Masters, Distributors Talk Challenges, Exciting Times Ahead for The Channel

The blending of VARs and telecom agents, the IT talent shortage and preparing an exit strategy were some of the issues addressed by master agents and distributors during a keynote panel discussion at Channel Partners Evolution titled “The Evolving Services Distributor Role.”

Theresa Caragol, founder and CEO of TCC (Theresa Caragol Consulting), was the moderator. Panelists included: Ken Bisnoff, senior vice president of strategic opportunities at TelePacific; Michelle Curtis, senior manager of IoT strategy for the Americas at Tech Data; Harrison Smyth, director of Carahsoft; Vince Bradley, CEO of WTG; and Andrew Pryfogle, senior vice president of cloud transformation at Intelisys.

Panelists discussed how dramatically their businesses have changed in recent years. For example, Curtis said her company’s role as a global IT distributor has changed from “pushing boxes” to providing services to partners.”

“All we do is partner-led,” she said. “As we continue to evolve, we will bring on new services.”

Pryfogle pointed out the blending of VARs and telecom agents, saying that in the coming years “it will be very hard to tell the difference between a traditional IT VAR and a telecom agent.”

Panelists agreed that attracting millennials is a big challenge ahead for the channel. Pryfogle said millennials like to work with their own devices they bring into the office. Businesses need to adjust their IT strategy to cater to them, he said.

Bradley said it’s important to have an atmosphere that incents millennials. Curtis said her company is actively seeking millennials through working with local colleges and mentoring.

Panelists also discussed the IT talent shortage that is impacting the channel. Pryfogle, whose company is going through a major transformation itself by selling to distributor ScanSource, said one way of coping with the shortage is to create “solutions that can solve the talent gap,” so little or no hiring is needed.

In terms of preparing for an exit strategy or future growth, Smyth said, from an SI perspective, it’s important to understand the niche of companies that have paired, “and then create your own.”

“You need to accelerate recurring revenue growth,” Pryfogle said. “Now is the time to have a crisp and compelling story.”

Bradley said if a company doesn’t have a diversified portfolio, it will be tough for them to forge ahead with an exit strategy. In addition, Bisnoff said to create value, “you have to grow your business based on where the market is going.”

When asked about their predictions for the next three years, Bradley said convergence will continue to accelerate and partners will need to have “much more laser focus.”

SD-WAN is the “biggest thing since IP,” and is going to have a huge impact on the channel, Bisnoff said.

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