Channel Chief: Lars Schmermbeck, Senior Director, Channel Sales EMEA, Zebra Technologies

Channel Chief: Lars Schmermbeck, Senior Director, Channel Sales EMEA, Zebra Technologies

Lars Schmermbeck, Senior Director, Channel Sales EMEA, Zebra Technologies, a US-based technology vendor that manufactures and sells mobile computing, scanning and computer printing technologies. Schmermbeck talks about his currently role and how Zebra Technologies is working with partners to develop the EMEA channel that it grows profitably.

Describe your current job role and the parts that are somewhat challenging?

As the responsible senior director for Zebra’s EMEA Channel sales, I have two main focus areas: creating and developing an ecosystem for our partners to grow and to be profitable in an environment of transparency and collaborative relationships.

I also support our partners in a changing world and helping them to be ready for added value business areas, including solutions, software and new verticals. In parallel, Zebra supports continuing mutual growth in its, printing, mobile computing and scanning business areas.

Can you explain how your company works with channel partners?

Zebra’s channel engagement and collaboration is one that is part of a larger partner ecosystem comprising multiple partner communities with different business models that allows us to reach our customers. As in all ecosystems, the key to harmony is balance: our partners believe in Zebra’s offerings, invest themselves in sales and receive a competitive return on their investments.

Zebra’s PartnerConnect programme is focused on opportunity, profitability and simplicity for channel partners and has been designed to accomplish three strategic goals:

  • Encourage and enable sales across the entire product and services portfolio
  • Reward and support partners differently based on their business model and growth strategy
  • Develop new, profitable revenue streams around intelligent edge solutions

Our channel partner relationships are ultimately about meeting customers’ needs and providing them with the added value they seek.

How do you ensure channel partners flourish in a highly competitive market?

Zebra’s PartnerConnect channel programme is constantly evolving. The creation of new tracks varies to adapt its programme to the regional needs and market maturity. For example, two partner programme specialisations in RFID and healthcare were developed by Zebra in 2020, giving opportunities to our partners to differentiate themselves. Zebra works in close collaboration with distributors at regional and local level. In addition, our independent software vendor (ISV) community has an important role to play in Zebra’s partner ecosystem and through Zebra’s developer portal, ISVs can access software development tools and resources. By joining forces, vendors and partners can achieve far more than they can separately.

What are the latest trends you see emerging across the channel? 

Experience shows that channel partners that have best been able to withstand COVID-19 have been those that have responded swiftly and adequately to the evolving situation. For example, Zebra has been focusing on communications to maintain our partner relationships, shifting from face-to-face meetings to virtual experiences, including training. By quickly and seamlessly shifting to a virtual format for partner training, events and communication, it has been easier to sustain a strong channel programme to the benefit of partners and customers.

Disruptive events, whether natural, digital, economic, public health or any other, are a given. Organisations alike must be sufficiently prepared to adapt business activities so when disaster strikes, they can effectively help partners to adapt their businesses to develop and add value to customers. In this regard, Zebra’s channel programme is constantly evolving. COVID-19 has provided an opportunity for vendors such as Zebra and partners to test the resilience of the channel ecosystem as everyone pivoted to a working from home (WFM) model.

What is your management philosophy?

My focus is based on a strategic leadership philosophy which gives the team a clear direction of their roles and responsibilities to produce maximum efficiency. It is also key for me to have a democratic and inclusive team approach. Coming back to what I said earlier, we are in a changing world and transformation in a successful future is also very important and demands a high level of team effort and engagement.

When you look back at your career, what has been the most memorable achievements?

I look back to a lot of interesting and memorable achievements such as major projects won, I grew an alliance from scratch and built a strong partner landscape. But the most memorable achievement was a successful transition to Zebra’s new distribution structure, with an optimised geographical coverage and positive changes in how to engage.

What do you think will be the hot technology talking point of 2021?

While the COVID-19 pandemic has strained operations across various industries and will continue to do so this year, it has also been a catalyst to accelerate key technology developments that can help companies succeed in 2021 and beyond. The ability to integrate new technology solutions to maintain operations and profitability, as well as optimise workflows to support continual peak demand and supply chain disruption is and will continue to be key.

The top three technologies that will influence or disrupt our industry in 2021 are computer and machine vision, intelligent automation including robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and prescriptive analytics.

All three of these technology areas relate and depend on one another to realise value. Companies can visualise their operations better through both real-time data e.g., computer vision, as well as source system data e.g., enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. They can turn that enhanced visibility into intelligence to drive automated decisions to the front line, enabling them to take better actions resulting from the combined value of these technologies.

What are your personal interests and where do you like to spend most of your time after work?

First of all, I’m a family guy and I absolute enjoy spending my time after work with my wife and kids. I practice a lot of sports such as mountain biking, running and having long walks with the dog to get a clear brain. Before the pandemic we enjoyed travelling and I’m looking forward to getting back to a kind of normal – travelling around, meeting people and enjoying time together.

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