, Susie Smith was among the first to place an order. And it wasn’t just because she’s a top Lenovo partner as general manager of Wichita, Kan.-based Twotrees Technologies, a subsidiary of Lenovo Platinum partner Woodard Technology and Investments. Rather, it was because, as Smith put it, “I love new stuff. That’s part of Pascal why I’m in this business.” Bourguet And Smith sees Lenovo as the leader in delivering product innovation that is not only useful, but is also VP, Chief pretty cool. Category and Marketing Officer, “They’re not afraid to try something totally different,” North America’s she said. “They take a fresh look at a problem and try to Intelligent Devices solve it.” Group The industry’s first mainstream foldable PC, the X1 Fold, features a 13.3-inch display that provides an array of usage modes thanks to its foldability. When partly folded, it can serve as a dual-display device with numerous options for multitasking across the two screens—including with a Bluetooth keyboard that can magnetically attach to the lower screen, for use in a standard notebook fashion. When unfolded, the device can be used as a tablet or as a screen connected to the Bluetooth keyboard. The X1 Fold is also highly portable, weighing 2.2 pounds, and features optional 5G connectivity. The launch comes as Lenovo is looking to seize the moment with PCs considered essential amid widespread remote work and learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Pascal Bourguet, vice president and chief category and marketing officer for Lenovo North America’s Intelligent Devices Group. Within the PC space, Lenovo is “very excited to be in category creation mode” with the X1 Fold, Bourguet said.



And for partners, “when you go into category creation, it’s always an opportunity to start a discussion for the channel partner with the customer,” he said. Within Lenovo’s latest product launches, it’s not just the X1 Fold that is making a splash in the industry. Smith also pointed to the forthcoming ThinkPad X1 Nano—the lightest ThinkPad yet with a starting weight of 1.99 pounds—and the ThinkBook Plus as other examples of major Lenovo innovation this year. The ThinkBook Plus includes a 10.8-inch E Ink display on the top cover, which can be used for taking notes or sketching with a digital stylus, as well as for getting emails and notifications. Jennifer Noto, vice president of marketing at Portland, Maine-based Logically, a Lenovo Gold partner, said she has been highly impressed with Lenovo’s track record on product development—including with the X1 Fold. “I love that they are constantly raising the bar for what technology should be,” Noto said. “They’re constantly challenging the norm, and they’re really in tune with what their customers need—and want—to be successful.” Lenovo’s intelligent devices portfolio has also branched out beyond the PC and into emerging segments such as dedicated collaboration devices. At the start of the year, Lenovo unveiled the ThinkSmart View—a desktop device that features an 8-inch touch screen for taking part in Microsoft Teams video and audio calls. The launch came just before Teams usage surged with the shift to remote work in March—and partners such as Calgary, Alberta-based Long View Systems are reporting strong demand for the ThinkSmart View. For customers who are on Microsoft Teams calls for many hours a day, “it’s important that you have the best experience” for the meetings, according to Kent MacDonald, senior vice president of strategic alliances for Long View Systems. The ThinkSmart View is “very user-friendly and has very good voice quality. It just makes the overall experience more enjoyable and valuable,” MacDonald said. “And from what I’m aware of, that’s very unique in the market to have a Teams-specific device. So that’s been a growth area for us.” Devices such as the ThinkSmart View and the X1 Fold also demonstrate that Lenovo is putting business customers at the forefront of its innovation efforts, executives and partners told CRN. With the X1 Fold, for instance, the foldable PC design is coming first to Lenovo’s ThinkPad business line rather than to its consumer PC portfolio. “The direction that we’ve taken is to do this for business users because we believe that the most fitting purpose is usage on the business side,” Bourguet said. “It’s a great credit to the commitment that we’re bringing to the commercial space, and it’s a great credit to the innovation engine, which is very vibrant at Lenovo.” With the X1 Fold, Smith predicts that Lenovo will have another game-changer in the PC space, similar to the company’s convertible Yoga line previously. “You have to keep pushing—to me that’s what the technology industry is all about. You have to keep innovating,” Smith said. “Lenovo is not resting on their laurels—they’re staying on top of it.” 

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4 Ways Lenovo Will Be ‘Making A Lot More Noise’ In 2021

José Luis Fernandez Worldwide Data Center Group Channel Chief

José Luis Fernandez is dead set on “making a lot more noise” in the market next year to put Lenovo’s portfolio and technology innovations in the spotlight. “We don’t publicize our strengths well enough. We have the most reliable data center infrastructure on the planet, but we don’t make enough noise about it,” said Fernandez, president and general manager for Lenovo’s Data Center Group in Latin America and Caribbean, who also took over as leader for global channels at the Data Center Group earlier this year. “We have the best records in terms of performance in x86 servers. Not everybody knows that. We will be making a lot more noise. I will make sure this information is more widely spread, particularly to channel partners.” Fernandez breaks down four reasons why channel partners should be pumped about partnering with Lenovo in 2021.


