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The Partner Channel Podcast Episode #5
The Impact of Digital Transformation
Daniel talks with Garrett Helmer and Geoffery Vernon from PrinterLogic about the impact of digital transformation on the way we do business. Garrett offers insight into how an automation first mindset drove PrinterLogics creation and success while Geoff discusses the crucial aspects of a modern PRM.
Daniel: Welcome to the Partner Channel Podcast, the voice of the partner channel community. I am Daniel Graff-Radford and am excited to sit down with Geoffrey Vernon and Garrett Helmer from Printer Logic. Today we will be discussing the massive impact on how we do business because of digital transformation and how the channel is accelerating this trend. Welcome, Geoff and Garrett. Thank you for being on our show. Garrett, could you start us off by walking us through your background, how you ended up a PrinterLogic, what PrinterLogic specialises in?
Garrett: Absolutely, and first of all, Daniel, thank you for to you and to the team and Allbound for hosting us. We’re very excited and grateful to be on the podcast today. I started my career in IT at Cisco Systems right out of college. Twenty years ago, I joined an associate sales rep training program, and I spent 15 years there learning what networking was. Around 2010, while at Cisco introduced a server solution called Unified Compute System. So I got it to the world of private cloud. And then eventually I found my way to a true SaaS provider called Box. While at Box I learned a lot about the changing landscape of the channel. I was the Director of Channels in Australia, New Zealand, and it was fascinating to me to see all of these emerging platforms that were born in the cloud era like OKTA and Box and others. And it was clear to me that the world was changing and changing fast. And I was planning on staying there until a good friend of mine who I had recruited while at Cisco rang me and said, I need somebody to come lead channels that at this startup that I created and co-founded in 2012 called PrinterLogic. And so I gave that a lot of thought and made the decision to jump in with both feet, moved my family back from Australia. And here we are three years later, I’m heading up the marketing team and we’ve rolled channels and partnerships into our marketing organisation, and we love the direction that we’re moving.
Daniel: Well, that’s great. And can you tell us a little bit about what PrinterLogic does, what do you guys do for a living?
Garrett: PrinterLogic removes the burden of the legacy print server from our customer’s hands, we eliminate print servers and it might sound really trivial, but the print server has been this long-standing bastion of frustration within IT, and there really has been no innovation around it until we came along in 2012 and told companies, you don’t have to have an existence with your print server in your life, it just doesn’t need to exist. And that message has resonated profoundly. So we deliver a serverless print management platform that requires no infrastructure, period. No no print server, no management server. We do it all 100 percent SaaS and our customers love it.
Daniel: I remember some of my first jobs and the print server not working and how it ruined my day and how awful that was. So making people’s days better by not having to think about broken print servers is a great, great thing to do. And similarly, Geoff, can you tell us a little bit about your background and experience in the channel?
Geoff: Yes, we’re sure just grateful that Garrett had made that change. Just wanted to say it’s a pleasure working with Garrett and the team. In the channel department at PrinterLogic. My experience in the channel started that Printer Logic. I have a lot of business and work experience outside of technology and before I came to PrinterLogic, but. I really began my channel experience at PrinterLogic about four years ago. I was hired on just over four years ago and within about two months I was asked to help within the Channel Department. And it’s been an incredible journey so far. And and I’ve loved it. So I’m just grateful for Garrett and giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts and be a part of the growth that we’ve seen so far.
Daniel: Well, it’s a clear need you guys are filling and to that end, you know, digital transformation is a buzz word that gets used a lot, especially today when people are at home and doing more things digitally that they used to not to do digitally, but in the context of PrinterLogic what does digital transformation mean? Because you guys are a great poster child, if you will, for what digital transformation should mean, I guess.
Garrett: The question itself might sound counterintuitive to the listener, Dan, PrinterLogic, and digital transformation. How do those two phrases or words fit in the same sentence? And that the mistake that a lot of people make is that they associate digital with this concept of the paperless world. And while I don’t disagree that we’re moving quickly to a world that is certainly less filled with paper, which is great, that’s a good thing. Digital transformation encompasses so many more things than just getting rid of paper and doing everything digitally.
