How We Can Make the Channel More Relevant – and Advance the Business of Technology in Doing So

ChannelCon 2018_TH44140The acceleration of technology has well and truly disrupted the IT channel, and this was a theme very much in discussion at CompTIA ChannelCon 2018 earlier this month at Marriott Wardham Park in Washington, D.C.

For more than 30 years, partners have enjoyed opportunities brought forth by technology to develop and implement IT solutions that helped solve their customers’ needs. But just as the IT industry as a whole is changing, so is the distribution network that serves it. While the hardware and software wave of the past several decades in essence built the channel industry of today, it is emerging technology that will dominate in the years to come.

Jay McBain, principle analyst of global channels at Forrester, headlined his talk at ChannelCon as The Death of The Traditional IT Channel, but what was clear from his talk and from what was being said throughout the conference was that the channel is actually more important than ever – but it’s changing. As new technologies are developed, grow and connect with other existing and new technologies, we actually have the opportunity to redefine the channel and make it relevant for decades to come. Meet the business of technology.

Emerging technologies like AI, IoT and blockchain were hot topics at ChannelCon, and throughout the sessions there was some great guidance shared on how partners can start feeding and fueling this new ecosystem through our current community. What follows are some key takeaways:

Understand What Makes Sense for Your Business

At the Emerging Technology Community Business Meeting, attendees discussed how to pick what technologies to get involved in – a very basic first step but one that’s easier said than done. Factors here include client requests, hot topics in the press and simply the whether or not you’ll make money off this new tech. That last point was a big talking point, with some attendees saying if something doesn’t make sense from a money perspective now, then there’s no point moving it forward. However, others are focused on the customer experience and felt that if you provide a solution that involves emerging technology and works perfectly, then that’s the ultimate outcome. Whatever focus you choose, not all emerging technology will be right for your business. As you pick, consider:

  • Repeatability of the solution
  • The timeline and difficulty of the installation
  • Skillset
  • Vertical (niche, less competition; smaller market) or horizontal (all verticals; more competitors)
  • Education, training and upskilling

As you start to think about what emerging technology is most relevant for your business, you should also think about workforce implications and how you’re going to get employee buy in for this. As a mainly retiring workforce, how will you encourage legacy employees to get excited about change and encourage new talent to join. Before you implement, think about:

  • Who do you need to train?
  • How you will train and to what timeline?
  • What investment will be needed to train them?
  • What level of capacity will be needed to maintain current customer need versus future demand?

Just Go For It!
One of the biggest pieces of advice that came out of a session was to jump in and go for it – with the understanding that there will be some type of ROI. One engaged member said, “If you planned for everything, you might never move forward.” And with the pace of change moving so quickly, acting fast is something that will be essential in taking advantage of the emerging tech opportunities.

The sessions also pointed to events and conferences like ChannelCon as a great way to learn and network and to understand if your customer base would want it.

So, yes, the channel is changing, just like every other industry and job in the world. But if we take steps to redefine what it means in this new world order, then it won’t just survive but thrive – and we’ll truly advance the business of technology.

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