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D&H Distributing Cloud Executive Bystrak On His First Project And Why ‘We’re Starting To Get Into The Groove’

Prior to his job at D&H, Bystrak was vice president of worldwide channels & distribution for Axcient. Before that he spent 22 years at D&H competitor Ingram Micro where he helped to build that company’s cloud computing plan.

A Cloud Leader

Channel veteran Jason Bystrak, who joined D&H Distributing in February as vice president of the company’s newly created cloud business unit, just took the wraps off his first project.

D&H’s new Cloud Solutions Marketplace is a move that pairs one of the oldest distributors in the business with the newest to the U.S., ALSO, a Swiss IT distributor which is partnering with the Harrisburg, Pa.-D&H to bring its cloud platform stateside.

ALSO is a Swiss IT distributors with 4,000 employees that generates about $10.3 billion in annual revenue. D&H is the exclusive user of ALSO’s cloud platform in North America, but that partnership ties them in with users around the world who are constantly upgrading the platform to enhance features and performance, the company said.

Prior to his job at D&H, Bystrak was vice president of worldwide channels & distribution for Axcient. Before that he spent 22 years at D&H competitor Ingram Micro where he helped to build that company’s cloud computing plan.

CRN caught up with him at D&H Distributing’s 2019 Mid-Atlantic Technology Conference.

Talk a little about the first few months on the job at D&H.

It’s been going great. (D&H co-presidents) Michael and Dan Schwab have delivered on what they said, allowing us to make investments. It takes a while to find and hire talent, but we just literally two weeks ago hired eight people in one day and all drove in a van down to Harrisburg to get started. We’re really ramping it up. We’ve tripled the size of the team. So, we’re starting to get into the groove.

The other thing we talked about was the vendor portfolio. We’ve always had a great Microsoft practice and a couple nice vendors that wrap around it. But we’ve gone out and started to bring on some additional ones. Axcient was one we just signed that’s a great MSP platform for cloud backup and disaster recovery solutions. There’s a few more that should be coming soon that we can fill you in on that we can’t say yet. They’re just around the corner.

Were there internal changes that needed to happen?

In a cloud business, compensation for the sales team is one of the big areas you have to address. To get people selling it over the more attractive bigger project deals. So, Peter DiMarco, who is our VP of VAR sales, has been fantastic in allowing us to put really rich incentives in place for internal sellers, who are not cloud specialists, but the general account managers. And, I’ll tell you the field team, he’s paying a 48x premium and the inside team a 24x premium for all these deals. Most people say, ‘Yeah pay a year in advance and you’re good.’ He is paying four years in advance.

Internally, all the culture changes are just going fantastic. We really actually started to bring other things into the cloud business unit. We’re seeing an increase in the market in that people are choosing to consume technology in an as-a-service model. So for example, we’ve really brought in more resources around what was our device-as-a-service program, and turn it into “x-as-a-service” which allows us to mix hardware, plus cloud, plus partners managed services and professional services into a single monthly subscription. We’ve invested more resources there, put that into the cloud team to drive that.

What about customer or partner-facing changes?

When you just say, ‘Hey call us. We can do anything as a service.’ Nobody calls. Nobody takes an action because it’s too conceptual. So, what we’ve been focused on is building a cloud cluster strategy, which is an integrated bundle of solutions that we try to lead the market in and say, ‘This is the example of a solution.’

So, for example, we’re putting together a notebook with Office 365, Dropbox, and allowing the partner to add on a managed service on top. We’re creating it for them and instead of taking the whole Lenovo or HP portfolio and saying, ‘Here’s 1,000 SKUs you could do, every combination.’ We’re saying here’s ‘Five hero SKUs that we recommend that you do.’ Now if they want to change it and do something else, we say ‘No problem. Let’s get you a custom quote.’

The fact that we’re putting into the market some specific recommendations is driving more action from our partners, and their end clients, which is exciting for us.

Why make changes to the old cloud platform?

