Channel Partners held its first-ever “Partnering 2020: Putting the Future of Channels in Focus" event yesterday at CompTIA’s ChannelCon 2014. Throughout the hour-long conversation, channel leaders from vendors, consultancies and organizations trained their eyes on what the next six years will look like for the channel.
For one thing, the IT industry alone – not the IT and telephony sectors combined – will reach $5.1 trillion by 2020. That’s the size of the economies of France and the UK combined, T.C. Doyle, executive editor of Channel Partners, pointed out.
Those numbers are putting pressure on suppliers and solution providers alike. To be sure, vendors have to define what they want out of partners, said Larry Walsh of The 2112 Group.
Conversely, the coming years will feature more, but different, partners, said Microsoft’s Michael Haines. Ingram Micro’s Jennifer Anaya offered up the example of a custom furniture maker deciding to add A/V and digital signage capabilities to its business model, thereby turning itself into a reseller.
“There are different kinds of partners," she said, speaking to Autotask’s Len DiCostanzo’s point that the channel will see attrition and yet, at the same time, evolution. Frank Vitagliano of Dell agreed.
“Partners are going to figure it out," he said. “They always do."
To help that happen, though, channel leaders need to “talk to partners about what it means to remain viable," Walsh said.
“We can’t give rank-and-file partners ambition," he said. Even if vendors offer up numerous resources and compensation streams, partners have to have vision and a sense of purpose, he said.
But there’s a problem, said Concierge Core Services’ Clark Atwood: the number of salespeople will drop from 18 million in 2014 to 4 million in 2020, according to stats presented by Sales Enabled’s Rebecca Rosen, he said. So how do suppliers, distributors, master agents and the like, find qualified salespeople?
For HP’s Donna Grothjan, one answer comes down to making sure to monetize expertise. For example, certifications used to heavily influence salary. Still, the question remains, what is the inflection point that motivates salespeople? Grothjan asked.
It won’t come in the form of more stuff to sell, noted Carbonite’s Dave Maffei.
“Partners’ dreams are never about a product," he said.
Channel Partners will take the findings from its Partnering 2020 event, and from interviews with dozens of channel leaders, and turn them into a report. Look for that resource to be available later this month.