And an easy example is the movement to SaaS. Like if you’re manually managing and patching servers and administrating servers and supporting infrastructure in your own data center, those are cycles. Those are real work cycles that take away from the creative thought process that goes into your own business process. And so moving to SaaS like a true SaaS platform where there are no servers, where there is no infrastructure, where there is no patching, where there isn’t that that manual management that happens on a day to day basis, that’s part of the digital transformation journey. You can’t digitally transform until IT is 100 percent in SaaS.
And so that’s one of the things that we’re offering to our customers before we even talk about business process, automation, and digital transformation tools that require less paper or eliminate paper, you first have to talk about the infrastructure. What are we doing at Salesforce is a great example of this. So I remember at Cisco moving from an old CRM to Salesforce and I watched my productivity go through the roof and I wasn’t even using paper in the old CRM, but it was manual. And we’re not even talking about the work that it had to do to make that thing work. I had to do a lot of work. I had to spend a lot of brain calories. I had to have manual processes in place to make sure that I transferred data from a spreadsheet to the CRM so that we were using the moment. We moved to Salesforce, I felt like I was more digitally transformed and papers, not even in the context of that conversation.
Daniel: I think that makes a lot of sense. I remember the first time I was at a company and we made the shift from having, you know, servers for infrastructure to cloud-enabled infrastructure. And suddenly some of the really smart people that we’re trying to keep those servers alive were in meetings making a more creative difference on our product roadmap and becoming a true dev op. I think there’s a great book, The Phoenix Project, that sort of talks through kind of a fictional story of something the.
Garrett: That’s just it Dan like one of our earliest customers eliminated four hundred percent servers. Think about not just the cost of the infrastructure and the Windows server licensing that went away, but the time patching, updating, responding to issues that went away, too, which meant that all that brainpower that was previously devoted to server maintenance was now devoted to business process. That’s digital transformation in a nutshell.
Daniel: I think that’s great when we hear about those numbers and those changes. But if we were to give an example story of success for one of your customers to kind of just bring it home to our listeners, what would you want to talk about?
Garrett: You know, we have a customer called Sabre Health Care Group, and they, you know, they do a lot of things within the realm of health care, including physical therapy, post-trauma. They wanted their physical therapists to have Chrome Books so that they could have a browser driven experience using a SaaS application to monitor and log the improvement of their patients. And they needed to print from those Chrome Books, believe it or not. And the ability to print was difficult. And so by adopting our SaaS platform and unifying print management so that any user on any OS when they need to print and not have to worry about it. And I know it sounds trivial and I’ve said that before, but if you’re a physical therapist and part of your workflow is to print off a results report it physically sit down with your patient and walk through it and review it and give it to them, and that’s part of your defined business process, printing challenges get in the way of that. Were preventing them from rolling out their Chromebook initiative and we solved for that. And we’re very proud of being able to be a guide to that customer, to SABRE Health Care Group and to allow them to continue on their process of delivering this browser-driven operating experience to their professionals who were helping patients.
Daniel: That seems so much more efficient. That makes a lot of sense. And, you know, here we are on the Partner Channel Podcast. I’m sure our listeners are not surprised and we sort of switch this into how digital transformation and your partner journey have been aligned and how they’ve changed over time. So you’ve seen this really vast adoption of digital transformation technologies, including yours. And similarly, there’s been some really big changes in how companies engage with partners over time. Geoff, can you help us understand the development of your channel and how it’s changed over time?
