When Felise Katz co-founded PKA Technologies 24 years ago she was determined to provide high level consulting for midmarket customers whose information technology issues were largely being ignored by IT behemoths.
“I was a frustrated end user,” said Katz, CEO of the SP500 powerhouse which has been a perennial CRN Triple Crown Award Winner. “It was very disheartening and uninspiring because the focus from the OEMs was on what they could sell rather than helping customers be successful. We knew we could do better. That is how we got started. It was a passion for listening to customers that led to PKA.”
That “passion for listening” to customers continues to fuel PKA, which is experiencing robust double digit sales growth with a focus on innovative solutions leveraging cutting edge emerging technologies in the areas of security, IT consumption and artificial intelligence.
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PKA Vice President of Sales Paul Cohen (pictured below), a 25-year tech sales veteran, says the company’s “Listen, Engage, Apply” consulting methodology is driving a high level business outcome focused relationship with executives in every part of the organization from IT executives to business unit leaders to CEO and CFO’s.
“It’s been really fruitful,” Cohen says of the razor sharp consulting focus of the PKA sales and engineering team. “We have been engaging at higher levels and we are driving deeper into the organization. We have a number of accounts where we’re penetrating every area of the organization because of our listening driven consulting approach.”
A key part of the PKA consulting model is tailoring the listening model and the “line of questioning” to each layer of the organization, said Cohen. “We are doing a really good job of asking the right questions depending on who we are talking to,” he said. “Once you understand that it is a much more impactful process.”
One of the keys to PKA’s success with the “Listen, Engage, Apply” methodology is pulling together every level of the organization in pursuit of driving business gains, said Cohen. “What we are finding is because we are asking the right questions we are bringing the right approach to each customer engagement,” Cohen said.
The PKA sales consulting methodology, in fact, is powering rapid business outcomes that is opening the door to deeper customer relationships, said Cohen. “It’s a land and expand model that is leading to larger wins,” he said. “The credit for that success is a tribute to the entire PKA organization which has embraced the PKA customer first, customer last model.”
Katz says the consulting methodology has built strong ties with business units that are leveraging emerging technology to drive sales growth. “We are hearing directly from the lines of business and finding out what the real issues are for them,” she said. “That has shortened the sales cycle because we know first hand what the problem is so we can develop the solution to address it.”
On the security front, PKA has gone on the offensive bringing its “Listen, Engage, Apply” methodology to identify points of failure and recommend changes necessary to lock down the IT environment.
“We’ve been very successful in using our consultative approach to figure out what customers need to do differently so that their CSOs (Chief Security Officers) can rest easier at night with a secure hardware, software and networking environment,” said Katz. “We listen, We assess. We determine what is going on and then go holistically into the environment. It’s not just firmware and patches. It is looking holistically at the environment and understanding what needs to be changed.”
One of the secrets to PKA’s success is the customized approach to each and very customer engagement, said Katz.”There is not a silver bullet that fixes everything,” she says. “Every customer environment is different. We go wide and deep into every customer engagement to see what the issues are.”
Another areas where PKA has been successful delivering game changing solutions is with consumption based IT solutions that are bringing digital transformation to midmarket customers overwhelmed by the blinding pace of technology. “The market is moving so rapidly and so fast that customers don’t have the personnel to keep up,” said Katz. “Things are changing so fast that the weakest link is people. It is moving at such a rapid rate that it is hard for anybody to keep track of the changes on a daily basis. Customers are embracing the as a service model and we are becoming an MSP. It is a tremendous shift in the market.”
The consumption model is delivering breakthrough hybrid cloud solutions that are allowing customers to focus on their core business rather than IT issues, said Katz. “What is happening is its opening the door for customers to be more competitive,” she said. “It’s all about digital transformation, modernizing their applications and IT environments. The as a service model is allowing people to focus on their business without having to worry about the people issues and the security issues. “
The consumption model is also being powered by big breakthroughs in artificial intelligence which is delivering business insights that were previously out of reach for midmarket customers, said Katz. “With AI we are really able to take customers to another level,” she said.”If you are not using AI, you will never be able to harness and monetize all the nuggets of information that are buried in your organization.”
