Friday, May 11, 2012
“No single company has a monopoly on good ideas.” That’s a common phrase within the HTG Peer Group community, espoused in almost every facet of the organization, including its members and the numerous activities they participate in. The expression signifies the vast knowledge and ingenuity resources that each of their 25 teams can leverage to improve the success of their collective businesses. While peer group members do share information on the latest technology opportunities, the key value proposition from these communities is in the leadership and management skills that participants can gain from like-minded IT professionals.
One of the most underused commodities in the channel is experience, but a few groups are working hard to change that. HTG and CompTIA (with its collaborative communities
) are just two examples of organizations that effectively harness the skills and knowledge of their members. While these IT business-centric communities aren’t new to the channel, their importance has grown with the increased complexity of the indirect model.
Ingram Micro’s VentureTech Network
(VTN) and Tech Data’s Tech Select
were launched when the traditional reseller business was in full swing, and their membership value continued to grow with the advent of managed services, the cloud and other delivery methods. The demand (and need) for additional mentoring and collaboration activities grows as quickly as the complexity of channel businesses, and a number of organizations stepped up to deliver new options. SYNNEX’s Varnex
, Taylor Business Group’s Business Improvement Groups
, Service Leadership’s Index Groups
, and 4-Profit’s Vendor Focused Peer Groups
have all gained a viable channel audience over the past few years—with a variety of other similarly-focused organizations surely missing from this list.Comprehensive Peer Support
The HTG group meetings cover a number of topics that would seem out of place at most IT business conferences. As Joe Panettieri shared in MSPmentor
, this week’s community meetings in Dallas included a “spouse track,” designed to help those members trying to improve their life/work balance as a part of their overall professional success. As founder Arlin Sorenson expressed in an email to Panettieri, “HTG is about far more than helping your EBITDA grow. If we do that, but allow your family or marriage to disintegrate, we have failed in our mission.”
While some solution providers may be reluctant to freely share details of their personal relationships, the fact that HTG offers this option validates the value that a “balanced life” in professional development. As with most collaborative communities, members drive the curriculum and often suggest and develop new training and discussion sessions based on their experience and success. Their understanding and beliefs concerning what it takes to thrive as a solution provider surely lead to some creative discussions, and HTG members aren’t afraid to take on the non-traditional topics (such as the spouse track).
Many IT professionals encounter the same issues, have the same questions and face the same problems. That’s the basis for peer communities and allows the sponsoring organizations to create forums that allow the greatest collaboration. In HTG’s case, their groups (currently 25 communities) include 10-12 solution provider executives who meet on a quarterly basis. The teams are structured to create a non-competitive environment, where members can freely discuss specific company issues and set goals in a collaborative manner.
The HTG Peer Group model doesn’t meet the needs of every solution provider, but it does provide a tremendous value to those who do. The level of personal and time commitments vary between different collaborative communities and a number of business and individual factors need to be considered when selecting a group that meets your company’s needs, including:
- Number of employees,
- Business model (traditional VAR, MSP, cloud provider, etc.),
- Markets or specialties,
- Executive or management structure,
- Ability (or willingness) to share financial information,
- Time and participation requirements and
- Specific business issues.
While some solution providers may be uncomfortable discussing the issues in their personal life or business, the right peer community experience can truly inspire success. Working World (a Canadian-based MSP) President Josie Kocsis expressed it well in her company’s blog
: “HTG is an excellent forum for those of us in the technology industry who are serious about implementing models for success in our businesses.” Peer groups help solution providers put the pieces in place that they need to be more competitive and profitable. That’s the real value of community.Brian Sherman is founder of Tech Success Communications, specializing in editorial content and consulting for the IT channel. His previous roles include chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and industry alliances director with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com.