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The “speeds and feeds” discussion has been dead for more than a decade with channel professionals ‒ at least for those who run healthy tech businesses. In fact, one of the first articles I tacked as chief editor at Business Solutions magazine in 2002 focused on that very topic. SMB owners simply don’t care about the details of their network configurations, or how fast and often their backups occur today. That's the reality channel firms must come to terms with today.
When business systems are at peak performance levels, and employees productivity is rising, providers' customer satisfaction and retention rates will likely be high. Technology is all about operational efficiencies, automation, and objectives today, not RAM and petabytes.
The language shift may seem subtle, but its impact on the channel is enormous. Tech professionals must speak in terms of their customers issues and objectives, not the finer points of systems that have little knowledge or interest in. Providers must communicate using the terminology business professionals are most comfortable with and truly care about. Those that can talk the talk are on their way to healthier and more productive relationships with their clients.
After all, technology is no longer the sole domain of the IT team. With the expansion of work-enhancing applications, departmental procurement, and rogue IT, organizations need more support and broader expertise than ever before. Without someone or some team to create order and manage all the moving parts and processes, chaos would reign.
That growing list of roles includes consultant, infrastructure evaluator, educator, chief compliance officer, and policy developer for activities that employ technology. Few SMBs can afford or need to invest in personnel to handle those responsibilities. They need someone they can trust who understands their industry and its challenges and can translate technology into terminology and best practices their team members can comprehend and follow.
Though many channel professionals dislike the term trusted advisor ‒ at least when used to describe themselves‒ technology companies that embrace that role have a greater value to SMBs today. The challenge for most services providers is transitioning from a high-tech mindset to true business-solution focused support firms. Channel professionals may need to realign their services, revise corporate mission statements and shake up their sales, marketing, and support teams to make that happen.
The Power of Peer Groups
Change is never easy. Best practices and industry standards make great targets for channel firms to aim for, but without commitment and a team of supporters to guide the way, relatively few will make needed improvements.
That’s the value of industry peer groups. Enablement and empowerment are part of their core principles, and most of today’s channel-oriented communities spend a significant amount of time and energy on helping their members make faster and more successful business transformations. The shift to a pure business solutions sales approach ranks high on the priority list.
Providers have a host of options at their disposal, from non-affiliated peer groups like HTG and MSP Ignite to IT distribution supported communities such as Ingram Micro’s Trust X Alliance, SYNNEX’ Varnex network, and Tech Data’s TechSelect. Each challenge and hold members accountable for achieving certain business objectives, and offer education, support, and a framework for building next-gen tech organizations.
CompTIA Communities take a broader approach. While the discussions and working groups focus on channel-related initiatives and best practices, members can take active roles in multiple forums. Each of the ten CompTIA Communities focuses on a unique aspect of the tech industry, from Managed Services and IT Security to Future Leaders, Advancing Diversity in Technology and Advancing Women in Technology.
The exchange of ideas and experiences not only helps forge working relationships and mentoring opportunities but strengthens the channel. Members gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities in tech and help develop programs and projects that promote and advance the broader industry.
The business value of technology is a foundational part of most group discussions, as they work together to connect the dots between tech and business. Members advance their businesses, their customers receive more considerable attention and support, and the industry gains valuable educational and promotional tools. Everyone wins.
Brian Sherman is president of Tech Success Communications, a channel-related content and social media development firm. He served previously as the chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com