Geoff: Yes, I think of two things. I think no one as we’re on this podcast with you guys at Allbound we the importance of having a good PRM system so that can take some of that burden off that manual process. So that was that’s number one. And I know that we’ll talk a little bit more about how we decided to work with you guys and how excited we are from what we’ve seen and how and where we’re going. But I also think back again, about four years ago, it was just probably about four years ago where we were we were holding onboarding calls for partners once a week. Right. So it was Tuesday at nine a.m. Mountain Standard Time. And we’d get a few partners to get on with us, but there were a lot that would get back saying you know, that time doesn’t work for me. And our response was, well, how about next week or the week after? And it was quick for us to decide we really needed to make this easy for our partners. Number one, we love our solution and we know how beneficial it is for end customers. So we wanted to make it super easy for partners to be able to see who we were and what our solution can do for their customers. So that was one change that we tried to make pretty quickly to automate that, to create an on-demand partner onboarding video. And that in itself was part of our development. And again, the second part was we had some of our I.T. staff that created our own internal PRM system, but we learned very quickly that we wanted them to focus on our solution and what that would do for the end customer. So, again, about three years ago, we started the journey into looking at a PRM system and had been using one for the past three years until we had decided to make a change. And we’ll, of course, talk a little bit more about that too.
Garrett: Dan, can I jump in and add another thought around the channel and why a good PRM system helps us with it, with our channel?
Daniel: Sure, great.
Garrett: We are unique in the sense that we have an extremely diverse channel. If you think about it, we have partners that come from the printer ecosystem, whether it’s an OEM that manufactures printers, that wants to resell software, or it might be a managed print services provider. They have a subculture and DNA in a way of doing business, in a way of talking about solutions that might be different than an IT channel partner who focuses on infrastructure services and desktop services and software services. They have their way of approaching customers and talking about solutions to two very disparate, diverse channel ecosystems. And then you have this third channel, which is not a reseller channel, but what I would refer to as an influencer channel. It could be an OKTA representative that’s talking about the movement away from on-premise active directory to a sophisticated, cloud-based identity and access management system. And they’re in there talking to a customer about cloud identity. And the customer says, well, my print server only integrates with on-premise active directory. So what about now? And so OKTA now has the ability through our integration to respond to that objection from the customer and say, well, we have a partner in PrinterLogic that not only will it decouple that dependency of active directory from your print server, they’ll get rid of your print server altogether and then you’ll have a totally serverless solution when it comes to print and identity, how we identify which printers get to which users. It’s such an elegant solution. OKTA doesn’t want to resell our software, but they certainly influence the customer. So how do we build a partner portal that accounts for a managed print service provider in the conversation that they have and an I.T. channel partner and the different conversations that they have? And then somebody like OKTA or a Chrome enterprise person or somebody from AWS who don’t want to necessarily resell PrinterLogic software, but certainly can talk to it in the context of delivering a better customer outcome to their customers. A partner portal that allows us to get our diverse messages out to the specific channel partners that want to take our platform to market is extremely important. And that’s why we’re excited to have something that gives us that flexibility.
Daniel: That makes a lot of sense. So, you know, starting back when you would have sort of your more manual sort of time, time-based training and onboarding and then moving to an initial type of of of PRM platform and then needing something more scalable. So as a follow up to that, Geoff, when you meet, you know, can you talk us through, you know, making the decision to improve your partner engagement, kind of how that came about and in the process that you went through because I remember it being pretty extensive and thoughtful.
Geoff: Yes, for sure, and it kind of goes back to some of the previous questions that have been asked, we started off with our own internal PRM and quickly moved to one outside of PrinterLogic. After we had signed a three-year contract and that we learned quite a bit through that three years, we understood what our customers were needing on our partner level and what we wanted on the admin side of PrinterLogic so we could make it as easy as possible for our partners and also for ourselves. So I’m looking right now at a spreadsheet that I put together. I mean, we were really vetting out about five different systems and this might be obvious, but cost was a big one (factor). We needed to see the return on investment and we really didn’t feel like we had that with our prior one. So that’s what we were. That’s one of the things we looked at. The other we looked at was the ability to co-brand the collateral that we had. Many of our partners had wanted that. And it wasn’t really easy with the last PRM system that we were using. We then just looked at as we went through demos with each of these companies, we wrote down pros and cons. Right. Not every company is perfect. So there were quite a few pros that we wrote down. There were simple cons, some cons that that might be something to look at in the future to make better. We also looked at things like LMS and SSO integration we looked at is their ability to have different partner groups and types.
