‘Value for money is paramount for education buyers’ – Tech Data’s Cathi Low

PCR interviews Tech Data’s director of public sector and SMB, Cathi Low, on increasing demand for back-to-school products, the skills gap and how value for money is key for education buyers.

How is the back to school market changing and what should resellers be aware of?

Resellers need to keep up to date with the key technology trends for the sector in the coming year, these include interactivity and collaboration, 2-in-1s and client devices for enhanced access and mobility, desktop and space saving, and faster, more reliable wireless infrastructure.

There’s also cloud and subscription-based services, 3D printing and the move to ‘makerspaces’, wearables, virtual and augmented reality, the flipped classroom and online learning, and analytics and personalised learning.

They can’t of course, be expected to address all of these areas in depth, so they will need to chose what to market and sell and who they are selling to.

Some of these technologies, such as 2-in-1s and WiFi for example, have a broad relevance, while others – ‘makerspaces’ and the flipped classroom are specific to education. Just being aware of the key trends and themes around technology adoption in education will really help resellers to open up meaningful dialogue with schools and colleges.

What kind of services does Tech Data provide in this area?

Tech Data strives to be the distributor of choice for resellers selling into the education sector. We support resellers with knowledge share, resources and access to special pricing in order to help them grow in this changing ICT marketplace.

Tech Data’s Public Sector microsite is a central hub for resellers to access our free-to-use tools such as the marketing portal and virtual environments. We have just launched our Focus on Education guide which is full of industry insights and our leading education vendors’ products and offers.

We also run a free-of-charge quarterly tendering workshop for resellers to attend. The next one is at The Belfry, West Midlands on July 14th, and resellers can register via the events page on our microsite.

A lot of schools have tight budgets. What are the challenges for resellers here and how can they get new business in this space?

Value for money is paramount for education buyers. Resellers are faced with the same challenge every day – finding solutions to propose that will be both technically robust and efficient from a cost perspective.

Tech Data ensures that public sector discounts, which generally range from five per cent to eight per cent, are highly accessible, both on our microsite – where resellers can find full details, by technology and by vendor – and in many cases at the point of order on our InTouch website as well. We work closely with our supplier partners to make sure appropriate offers are available for education.

Our Public Sector tendering workshops cover specific techniques for approaching education, sourcing tenders and responding to opportunities with value for money in mind. They can be a great help to resellers that have little experience selling to education.

"Tech Data strives to be the distributor of choice for resellers selling into the education sector. We support resellers with knowledge share, resources and access to special pricing in order to help them grow in this changing ICT marketplace."

Some companies have reported a rise in demand for convertible PCs, small form factor systems and higher-end workstations from schools. Is Tech Data also seeing this? 

Yes, we are seeing an increasing demand for new form factors, especially from leading vendors such as Dell, Google, HP Inc and Microsoft. There is also an increasing demand for enterprise-class solutions, PC components and accessories, such as memory, storage and security devices, and cloud licensing.

We’re also seeing a lot of interest in 3D printing and recently added Polaroid to our vendor portfolio and we have a fast-growing pipeline here.

Tech Data has just offered additional credit for resellers over the back to school period. Why have you done this and will it help resellers be more ambitious this summer?

We’ve seen a really positive response to our additional investment in driving reseller growth and opportunity by providing additional credit. It is making a real difference for many businesses.

Ram Gupta, MD of Blackburn-based reseller Nybble, said it was a very positive move and really helped them. 

Only a few days after being given the extended credit facility, Nybble took an order for 40 laptops and two charging trolleys from a local primary school worth more than £45,000. The extended facilities are also helping Nybble to manage cashflow.

What are your thoughts on the IT skill gap and the importance of resellers helping provide the right IT equipment to inspire the next generation?

The skill gap and interest in IT remains a challenge for our whole industry, and we see many events, resources and programmes to assist both resellers and the schools directly. These range from groups such as STEMNET and Stemettes, providing resources and ideas to inspire children in science, technology, education and maths; to programmes such as BBC Micro:bitin education, and ICT events, such as BETT, where practical solutions and guidance are offered in workshops.

In the last 12 weeks, Tech Data has been delivering a regional tour of the Microsoft Showcase Classroom to help resellers understand the solutions available, and ensure that they are also aware of how they can utilise the resources and skills of both Tech Data and our vendor partners, to help teachers and the education sector directly.

PCR’s Sector Spotlight on Education – in association with Tech Data – is running throughout July 2016 – click here for more articles

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