‘Better Together’ Lenovo will push its “Better Together” strategy in 2021, which offers extra incentives to Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group partners who sell Lenovo’s Data Center Group portfolio, and vice versa. “So some of the data center partners want to adopt the IDG portfolio. One thing that’s going to make it a lot easier is our new Partner Hub. The configuration tools there are exactly the same. The Hub is the same. They don’t have to go to different places. So if a partner wants to build a VDI solution, for example, they can put together all the data center infrastructure, the software, the services, and the smart devices to offer an end-to-end VDI solution. That puts us in a unique position. I think that’s very compelling to a channel partner because it’s truly a one-stop shop,” said Fernandez.


SMB Momentum Lenovo is preparing for a sales spike in the SMB market next year via channel partners thanks to new enablement investments, Fernandez said. “We’re getting ready with a well-oiled machine of enablement, training and solutions approach to help our channels to be very effective in selling repeatable solutions to SMBs. Things like data protection, anti-ransomware, solutions for analytics and databases, and VDI are very popular. We want to help channels with very well-defined solutions. We want to help them understand the target market. How the solution is built. Why is it important. What are the relevant questions




they need to ask to really understand the business problems. And they need a solution with services,” said Fernandez. “The SMB market is very unique because for large customers—like banks, oil and gas—you have all the vendors lining up trying to do demos, proofs of concept, etc. but the small and medium companies don’t have that luxury. So what we are pushing is reference architectures, proven architectures—it’s like selling a recipe. In a supermarket analogy, we’re not only offering the ingredients—the ingredients come with a very well-tested recipe alongside. That’s why we’re gaining stickiness in the marketplace.”

3. Interoperability And Open Standards

What gets Fernandez excited about Lenovo’s data center technology is that everything is designed to be “absolutely open.” By designing its technology based on interoperability and open standards, Lenovo is giving partners options that will help customers save on total cost of ownership. “Openness is extremely important because in the data center business, if you invest $1 in data center infrastructure, you’re going to spend $7 to run that infrastructure during the next three years. So it’s important to be careful with your Capex, but it’s way more important to be very careful with your Opex. Opex is a much bigger portion of the expense of any data center. When you have interoperability and you are conscious as a vendor knowing you need to be interacting with multiple vendors in switching, storage, software—then that $7 starts to reduce. Then you’re talking about $6 or $5. That is a very compelling story for any CIO or CTO because they’re very aware of operational expenses, and interoperability is the key. The way we maintain all the infrastructure—networking, sever and storage—has to be easier to orchestrate and to automate. Everything we do is designed like that,” said Fernandez.

4. Backing Up ‘Channel-First’

Eighty-five percent of Lenovo’s Data Center Group total revenue comes via indirect sales as the company’s ChannelFirst mantra pushes forward in 2021, according to Fernandez. “When we say ‘Channel-First,’ we back it up with 85 percent of our total Data Center Group revenue coming from partners. Some companies talk about channel-first, but only half of their revenue goes through the channel. In our case, it’s 85 percent on a worldwide basis,” he said. “So we are truly Channel-First.” 

Wave Of The Future Is Here Today: 5 Next-Generation Data Center Products


Lenovo’s data center innovation engine is in full swing this year as the company launches a slew of new architectures to elevate server capabilities and take its hybrid cloud strategy to the next level.

ThingAgile HX

ThinkAgile MX And Microsoft Azure Stack

Lenovo has reached new levels of performance and efficiency for end-user computing with its new ThinkAgile HX hyperconverged infrastructure system due, in part, to it being powered by AMD EPYC processors along with Nutanix software. The new ThinkAgile HX system provides a range of core counts to match application needs, two GPUs per one unit and additional memory bandwidth. The hyperconverged infrastructure enables customers to run virtual desktop workloads and maintain consistent

performance in the same 1U form factor with up to 50 percent fewer servers. Target use cases for ThinkAgile HX are around virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and virtualization consolidation. ThinkAgile HX is factory-integrated, validated and configured with preloaded Nutanix Enterprise Cloud software. The company also has integrated ThinkAgile Network Orchestrator with Nutanix Prism to reduce human error and downtime by automating switch configuration in response to changes in the virtual network.

Lenovo partnered with Microsoft to launch the Lenovo ThinkAgile MX Azure Stack HCI Edge and Data Center line of hyperconverged appliances. The new ThinkAgile MX series of appliances provides a one-stop shop for customers to the Azure Stack HCI to give businesses an easy way to deploy, manage and scale Azure services from edge to core to cloud. ThinkAgile MX has a single console for life-cycle management that allows customers to easily modernize and scale their on-premises infrastructure from edge solutions to the cloud. Lenovo’s goal is to enable customers to rapidly deploy a hybrid cloud infrastructure. Lenovo will offer consumption-based, pay-as-you-go pricing of Azure Stack HCI and Azure Stack Hub.

