Of course ‘channel’ means different things to different people. Grouping distributors, resellers, dealers, business partners etc. etc. into one term is somewhat unfair – but generalisation for the purposes of this post is practical.
Take the Cloud. What impact is this having and will it have on the channel? Widely varying analyst estimates on Cloud-uptake and feedback from customers, the supplier community and channel reflect significant variance on its immediate and long term impact on the IT landscape. Moving beyond any hype to focus on practical planning, this uncertainty creates challenges in supplier channel programs and importantly the investments that channel partners are prepared to underwrite to support change.
I for one believe that the Cloud era heralds significant change in the IT industry….and in the dynamics of its supply chain. The question is not ‘if’, but ‘how much’ and ‘when’. Discussions with software and hardware companies reflect widely varying sentiments on what and how to deliver; moreover fear (of reducing margins), uncertainty (of product and supplier intentions) and doubt (of customer take-up) are amongst the issues that constrain many partners’ deeper involvement in Cloud opportunities.
When one looks at the dynamics between (successful) IT suppliers and their (again, successful) channels there exists an equilibrium. This is a balance of needs and objectives on both sides. The resulting ‘team’ combines the best attributes of both parties, focused on common objectives, and this synergy helps to define the success of both supplier and partner alike.
As the Cloud era develops, those looking to take advantage of the new user paradigm, both suppliers and channels alike, will need to change. Change, coordinated in concert between supplier and channel, will help to deliver revenue and profit (growth), both from current business and new opportunities. In addition it will help to perpetuate loyalty with both partner and end-user communities.
When suppliers and channel partners ask me (on Cloud topics) “Where to now the channel”, the first thing I ask them is “what does your supplier/channel have to say on the topic”. More often than not, unfortunately, the answer isn’t as precise as one would hope to hear.