Lenovo’s new Americas president talks shop

It’s now been six months since Scott Di Valerio, president of Lenovo Americas and senior vice-president of Lenovo Group, joined the company after departing from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).

Previously, Di Valerio held the position of corporate vice-president of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) division at Microsoft which saw him work with OEMs around the world including Lenovo, the Beijing -based PC manufacturer.

CDN recently had the chance to speak with Di Valerio to discuss the company’s Canadian leadership situation, its new products, the importance of its channel partners, and his overall vision and strategy for the company moving forward.

CDN: Why did you decide to join Lenovo and how do you think working with Microsoft and its partners will help you in your new role?

Scott Di Valerio: In my role as corporate vice-president for worldwide OEM at Microsoft, I had the exposure by working with OEMs around the world. I worked closely with Lenovo and had great insight into that company. When (Lenovo) asked if I was interested in joining their company, I thought it was a good opportunity because I liked their product roadmap and the idea of launching new products around the world. The offer was very enticing and with the management team and product road map at Lenovo, I felt it was a great opportunity.

CDN: After Murray Wright the former president of Lenovo Canada, left the company in 2006 to become the senior vice-president of U.S. sales at Tech Data, Peter Mockler took over as the executive director for Lenovo Canada shortly after. Can you outline what both your and Mockler’s responsibilities include?

S.D.V.: I’m president of the Americas which means I have the overall responsibility for Canada, U.S. and Latin America. Peter is responsible for the Canadian organization, for driving sales in Canada and being the face of Canada. Peter also works very closely with me on driving overall business for the Americas.

CDN: Why hasn’t Lenovo yet found a replacement for Wright as Lenovo Canada president?

S.D.V.: There’s no one with that title in Canada. Peter is really the face for Lenovo in Canada and he’s the key contact there. What we’ve done is we’ve structured the organization in such a way that we think is most efficient and effective. I believe Peter is doing a good job in that role already.

CDN: Are you concerned that this gap or lack of a Canadian president has had an impact on the relationship Lenovo has built with its Canadian channel?

S.D.V.: I don’t believe it has. With our team here in Canada, we’re the number one PC manufacturer in the large enterprise market. The team has been growing quite well and delivering the Lenovo experience to our customers in Canada. They have a good understanding of how to drive that business. But I think there are always ways to improve whether it’s with the supply chain, listening, or working with our customers. The team so far has been performing and growing quite well.

CDN: What are your thoughts on companies removing their worldwide channel chief positions, and do you think this is an effective way to help cut costs, or do you think it creates a level of uncertainty for partners and customers?

S.D.V.: This is something that’s hard for me to comment on because it’s what other companies are doing. From Lenovo’s standpoint though, we make sure we have a clear message out to our partners that’s built on trust. Here’s the set of customers that will be direct-Lenovo led, and here are some partner-led customers to help grow both sides of the business. We’ve structured our organization in order to deliver a great Lenovo experience to end customers and to be strong and long business partners with the channel and our customers.

CDN: What are your short-term plans and goals for the Americas this year, and also for the long-term?

S.D.V.: In January of this year we launched our IdeaPad brand of consumer products and we’re bringing them to Canada at end of this year. We’re focused on driving our consumer products and our overall business. We’ll continue to drive in the large enterprise space, where we do quite well in already, and we’ll continue to expand in the mid-market and further grow and satisfy the SMBs.

CDN: What product solution areas do you see getting the most traction in for the U.S. and Canada, and what are some areas channel partners should look at getting into?

S.D.V.: One of the products we recently launched was the X300 ThinkPad notebook and we’ve been getting great reviews and incredible demand for it so far. We also have our desktop products that are environmentally conscious and we have our EPEAT gold status monitors and PCs that run on lower power. As companies become more environmentally conscious, partners can bring value to those corporations. I don’t believe we’ve harvested all of the opportunities that are there yet for these products.

CDN: What’s your strategy for maintaining and growing your customer, partner and market presence in North America?

S.D.V.: By bringing out great products that address customer needs and layering them in with our services and supply chain. We have to continue to drive our mid-market, large and upper mid-market business focus in order to grow our overall business. Our partners are critical for us here in Canada and the U.S. As I look in Canada, SMBs are growing faster and bringing value there is key for our channel partners.

CDN: Since the Lenovo IdeaPad series of computers compete with other ultra-portable computers in the market, why is the price for them significantly higher than those of your competitors?

S.D.V.: The IdeaPad U110 is an ultra mobile computer that’s unique and has differentiating features. From the casing to the design and detail to the VeriFace (face recognition software) technology, to the Dolby home surround sound functionality, there’s a tremendous amount of features and value packed in. This is targeted for the folks that travel and want something stylish and something that’s of high quality and is functional. We’re pleased with the results and customer feedback that we’ve been getting so far with it.

CDN: Are you at all worried about the economic state of the U.S. and/or worried that that will also be reflected in Canada?

S.D.V.: The U.S. economy’s position is documented and talked about on a daily basis, and it’s a market that’s growing at rates that aren’t as fast as they were before. What we’re doing is continuing to solidify on our partnerships and monitoring that. We’re not seeing any of this trickling into Canada yet, but as the world becomes more global, then I’m sure we’ll start to see the effects.

CDN: What are some of the new products coming down the pipeline for Lenovo?

S.D.V.: We have a number of interesting products coming out around the ThinkPad brand in the next several months. They’ll be sleeker, more lightweight and there will be more functionality with them. We’ll continue to look for ways to innovate by bringing out great products that Lenovo is known for in the market.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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