CHANNEL PARTNERS What a week.
The Spring 2014 Channel Partners Conference & Expo closed out with a record number of attendees almost 4,300, 60 percent of whom were net new to the show as well as a slew of important news announcements for partners, and a host of educational and networking events all focused on strengthening a converging IT and telecom channel.
The week at The Venetian in Las Vegas started on Tuesday with the day-long Cisco Cloud Connections workshop and the seventh Women in the Channel mixer. And then the official conference kicked off Wednesday with education tracks devoted to mobility, sales skills, defining the new network and cloud partners.
By afternoon, it was time for the really heavy hitting. Amazon Web Services and Verizon Enterprise Solutions both took the keynote stage on Wednesday and spoke to a standing-room-only crowd. Terry Wise, general manager global alliances, ecosystem and channel for Amazon Web Services, talked about how the public sector is leading the way in cloud and using the channel to do it. And because most clouds are hybrid, integration presents a great opportunity for partners, he said, adding that businesses are looking to the channel for cloud consulting/selection, TCO, implementation, migration and, again, integration.
Next up, Janet Schijns, vice president, medium business and channels for Verizon Enterprise Solutions, wowed partners with a fast-talking, “smac”-talking speech (“smac” meaning social, mobile analytics, cloud) about the value of the channel. “How much is a fireman’s life worth?,” she asked. The value the channel can deliver totals millions, she said. But to reach that goal, partners must fix two key problems. The first “No. 1 channel miss” is that partners do not market effectively, said Schijns. The second is a lack of pricing expertise. The people in the channel who make money are the ones who help customers’ businesses survive and thrive, she said.
To that point, Schijns announced that Verizon Enterprise is releasing 11,000 more customers to the channel so that 98 percent of the company’s customers are exposed to the channel. She further said that Verizon Enterprise brought $1 million in marketing development funds to the Spring 2014 Channel Partners Conference & Expo to help partners invest in their business plans.
Schijns was followed by a roundtable discussion led by The 2112 Group’s Larry Walsh. Walsh and his panelists, from Platte River Networks, Carrier Access, CDW and TechSquad, explored channel effectiveness (there is a two-thirds decline in the number of partners coming into the channel, Walsh reported) and ways to capture more business from existing customers.
Partners then headed over to the expo hall for the official opening. They were treated to food and drinks from Momentum, were able to watch as an episode of Animal Planet’s “Tanked” being filmed at the Telesphere booth and more.
In between all of that, sponsors and exhibitors held Lunch and Learn sessions, private meetings and more.
In the evening 50 stand-out partners were treated to dinner as part of the second-annual Channel Partners 360° Business Value Awards ceremony. Click here to see who made the Top 10; these partners earned the highest scores from the judges, comprised of analysts and Channel Partners editorial staff.
Attendees then ended the night in typical Vegas fashion, enjoying the clubs and gambling.
And then they showed up again on Thursday for more education, expo hall and networking. Second-day tracks included security, unified communications and more focus on sales skills. The keynote addresses featured Cisco’s Ellen Berlan, Americas cloud director, who moderated a roundtable with service providers discussing how they work with resellers, and 4-Profit’s Larry Kesslin, who also oversaw a roundtable consisting of representatives from Mitel, Network Services and AT&T. The theme of the second discussion centered on what providers look for in partners, and the role of vendors/suppliers in helping partners deliver business value.
From there, partners were able to take part in a number of events, including the latest Agent-VAR Partnering Workshop co-produced by CompTIA and sponsored by WTG; demos of the new PlanetOne Telecom Partner Toolbox; the Comcast Business boardroom brunch; the invitation-only Shark Tank event, where Channel Partners put its spin on the popular TV show “Shark Tank,” by asking channel executives to answer hard-hitting questions about why partners should sell their solutions; and the latest installment of the invitation-only, unscripted Channel Partners Zone. The latter explored whether there’s a dearth of talent coming into the channel, and how partners can and should beef up their businesses. As such, the back-and-forth at times featured inflammatory commentary about a lack of work ethic and business acumen among millennials.
The evening then wrapped up with the first-ever dinner and awards ceremony honoring the first group of Channel Partners Circle of Excellence winners. This program recognizes channel chiefs who are doing more than implementing favorable compensation plans. Rather, these leaders are advocating for the channel, enabling partner knowledge and driving innovation. Click here for the full list of winners.
The dinner honoring these leading executives took place at Carne Vino in The Venetian, and featured plenty of wine, the choice of filet mignon or game hen and good conversation. An interesting takeaway from VMware and Verizon Enterprise Solutions came in the form of “most influential books.” VMware’s Toni Adams singled out Consumption Economics by J.B. Wood, saying “The first 37 pages tell you everything you need to know about why things are,” and Verizon’s Schijns said the sci-fi classic Ender’s Game shaped her thinking. “As a business leader, I’m fascinated by the magic of what could be,” she said.
And as happens in Vegas, the night really began after dinner. Dozens of providers and agencies hosted parties lasting into the morning, celebrating and capping off a long, productive week.
But the relaxation won’t last long. With Vegas in the rearview mirror, it’s time to start planning for Cloud Partners in New Orleans, Sept. 8-10. The Big Easy awaits!