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Don’t Judge Millennials in the Channel, Embrace These Mobile Moneymakers

Channel Partners Evolution

Lynn HaberCHANNEL PARTNERS EVOLUTION — There’s a big generational disconnect in the channel and channel businesses may want to rethink the way they develop products, partner and hire and retain talent.

Contrary to stereotypes, millennials are key to partner business growth because they think differently. That was the key message at Tuesday’s concurrent education session – Millennial-Approved Mobile Moneymakers – at Channel Partners Evolution in Washington, D.C.

Panelists Alex DiNunzio, director of product management at Fuze, a global, cloud-based unified communications platform, and Brad Shilling, millennial entrepreneur and senior vice president of product marketing at mTusker, an ERP software platform for the channel and SMBs, shared the unique perspectives millennials bring to the channel.

First, some statistics. The average age of the channel professional is 46, compared to 20 percent of channel millennials, ages 18-35, according to recent research by the 451 Alliance. Today, millennials are still somewhat unique in the channel but they represent the present and the future – simply by asking, why?{ad}

Think of it as challenging the status quo. Shilling, for example, spent time selling telecom services but saw revenue decline.

“Pure telecom isn’t attractive to our cohort but I stuck with it because of the cloud evolution and the lucrative business model that’s now in front of me,” he said, at the same time wondering why there aren’t more millennials in the channel.

Shilling is exactly who DiNunzio wants to partner with. “I look for partners who want to understand shift in technology and in the channel,” he noted.

Unlike the millennial employee stereotype, i.e. desiring to sit on a pillow at a coffee shop thumb-typing on a cellphone and drinking Kombucha for eight hours — the panelists pointed out that they’re not aliens. They are prone, however, to asking “why.” That’s because the world is different than it used to be so challenging entrenched thinking comes naturally. “We’re just young professionals,” said Shilling.

Perhaps what most irks this younger generation is the common misconception that they don’t understand what money is.

“We’re all in the channel. We just happen to be designing products and solutions for where the channel will be in 12-18 months,” said Shilling, and they think globally.

What about targeting millennials with products? The panelists pointed out that there a mismatch between who writes the check for the technology versus who is uses it. So what happens is that the young people in the organization bring consumer tech into the business rather than use …

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… what’s being given to them. One example of this is Slack, the group chat that’s popular with millennials.

“Partners have to focus on the user because if you don’t, they won’t use the technology that you give them,” said Alex. To add more complexity to this picture, for millennials, each application and each device has its own flavor for the user.

What about hiring and retaining millennials in the channel? Firms had better think about adapting.

Companies have to accept fact that millennials think differently.

“Companies have to create an atmosphere and policies that allow for the use of other platforms and the freedom to use them — or they’ll compete with standard tools used in the office,” said DiNunzio.

Millennials are about everything on demand, as-a-service, even virtual reality.

“Why have a meeting on a phone pacing around when you can have meeting at 50,000 feet in the air or at the bottom of ocean or on top of Mt. Everest or on Jupiter?” suggested Shilling. “We also don’t like the geographical tether. Why do I have to drive to the office waste an hour and then waste another one hour driving back, taking time away from my children? Why? That’s the big question,” he proposed.

So what should partner firms be thinking about? The millennial panel agreed that companies have to look at cloud-first delivery models. “Millennials just go that way, that’s the way our minds are wired,” said DiNunzio.

For those in the upper end of the millennial generation, they’re invaluable for your business because they serve to bridge the gap with younger millennials.


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