Wednesday, February 20, 2013
To business owners, the companies that help design, implement and support their technology needs may not seem that different. Most of those organizations employ a variety of talented engineers, sales people and other operational team members who ensure their systems are properly assembled and running effectively at all times. To the user, it doesn’t matter if those individuals are supporting their company’s servers, workstations, printers or communication infrastructure; as long as each application and component works when they need it.
In reality, there are many sub-segments within the technology provision ecosystem. Those who’ve been around the channel understand the many nuances between provider organizations, from the technologies they provide and the markets they cover to their unique business models.
From the IT perspective, there are traditional value-added resellers (VARs) who resell vendor-supplied products and services, managed service providers who proactively manage client networks and infrastructure and vertical market specialists who provide specialized solutions for their specific clientele. As I learned from my years at Business Solutions
magazine, point of sale (POS) and electronic content management (ECM) experts often focus on different aspects of business and technology training than their general channel peers.
While each group of specialists is focused on supporting the specific needs of its business customers, there may be significant differences in their approach and delivery methods. They typically participate in training programs and events tailored to their particular skill-set and network with others with similar interests and expertise. These specialty technology communities create silos of information and proficiencies and a variety of similar but different value propositions within the broader indirect channel.
The telecom industry and IT channel provide a great example of how two comparable but separate technology-based fields can develop fairly dissimilar B2B go-to-market strategies. While members of each community serve a variety of businesses, from small- to medium-sized businesses to the Fortune 500, the sales and marketing methods each employ are quite unique. With the growth of convergence technologies and the overlapped interests of both channel communities, a number of experts are trying to bridge the gap between the two groups. The new CompTIA Telecom Advisory Council
(TAC) was created to do just that; assembling a group of industry experts who can offer valuable insight on new training programs, business tools and other related resources.
Lead by co-chairs Jeff Ponts, executive vice president of DataTel Solutions, Inc.
, and Scott Levy, vice president of enterprise development at AOTMP
, the TAC’s entire mission is to empower telecom channel professionals. In addition to training and education, the TAC will identify and help develop critical industry research, address related public advocacy issues and provide valuable feedback to CompTIA. Assessment Before Success
Before council members can fulfill their obligations, they’ll need to examine the commonalities and differences between the two channels and develop a strategy that accounts for any potential issue. For example, some experts attribute the different channel sales and marketing approaches to the unique skills and training capabilities of their management and employee teams. “Telecom agents are primarily sales-oriented individuals with talented engineers behind them, while an IT VAR is typically more technologically trained with a sales background,” Ponts said.
In order to bridge the gap between telecom and IT, the CompTIA group needs to build on the strengths and overcome the deficiencies of each provider community. “The council’s role is as ground-level thought leaders, helping IT partners understand why telecommunications is such a large opportunity and giving them the tools they need to succeed,” said Mike Saxby, president of Communications Management Services and vice-chair of the Telecom Advisory Council.
Ponts and Saxby outlined three areas where the council will focus its efforts to help providers succeed in the telecommunications field:
- Lifecycle and Account Control: Top-tier providers offer cradle-to-grave management for their clients, from the first sales call to long-term customer support and system improvements. “VARs have to identify and understand all of the moving parts in their clients’ businesses before they can create a quality user experience,” Ponts said.
- Market Penetration and Differentiation: To be successful in communication technologies, providers must create awareness with their current clients as well as prospective buyers. When going after a new market with mobility or unified communications (UC) applications, which platforms will meet those customers’ specific business needs? With hundreds of options available, providers must understand both the markets and the nuances of each technology before recommending and designing effective systems for their customers.
- Standards: With a steep learning curve and a multitude of available platforms to choose from, the telecom industry needs to adopt best practices to ensure top-level customer experiences. If the implementation process is haphazard or service benchmarks are not met, it will negatively affect the collective reputation and revenue potential of the entire communications industry.
These are among the many telecom-related issues the council hopes to tackle over the next few months, beginning with their first get-together during the CompTIA Annual Member Meeting next month in Chicago. With the number of skilled industry professionals appointed the council, their success isn’t as much a question of if they can create the tools and programs needed, but how soon they can deliver them. 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 senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com.