Geoff: Because Garrett had said we have quite a few different groups and types within our channel partnerships. We wanted to look at the visual appearance of it. Right. We wanted it to be easy to update. We wanted it to have the same kind of flow and looked at our PrinterLogic dot com website has that was important to us. Part of that cost and we’d seen it with some of these that we looked at was the cost of, you know, was there a cost for each partner account or even for specific users? We didn’t want to deal with that. We wanted unlimited. I’m with you guys on all of them. So we want to worry about who was a partner with us. We want to give all of them the ability to see what our solution can do and invite our customers to check us out. An incentive program was another thing we looked at. It was important to have that as we move forward and want to incentivize our partner community. And also what was important was here we’ve spent the last three-plus years creating the current partner portal and it took a lot of effort. We also asked how it was to transition it migrate over. And that was very important. So all of those things were important to us. And we’re happy to say that you at Allbound won out. And we’re super excited about what we’ve seen and how we’ve been able to utilize the software. Our partners are loving it and we’re excited about what we’ll see in the future.
Daniel: Well, we at Allbound obviously love to hear that and sort of taking it sort of back a step to the process that you guys went through. It sounds like you went from these manual processes to standing up a portal seeing kind of what worked and didn’t were coming up with an RFP that would detail the flexibility, scalability, return on investment metrics that you were looking for to get you to that next level. You know, for the listeners that are out there, are there any other sort of RFP items that you would think that they should consider also or to be sort of capture those with these comments?
Garrett: The only other thing that I would add, we’ve talked about this before, Dan, but especially in today’s environment where there’s not a lot of face to face engagement happening in the channel and we’ve seen an impact from that. I love the concept of a one to few event, and that’s what actually we did with our channel partners in the past. We would go to a lunch and learn in Minneapolis so we would do an in-person seminar in Boston now that that’s taken away. How do you engage with channel partners in a fun way? Gamification is a thing that I think every PRM should have the ability to create fun, engaging games where leaderboards are displayed and channel partners can have contests within and without their own organization outside of their own organization. So I would consider that as part of it’s not necessarily an immediate must-have, but as you look at the way to engage in a very digital way with channel partners in the future, that’s something that I would put on my radar.
Daniel: I think that that is very well said, we have seen a massive increase of daily users and gamification is one of those features that really helps with that. Geoff, if we kind of look at how automation could impact the channel ecosystem that you guys are building would love your thoughts there.
Geoff: Yes, when I think of the word automation, I think of simplicity, I think of ease, ease of use. And I’ve been living in Allbound for the past few months and I’ve loved it. So when I think of automation, I think of things like the simplicity of creating. Like certification. Training and right now we have a skills certification training that set up and how easy it is to for the partners to complete that, I think of customers or partners that are wanting to reach out to end-customers and how they can add them in into a prospect page and put information in there and create specific collateral in a playbook or in a video that they can send to the customer and how easy that is when the end customer responds and says, you know, this looks interesting, I’d love to learn more about what PrinterLogic can offer and how easy it is for that partner to click a button that will registration and it would populate some of the stuff that’s already been filled out. So for me, I look at that and look at it specifically with Allbound and how easy it is for not only the partners to communicate. In a way that is very specific to that end customer, but it’s also perfect for us on the admin side at PrinterLogic to be able to go in and see who’s doing what, what your registrations are there, what’s been submitted, what’s been looked at, who do we need to follow up with? If we need to notify these partners of ours, is it going to be on a mass notification because we have something that everyone needs to listen to, or is it more specific to a specific partner and company or even a vertical? And I love how we can automate that now as we move forward. So super, super exciting to me.
Daniel: That’s really, really exciting when you can cut out those types and tie those ends together for your partners and their prospects. And so here we are at the end, the final four questions. And I don’t know if you guys are doing this one at a time, taking turns or both answering me either way. Here we go. First question is, if you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
Garrett: I’ll take this on, Geoff, if you don’t mind, my superpower would be to take the United States, France and Australia combined them into the United States of Francetralia, and get the benefits of the best wine and cheese in the world, the best beaches, the most laid back culture, and the most innovative and creative culture in the world into one country. And a point Jacinta Ardern as our leader. That’s a mouthful.
