Channel Partners Must Branch Out and Distinguish Themselves

By Josh Long Comments
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CHANNEL PARTNERS — Channel partners must distinguish themselves and branch out in order to stay relevant with their customers, such as by offering cloud computing services, Gartner’s vice president of research, Tiffani Bova, said Sunday afternoon during the industry address at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.

“If you don’t start to differentiate yourself other than the brand you carry, it’s going to be much more difficult" for a partner to survive in a few years, the analyst said.

If a channel partner is only selling telecom services to a business and choosing not to offer such capabilities as wireless and cloud computing, “trust me, they [businesses] are ending up working with someone else at the same time," Bova added.

Although analysts disagree over the size of the cloud computing market – Gartner predicted last summer that worldwide cloud services revenue would grow 16.6 percent in 2010, reaching $68.3 billion – there is no question that demand for such services is growing.

“The number is not negative, it’s not zero and it’s positive," Bova said. “It means it’s going to impact your business to some degree."

Bova emphasized the importance of bringing value to a specific vertical market, such as the financial services industry or health care field.  “Being a generalist and being able to do phones regardless of the vertical actually shows no differentiation for you because they can replace you very quickly," she said.

Bova also underscored that channel partners should be selling wireless services.

“Mobility is big. If you are not selling wireless today, you should," she said. “This isn’t an either or," the analyst added, referring to landline and wireless services.

“It really is about the mobile app and all the value you can bring to a mobile device," said Bova, who pointed out that Apple is a consumer-focused company with no strategy in the enterprise market even though Americans commonly take their iPhones and other consumer-electronic devices to work.   

“There’s so much work for you as it relates to taking mobile devices into the enterprise," Bova said.

Based on input Gartner got from CIOs, Bova advised channel partners to focus more on helping a business customer innovate and grow rather than simply cutting costs.

“Don’t focus your messaging on cost-cutting," she said.

For CIOs, it is “really about the business outcome and less about the project itself," Bova added.

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