Dion Smith, head of channels, EMEA, Zoom, talks to Comms Business about how the Channel is at the heart of the company’s future.

Dion Smith was appointed head of channels in EMEA at Zoom back in February 2022. He has been in the channel for 30 years and has deep experience in building and transforming vendor channels, whether inheriting an existing channel and transforming it or in building a new channel or go to market stream.

Smith explained how Zoom has changed its business model to centre on the Channel. He said, “Zoom was built as a direct sales organisation. For its first ten years or so, Zoom only sold to the market directly, but it had an aspiration to build an ecosystem to be able to access verticals, industries, markets, that you only have access to via a channel ecosystem.”

The company has made progress in meeting those aspirations. Smith said, “When I joined the business, about 18 months ago, around 14 per cent of our revenues across EMEA were via the partner ecosystem that we had at that time. That partner ecosystem wasn’t deliberate, it had just been born out of client demand, versus being specifically designed. So, when I came in, I set a mantra that, inside four years, we want to get greater than 80 per cent of our revenues via the Channel.

“I’m super excited to say that 18 months in, we’re now north of 40 per cent on that journey. From reestablishing distribution relationships, reseller relationships, as well as with AV, SI, and GSI partners, we’ve started to mature that ecosystem across EMEA.”

Supersizing outcomes

Zoom is clear the Channel is the way to develop the future of its business. Smith explained, “The channel is a force multiplier. It gives you significant depth and reach over what can be achieved with a direct sales model.”

The Channel, Smith explained, can also add services to the Zoom product portfolio. He said, “We’re not going to build a global services organisation. We want our partners to be able to educate, enable and certify themselves on Zoom, and then be that delivery partner for us. Those services could range from providing configuration all the way through to ongoing management. We want our partners to be able to enjoy the benefits of engaging in that way with their customers.”

Channel kingmakers

When asked about his experience navigating the nuances of the channel here in the UK alongside a global partner organisation, Smith explained many UK channel companies are specialists and that called for a partner programme that enables those organisations to focus on their expertise, whilst also offering the right support for partners that want to offer Zoom’s full portfolio.

He said, “In these last 18 months the innovation that we’ve had as an organisation has moved us into places like Zoom Phone, Zoom Contact Center, and AI. As we’ve evolved and grown, that means we need diversification in our partner ecosystem as well.

“There are certain partners that are able to position the platform as a whole to help businesses understand how the Zoom platform can affect employee productivity and employee culture. But there are many partners here in the UK market, specifically, that are specialists within certain disciplines. They might be an events builder, or they might be a phone operator or contact centre builder.

“For me, the real excitement over these last 12 months has been to be able to identify who are the different kingmakers within the channel. Those partners will be the enablers for us to be able to access those markets.”

Smith pointed to a new strategic agreement with TalkTalk Wholesale Services as one of those enablers. TalkTalk will offer its partners Zoom’s meeting, chat, phone, contact centre, webinar, and online event solutions. Smith described TalkTalk as “a backbone for businesses in the UK”.

He added, “They have an extensive network of over 1,200 MSPs and CSPs across the UK and Ireland. By partnering with them, we can access all of the diversification of their ecosystem as well.”

Deliberate design

Looking ahead to the rest of 2024, Smith explained the company has laid the foundations and can now begin building. He said, “We have spent a lot of time being very deliberate in the design of our ecosystem across EMEA. Now that we’ve defined that, it’s all about building the capabilities within that ecosystem. What I want is the deepest and richest capabilities for unified communications sitting within the ecosystem on Zoom.

“We’ve got a relentless focus right now on: raising the accreditations, raising the certifications, and raising the competency levels of our partners. Ultimately, we want partners to be able to deliver the best experience possible to their clients on Zoom.”

Smith emphasised Zoom is still on a journey with the Channel, and is open to adapting its offering for partners. He said, “It’s really important that we’re listening and we’re taking ongoing feedback from partners so that we can adjust to ensure that we’re delivering a powerful partner programme that is motivational for them to want to lead with Zoom.”

This interview appeared in our January 2024 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.