Daniel: That’s the most unique answer we’ve had thus far like this. All right. I take it then, Geoff, you get the next one, which is one mistake and one success that you have had in the channel.
Geoff: Oh, that’s a good one, I would say, and I look at the word mistake and I think of. Not so much a mistake, but learning opportunities, right, so for me, in my general journey so far, with PrinterLogic, I would say a mistake has been maybe looking at just what logically you think would work. And it may not be working out that way, so that kind of goes into the success of always looking at how can we do things better? And I must say, not just because we’re on this podcast with you guys that are all down, but a success that we’ve had moving forward as we journey through this life experience with PrinterLogic and our solution helping in customers is choosing Allbound It’s been a it’s been a great tool and it’s been, in my view, a success as we move forward.
Daniel: Really appreciate that, thanks. And, you know, we have a lot of listeners that, you know, are on their career journey looking to one day become channel or business leaders. And so, Garrett, can you recommend maybe a book that maybe has aspired inspired you and for this listener that’s aspiring to leadership?
Garrett: Absolutely, we at PrinterLogic, we have four books that we read regularly, and one of those books is called Radical Candor by Kim Scott. And radical candor allows you to kind of bridge this juxtaposition of caring about people but also learning how to speak directly to those that you care personally about.
Garrett: And it’s the perfect balance between getting things done and getting to the truth and saying what needs to be said, but in a way that allows people to feel like you care about them. And that translates so well to your channel partners. They’re in business to be in business, not because they love your product or they think PritnerLogic is the best SaaS company since Salesforce. They are there to be successful and to give people livelihoods and to make money. And when you treat a channel partner like you would a person and know that there are real human motivations behind why they want to be a business and why they want to go out and take your solution to market then it’s so much easier to have a conversation that allows you to cut through all the B.S., if you will, and get to the truth faster with without people feeling hurt.
Garrett: Anyways it’s Radical Candor by Kim Scott. It’s part of our canon of culture at PrinterLogic and I would recommend anybody that’s working directly with channel partners and more specifically channel partner people, because at the end of the day, we’re all people. It’s a great, great book.
Daniel: That’s great. That’s a great choice. And so, Geoff, to wrap up, wrap this up here. Last question, five years from now, what are the major changes in the channel that people are experiencing right now that will affect us in the future?
Geoff: That’s a good question and I think a lot of the stuff that we went over are things to think about, who knows in five years how things will be. I mean, I look back on my journey in channel department at PrinterLogic for the past four years and there’s been quite a few changes. I think the biggest thing is just being an open mind and looking at really what’s working and being nimble to make changes when necessary. And that that’s kind of how I respond. I don’t know, Garrett, maybe you can respond in a different way.
Garrett: Well well, being nimble is huge, Geoff. And I think about the changes that we’ve gone through just a short time that we’ve had a channel eco-system. Five years from now I think more partnerships will be technology-based in this open API economy that we’re living in. That’s not changing anytime soon. In fact, it’s going to be more open and more integrated. So if you’re going to integrate with a platform like Jam, or ServiceNow, or Box being able to tap their success that they’re having in the channel or being able to get your joint message out through those. If you’re not thinking about that in terms of the build-out of your channel I think you’re missing out.
Garrett: So to make that succinct, Dan, it’s five years from now the channel will be more centered around the open API economy and the the interwoven integrations between multiple platforms moving away from old school monoliths like IBM, Oracle, et cetera, to companies that can make quick choices about platforms that integrate with their critical business processes. And that is definitely a lot that we need to think about with other people’s successes and how that will lead them to success that we can learn from.
Daniel: Well, I want to thank our guests, Geoff Vernon and Garret Helmer, from PrinterLogic. And thank you to our listeners for joining us here at the Partner Channel podcast. If you like what you heard, subscribe to our podcast episodes, wherever you like to listen to podcasts. If you want to learn more about all of them, please visit our website and the description.