ThinkAgile VX

ThinkSystem SR665

ThinkSystem SR860 V2

Lenovo teamed up with VMware on the ThinkAgile VX HCI series, powered by VMware’s vSAN and ESXi, which is aimed at improving agility and reliability for SAP HANA database deployments. Lenovo’s ThinkAgile VX HCI series is 4S certified nodes that enable customers to modernize their infrastructure for high-end database offerings and SAP HANA. The platform improves life-cycle management of vSAN environments via the integration of Lenovo XClarity Management software and the new vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM) tools. The ThinkAgile VX 4S offering provides double the SAP HANA database memory and offers direct-connect NVMe to accelerate response times, speed business insight and improve total cost of ownership.

This spring Lenovo launched its next-generation two-socket ThinkSystem SR665 server tailor-made to handle the explosion of data around critical workloads. The 2U form-factor server utilizes up to two second-generation AMD EPYC 7002 CPUs with classleading memory speed, storage and GPU density. With the AMD EPYC 7002 processor—the world’s first 7-nanometer data center CPU—the new ThinkSystem SR665 features up to 128 cores. Lenovo has increased on-board storage of up to 40 2.5-inch drives or up to 32 NVMe drives. The SR665 offers 32 DDR4 memory slots and 4 TB using 128-GB RDIMMs, while also containing up to 8X PCIe 4.0 slots.

In a move to help customers accelerate highperformance workloads and simplify data management, Lenovo built the ThinkSystem SR860 V2 server. The server features third-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors with enhanced support for SAP HANA based on the Intel Optane Persistent Memory 200 series. The SR860 V2 is combined with Lenovo’s DM7100 storage system along with business intelligence solutions from SAP. The server includes 48 2.5-inch drives to improve the rate at which data can be consumed. It also includes four double-wide 300W or eight single-wide GPUs for handling artificial intelligence workloads, VDI deployments and data analytics.



Lenovo’s New Device Lineup Brings Portability, Performance And Collaboration


Lenovo’s intelligent devices portfolio for 2020 includes new notebooks, desktops and displays, as well as a new category of device: the foldable PC.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon, Eighth Generation

ThinkCentre M90a All-in-One

As Lenovo’s flagship ThinkPad, the latest X1 Carbon gets some key upgrades that business users will appreciate. A new display option offers the Privacy Guard integrated privacy screen and high brightness, up to 500 nits, along with a touch screen. The eighth-generation X1 Carbon also offers an enhanced keyboard, with the inclusion of keys for unified communications. Perhaps the most stunning quality remains its portability, with the notebook weighing in at just 2.4 pounds. That makes the 14-inch X1 Carbon notably lighter even than other top-level notebooks that have smaller display sizes.

The ThinkCentre M90a Allin-One sports a 23.8-inch FHD display and strong performance via 10th-generation Intel Core processors, along with available AMD Radeon 625 graphics. Security features include an optional Privacy Guard integrated privacy screen, software that blurs the display when a user turns away and an integrated ThinkShutter webcam cover.

ThinkCentre M75n IoT ThinkPad X1 Fold Lenovo is introducing the world to a new category of device, the foldable PC, with the launch of the ThinkPad X1 Fold. The device features a 13.3-inch display that, when unfolded, can be used as a tablet or as a screen connected to a Bluetooth keyboard. When folded, the ThinkPad X1 Fold can serve as a dual-display device with numerous options for multitasking across the two screens—including with a keyboard that can magnetically attach to the lower screen for use in a standard notebook fashion. The X1 Fold is also highly portable, weighing 2.2 pounds, and features optional 5G connectivity.

ThinkPad X1 Nano As Lenovo has touted, the ThinkPad X1 Nano is the “lightest ThinkPad ever” with a starting weight of 1.99 pounds. Launching in the fourth quarter of the year, the 13-inch notebook will also feature a new 16:10 aspect ratio— offering a larger workspace area on the screen—along with 17 hours of battery life and optional 5G.

ThinkBook 14s Yoga Lenovo is expanding its ThinkBook portfolio, which is aimed at small and midsize businesses, with new models including the ThinkBook 14s Yoga. The notebook will be the first convertible ThinkBook when it debuts in November. Other features include a Smart Pen that syncs with the notebook.



Amid the boom in edge computing, Lenovo has delivered the ThinkC e n t r e M 75 n I o T a s a compact, wirelessly connected and powerful edge PC—equipped with an AMD Athlon processor to enable collection and analysis of data in real time.

ThinkVision T27hv-20 Lenovo’s ThinkVision T27hv-20 USB-C Hub, which launches in December, will offer a 27-inch screen with ThinkColor software for an enhanced viewing experience. Other features include a 1,080p IR/ RGB webcam, integrated speakers, noise-canceling mics and automatic screen blurring when users look away.

ThinkSmart View As the need for remote conferencing continues to soar, the ThinkSmart View is a timely device from Lenovo—with its 8-inch touch screen for taking part in Microsoft Teams videoconferencing and audio calls. Key features include easy one-touch meeting launches, along with built-in speakers and microphones.

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