We had a platform in place a couple years ago. We’re actually a distributor that made a fairly early investment compared to some of the others out there, but it didn’t quite meet the business needs we had. We had a lot of partner feedback about features and function and things they wanted; different user interfaces, so that was really job-one coming in. We had to make a decision on that. So we vetted a bunch of different providers. We had, I think it was 194 selection points, and we had a team of people who scored all these potential platform partners.

We came out with ALSO being the best in class one to work with. Microsoft was very complimentary of that decision as well. They’re a big Microsoft distributor in Europe. They actually wrote their own IP, their own platform, and they said, ‘This is great. Everyone loves it. We’re not going to move beyond Europe with our distribution business, but what if we let other distributors use it?’

So, there’s a distributor in the UK. One in Latin America. D&H is the exclusive distributor for North America, that runs their software. One integration with a vendor now, whether its Microsoft or Dropbox, gets you potentially, all those other distributors. So it really is kind of a powerful ecosystem.

What do the vendors think?

The vendors love it. I’m talking to some of these new vendors and I’m like ‘To bring you on board I have to integrate you,’ and they’re like ‘Ugh. That’s a lot of work.’ Then I say, ‘But you also get Europe and LatAm, and they’re like ‘Oh, that sounds great.’

It’s a mix. Some are small MSP style vendors that compliment Office 365, a few dollars here and there. Dropbox, which didn’t have an ALSO partnership, they’re working now to integrate that.

Can you talk about the benefit of this platform to the solution provider?

From a customer perspective, just couple examples of feature requests we’ve heard that we delivered now. One, they wanted the ability to brand the platform with their own logos and flow it down to the end users. So, this does that. You can rebrand it. Let’s say we have 20 different solutions on the platform, you can say, ‘Ok. I want to expose these five to my customers.’ You can pick and choose. And you can have a different, custom catalog for different end users, if you want to get crazy with it.

It’s really easy to build your own marketplace or various ones for end users at any tier.

Secondly, a key feature request was the ability to add your own services. So the way it works now, for example, with Microsoft or Dropbox, things like that, when someone buys that, there’s an API call to set up service, and confirm it, then it bills. With partner services, there’s not going to be an API for that, but what it does is it’s the same purchase experience, it just sends an email to the partner saying ‘Hey, they bought this. They would like to buy your RMM service, or your help-desk service.’ So, it’s really great for partners to add their own services, even hardware and stuff like that into it.

The provisioning, that’s table stakes. Even the old platform did that, but the ability to add in their own service, bundled with it. That’s what’s new. The partners are, I think, excited about the ability to offer their own services with that.

We’re offering manual services or hardware, talking about the DaaS program, things like that. All you have to do is you go in and you create a product offer. What’s the price? What’s the description? Is it billed monthly, or up front? Then you have an offer on the marketplace.

Does this platform help with invoicing?

A lot of our MSP partners use ConnectWise or Autotask to do their contract management and invoicing. So the platform we have now, there’s a feature where you can download an app, and then integrate so the billing reconciles right to your PSA.

At the end of every month you hit the button and it says here’s your invoice, from D&H and here’s what it was last month in your ConnectWise and Autotask system, I notice four of them are different from last month.

‘Accept. Accept.’ Ok then all the invoices go out from their own system. So it eliminates that manual touch point.

Microsoft’s stated desire is to get better penetration into SMBs. Is that a driver of this new platform?

Absolutely. Microsoft certainly remains our most strategic cloud partner, and you know, we’re working with them. We even have a lot of customers who consume Office 365 on the old-fashioned licensing model. These investments that we’re making in the platform are to convert a lot of those customers.

Microsoft doesn’t even want to be sold like that anymore. They want it in the CSP, the cloud service provider model. We’re working to convert more of our own customers and reach further into the SMB market to do that.

Microsoft wants us to drive consumption of additional features, and some of the other, higher-level Office 365 SKUs. We’re working lock-step with them and maybe have something in the near future more details about our Azure strategy and what we’re doing there.

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