AI is also eliminating infrastructure failures that have been a perennial problem in the IT industry, said Katz. “AI is being used to eliminate potential hardware failures, security breaches,” she said. “It is mitigating business risks. We never had tools like this before. It’s a game changer.”
PKA’s strong relationship with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Aruba, a division of HPE, is powering the AI, security and as a service revolution, said Cohen. “HPE and Aruba are helping us evolve and lead our customers to the promised land,” he said.
PKA’s 2020 sales kickoff earlier this year featured HPE US Sales Eastern Vice President and General Manager Terry Richardson and Aruba Senior Vice President of Americas Sales Lou Serlenga.
Richardson said he sees PKA – an original HPE Platinum partner- as one of the elite solution providers that continues to drive game changing solutions for customers.
“I continue to be impressed with Felise Katz’s leadership and the accomplishments of PKA,” said Richardson. “It’s great to see Felise getting industry wide recognition. She is one of the pioneering women in technology. You’ve got to give her a lot of credit. Felise has built a great business. PKA has been a terrific partner for HPE for 24 years and continues to make the investments necessary to change with the times to ensure PKA can deliver compelling solutions for our mutual customers.”
Richardson’s message to the PKA sales team: now is the “right time” to double down on HPE with big innovation from the edge with Aruba, next generation intelligent data platforms with HPE Primera and containers and the everything as a service breakthroughs with GreenLake.
Richardson reinforced HPE’s partner first strategy and emphasized the company’s focus on teaming with a wide range of companies to drive solutions including Cohesity, Veeam,Qumulo, Datera, WeckIO.
Richardson credited PKA with driving innovative security solutions leveraging HPE and Aruba’s world class security offerings. Marsh & McLennan, the global leader in cyber-security insurance, has singled out HPE’s Gen 10 with its Silicon Root of Trust as the only server certified for its Cyber-Catalyst cyber-insurance designation. What’s more, Marsh & McLennan have singled out the Aruba Policy Enforcement Firewall.
“I really want to thank PKA for the long time partnership,” said Richardson. “We have celebrated a lot of new logo wins. Their revenue growth continues to be impressive. They over-indexed the partner community growing high double digits year over year. When you combine Aruba and Pointnext their growth was triple digits.”
Aruba’s Serlenga said he sees PKA as one of the leaders in the emerging edge computing solutions market. “PKA made a big investment in the edge and got their team enabled on Aruba and had hyper-growth with us in 2019,” he said. “They doubled their Aruba business in 2019 and we want to see them double their business again in 2020. We want the edge to be an eight figure business for them.”
Serlenga’s call to action for the PKA sales team is to embrace the big Aruba breakthroughs including the AI powered Aruba Central platform and Aruba’s new CX switches and its AOS-CX operating system. “That is a common next generation OS and hardware from the closet to the distribution center to the core to the data center to the top of rack,” he said. “No one else has that…We are the only vendor. That is access,core, data center with a single operating model and next generation hardware.”
Serlenga sees PKA emerging as an as an edge computing and an as a service leader. “Felise is pushing us with GreenLake,” he said. “She is making us better because she is selling GreenLake as an early adopter. That is a big example of PKA’s thought leadership.”
Serlenga sees everything as a service creating big value for customers with a complete as a service offering from the edge to the data center. “I believe we are going to blow it out this year with PKA,” he said. “We are planning on big growth as a whole and with PKA.”
Katz agrees the opportunity ahead is “huge” for PKA as it continues to evolve to meet the needs of its customers. “We have evolved multiple times over the last 24 years,” she says.”If you don’t change you are stagnant and you go backwards.”
One thing that won’t change, says Katz, is PKA’s fiery passion for listening to customers with a focus on high level consulting services. “God gave us two ears and only one mouth so the importance of listening is twice as important as talking,” she says. “We can talk all day and night, but if we are not listening to our customers we will never get anywhere.”