Graeme Gleave is a classic `global citizen' who would be comfortable filling this role in almost any country. He speaks with a soft unabrasive Scottish accent - `Scotland originally but I've lived in London for quite a while' - and has an earnest yet warm style as he talks about the work he obviously enjoys.
Gleave is director of channels for Hitachi Data Systems Australia and New Zealand. He is responsible for launching Hitachi Data Systems' indirect channels of distribution, including developing strategic partnerships with VARs, OEMs and system integrators.
He is somewhat guarded about discussing - or even revealing - the names of HDS' channel partners at this stage. `We've signed a value-added distributor in New Zealand, Sealcorp, and we expect to be making some announcements in Australia very soon,' he said.
But the online storage area networking business is becoming a very hot kitchen, and Gleave understands the sensitivity and significance of partnerships in such an environment. For HDS, a company that has hitherto blissfully gone about carving a living out of the big iron environment without the need to build the sorts of business relationships that characterise a partner-focused organisation, it has become necessary to undergo a transformation.
That transformation is encapsulated by HDS' Channel One program. Gleave said that Channel One is designed to make it easier for VARs and authorised distributors to do business with Hitachi Data Systems. `We want to make it easier for our partners to meet the fast-growing demand from our customers for enterprise storage and SAN solutions,' he said.
`It provides the resources that VARs need to increase sales and customer satisfaction.'
Through the channel strategy, Gleave explained that HDS is complementing its existing S/390 and OEM solutions sales strategies and expanding its capabilities in the high-end NT and mid-range UNIX space.
Gleave's appointment to HDS followed a channel-oriented sales career, including a brief stint as sales director at Filenet and five years in the Digital channels team (Australia and the UK). Before that he was the national marketing and sales manager for the Olivetti LSX Unix server product where he was responsible for maintaining the channel and direct sales.
But for now, his passion is for storage. His attitude is summarised by the belief that there is no point having data stored if it can't be accessed - and maintained - online.
According to Gleave, HDS will soon formalise its Australian channel structure by the appointment of two value-added distribution partners to cover the system integrators as well as two or three direct-dealing national value-adding resellers.
`It is a radical step for Hitachi Data Systems and a large part of the process has been considering the style of business partners we want to work with,' Gleave said.
`The national resellers will focus on our storage area networks and business intelligence area. This is the area of our business that is recording 50 per cent compound growth per year, and there is a lot of value-add that resellers can bring to that part of the market.'
He is keen to point to the channel credentials of the global channel team that HDS is assembling, headed up by Ron Gervanack, vice president of channels worldwide.
Also providing grunt to HDS' channels push is former HP worldwide channels boss Clark Straw.
In talking about the channel strategy, Gleave described a principle of true mutual benefit as he spoke of the channel partners he is soon to reveal. And along with the credentials of the channel team, he was generous in his praise of what the channel partners will bring to the business.
`When I sit down with a business partner, it would be very easy to say, 'Hey there's an opportunity in the storage market and storage area networking . . . Let's give it a go.' That's nice but it's a genuine and costly commitment, so it's from a business footing that I look at it. I need to bring the partner to the point where the storage business we do is making them successful.'
At a time when many vendors are at least reviewing - if not rationalising or eliminating altogether - their channel partnerships, the irony of being a long-time direct vendor is not lost on Gleave. `This is the right thing for us to do in our business segment at this time,' Gleave asserted.
`The thing that excites me about this market is the dynamism of it. We are very quick to adapt to change in this region [Australia and New Zealand],' he said.
`This is a great thing, though for some it can be a great frustration. We're all looking for the holy grail of incremental revenues,' he added.
This gently spoken Scottish-bred IT executive says he looks at what is needed for the required investment - in dollars and other resources.
`If by working with a business partner I can help them overachieve, we both benefit and the investment is worth it,' he concluded.
But the Scots don't have a reputation for financial prudence for nothing