If you had to think about which trends have truly shaped our channel what would come to mind?
Cloud computing? Smartphones? Or would you go with Cisco’s 2.0 catchphrase of collaboration? The channel covers such a vast array of technology and services there’s so many things to choose from.
Mark Kalmus, MD of Southern Cross Computer Systems highlights the fall of very strong and dominant resellers as a key event that’s shaped the industry. He pinpoints companies like Volante/Commande, Leading Solutions and BCA. Another key impact he’s seen is Dell’s direct model and of course, Apple and the way the company’s hugely popular products have become legitimate corporate devices.
Peter Robertson, CEO of Intelligent Pathways agrees that smartphones have changed the way people think about technology.
“Strangely enough, what stands out to me is that Google became a verb. Technology has evolved so greatly in the last ten years, so much so, it has changed our daily vocabulary,” Robertson explains. “Over the past ten years we have seen the likes of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter come into existence. These applications coupled with smart mobile devices, including GPS, have transformed how we as individuals live, and how businesses carry out their daily activities. Information must be at one’s fingertips at all times.”
Sydney Borg from PCS Australia is a three-decade channel veteran. He says the internet has had two main effects on channel partners. It’s either made them really successful through online selling or it’s hit their bottom line hard as computer savvy users try and find their information via the net and make their purchases purely based on price.
“From there the channel lost control of their client or through heavy discounting saw it's margin completely eroded. This has forced the channel to almost give the hardware away and ensure it recouped its lost margin in services thereby not losing the customer. It is a fine line we walk and if handled correctly there is still the opportunity to make a healthy margin."
There’s one area pretty much everybody agrees on and that’s virtualisation as an industry-defining trend. Biagio LaRosa, managing director of national integrator Generation-e takes that one step further identifying 3G technology, wi-fi and unified communications. He puts it simply, people are connected more often in more places to more things.
Locally we’ve seen some pretty great achievers as well. We’ve mentioned some of the larger resellers that didn’t make it through tough times but what about one that flourished?
Kalmus says Data#3 managing director John Grant has been a real achiever. The company started out in the late 1990’s and has risen from strength to strength.
“He’s taken the company from a local regional reseller to the largest owned national integrator,” he explains.
“John has a high intellect, is very approachable and presents well. He also puts time and effort back into the industry as a whole in his role as president of the AIIA.”
Looking to the distribution side of the channel and Norman Weaver, managing director of Dataweave points out John Walters who started out with Scott Frew at Lan Systems in 1998.
“He significantly grew the business until it was acquired by Westcon Group. He then rapidly grew Tech Pacific until its acquisition by Ingram Micro. John has started a new distributor, Nextgen Distribution which looks like it will shake up the Oracle, Sun distribution space.”
That only scratches the surface of how we’ve seen this industry morph into what it is today and although there’s been a lot of changes in the past ten years, Borg doesn’t see as much change over the next five years or so. But he does think Windows 8 could be good news for resellers.
“It’s time for the replacement of hardware and I believe it will be a formidable opponent to Apple in many ways. There will be a continuation of tightening within the channel as some decide it's too hard and walk away or in some cases go to the wall."
Weaver says that over the next few years cloud and software-as-a-service could be both an opportunity and a threat.
“Vendors like Oracle and Salesforce.com are now providing their software solutions from their own datacentres, using their own support staff and selling the subscription services direct online; cutting out the channel,” Weaver says.“The trend that Oracle has started with its "engineered systems" software, network, server, storage all in one system, will continue, driving further consolidation in the vendor market meaning that channel partners will have to look to services, value added applications and market knowledge to differentiate themselves.”
But Weaver adds with hope, “in five years time IT vendors will have eliminated channel conflict with their own sales teams, have streamlined their certification programmes, given realistic channel margin and will have solved world hunger. Well you've got to stay optimistic!”