Checking in to the Hyatt in downtown Greenville, South Carolina last week, I met a fellow Synnex National Conference attendee in the elevator. I smiled and said hello and then noticed that he had a whole smattering of eye-catching buttons affixed all around his name badge and lanyard pocket.
“You have points of flair!” I said. He laughed. I thought I was being clever and original, but as it turns out, Synnex was way ahead of me. Organizers for the distributor’s National Conference, held in the city where its U.S. operations are headquartered, transformed the memorable “15 points of flair” joke from “Office Space” into the best icebreaker ever.
Picking up my badge with some of the 1,600 IT and AV professionals and vendor representatives attending the event, I was thrilled to spot a table covered with stylish ceramic bowls filled with cute little buttons sporting various color and black and white icons. Above the button buffet was a sign that said “Flair”. Flair!
The Flair table attendant informed me that I could choose any button that either represented an area of my expertise, or something I wanted to learn more about. And then there were a smattering of conversation-starter buttons with icons representing sushi and pizza and cocktails. I went a little bit haywire and grabbed buttons for “the cloud”, “convergence” (best button ever!), pro video, education, healthcare, and then added very important symbols for pizza, hamburgers, and cocktails.
As the National Conference proceeded, it became evident that the Flair concept was a great representation of Synnex’s offerings to pro AV and IT resellers. The distributor provides product and training for existing areas of business, but also encourages dealers to add more buttons for new market segments supported by Synnex’s various “Solv” teams. For every button, there’s a Solv. CLOUDSolv, VISUALSolv, SERVICESolv, MOBILITYSolv, GOVSolv, PROHEALTHSolv, CONVERGESolv, and on and on. You name it, Synnex will Solv it.
The sheer scale of the event is indicative of the gusto Synnex brings to market, and it seems poised for growth. This is a literal as well as figurative notion. Five years ago, the Synnex’s National Conference Solutions Pavilion exhibit area covered 18,000 square feet, but this year, it measured 80,000 square feet. For every Solv there was a pavilion, and in the back of the hall was Bosch’s gigantic new mobile demo room filled with surveillance products and a bit of audio gear.
We all know that IT is a gigantic industry, and Synnex is a formidable contender in that market, making seven acquisitions in the past five years, including the most recent addition of IBM’s CRM BPO business, which puts the distributor solidly in the worldwide top ten for that provision. On the Pro AV side, Synnex announced at National Conference that it has been selected by Four Winds Interactive as its exclusive distributor of digital signage solutions in the U.S. and Canada via its VISUALSolv group.
For resellers this expansion means more capital investment in Synnex’s distribution core as well as new areas of intrigue like social media analytics and “powerful drivers in today’s market,” asserted president and CEO Kevin Murai in his opening address, “including the cloud, mobility, data centers, and connected homes.”
Observing that the overall economy appears better today than one year ago, “and hopefully you’re seeing that,” Murai stated the Synnex was experiencing double-digit growth across all of its dedicated business segments. Notably, Murai said that Synnex has not seen a decline in commercial PC sales, despite the tablet invasion.
The tablet is of course a marvelous entry point into new verticals, as was indicated by Art Rankin, senior director of displays and projectors for Panasonic during Synnex’s Vendor Executive Panel. AV resellers should look at partnering with new vendors to best capitalize on the potential the tablet brings. Another boon to business is what Rankin called “content as service”—whereby content creators post material online for widespread use. He also pointed to double-digit growth in the first quarter of Panasonic’s fiscal year.
When viewed through the IT channel lens, it’s easy to feel positive about growth opportunities in AV. Tablets translate to mobility, which is just at the very beginning of its growth curve, according to Adnon Dow, Synnex’s VP of mobility solutions, who came to Synnex after nearly two decades working in the IT communications space. “Mobility has huge potential, and that’s what we as a company are investing in,” he elaborated. “The areas where the biggest growth is going to be are in mobilizing the enterprise, enabling personnel to be able to access documents from anywhere. The biggest assets of any company are their humans and their information, and enabling those humans to become more productive has tremendous potential.”
Digital signage is another growth area, according to Dow, and there, “AV integrators have a head start on a lot of the IT integrators because they’re already dealing with audio and video.” The next step is evolutionary: “Instead of selling just that visual terminal, take it one step further and increase revenue for the customer by installing something which helps facilitate marketing. Lead with a service, rather than a product.”
This is an ethos adopted by Synnex itself, not just its resellers. Dow and other Synnex executives spoke enthusiastically about the move away from the traditional “pick, pack, and ship” model to one with the intention to “connect, move, and control.” The conversation is more about end-to-end solutions, he said. “Connect, move, and control enables our ecosystem to help build revenue streams and be faster to market, really providing a true service infrastructure to sustain growth.”
The “convergence” point of flair on Synnex badges should glow extra bright here, because its depiction of many swirling arrows flowing into one point is pretty relevant. It’s looking like IT and AV are going to coexist in a perfect amalgam of talent and necessity. “IT partners, their AV practice is casual,” observed TJ Trojan, SVP of Synnex. “What they don’t understand is design. Now as everything is moving to IP, AV guys are starting to gain that understanding, and IT guys don’t understand how to design a classroom, or boardroom, or command or control. That’s where IT really needs AV.”
Next up on the convergence agenda is the cloud, of course, “The market is changing so exponentially,” Trojan added. “But resellers are finding that the move to the cloud is not as difficult as they thought. For AV integrators, it’s really getting over the fear. Synnex provides the training and support to show them how to leverage the cloud. We’ll do all the heavy lifting for you.”
Synnex predicts growth not just in the shiny new opportunities of cloud and mobility, but also in the foundational verticals of government and education. Eddie Franklin, VP of public sector and vertical markets for Synnex, said that 2013 offered a pleasant surprise in that the education market, specifically K-12, was up substantially. “We saw a lot of states investing heavily in K-12,” he noted, adding that Common Core requirements put in place in 46 out of 50 states are prompting the adoption of new technologies.
Franklin also saw very strong growth at the federal year end, with “a lot of activity and a lot of spend, despite the sequester and the issues we’ve had all year, there was good activity at the end of the year. One way the government is driving costs down is through technology.”
And the glitter of public sector projects can’t be celebrated without some talk of healthcare, which also exhibited plenty of gusto with the implementation of Electronic Medical Records (EMR). “I think you’ll see healthcare IT spend up in the 9-10 percent range,” Franklin said. “There’s a lot of opportunity there, with long-term care and assisted living, managed care, and managing chronic diseases through remote computing in the home.” Video, too, is a tremendous part of remote medicine, he added. “It’s going to be a big opportunity for AV integrators because they already understand video. It’s a very sophisticated implementation. Right now I think they would have the advantage over an IT integrator.”
So there you have it, AV friends, you already have all the points of flair that you’ll need to get ahead in business. So where those badges with honor, and get ready to answer questions posed by IT buyers looking for your expertise.