The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) has formed a new advisory council to help IT resellers evolve into technology solutions providers. Much of the councils aims remained unformulated at press time, but the overall intent is to help channel partners transition from working as traditional agents or resellers to becoming all-around solutions providers.
The Reseller Transformation Advisory Council (RTAC) will help resellers improve the marketing, sales and delivery of technologies to their customers. The council is made up of representatives from manufacturers of hardware and software products that are sold through the channel.
This effort to help the industry comes as T@G, too, is helping channel partners make this move. T@G spoke with William Vanderbilt, vice president of education and training for CompTIA, and Asra Zaheeruddin, education business development manager of the education and training group, in July, about the advisory council, the industrys evolution, and the issues the council will address.
What is the Reseller Transformation Advisory Council?
We call it RTAC for short. It is comprised of software and hardware manufacturers that are working together to transform their channel providers into being more solutions-oriented. Theyre developing a process to make the transition happen and incorporating a lot of the research and things theyve seen among their channel partners and developing resources and solutions that they think will work for their channel partners.
Whatare some of the key issues theyre hoping to address?
Theyre hoping to make their channel partners be more solutions-oriented and to incorporate more services into the mix. Right now a lot of their channel partners are very product-oriented, just pushing products and not really helping their customers understand what the solution is. A lot of our end users, a lot of the people who are purchasing these products, dont want to work with resellers anymore they want to work with solutions providers. It just keeps getting back to manufacturers that their channel partners are not effective in the way that theyre selling.
One of the things that Asras committee had asked back in March when they met for the first time, was, What are the major obstacles that are causing educational resources to not be embraced? and [manufacturers] offered up five areas they thought were most problematic, and those were: demonstrating value showing resellers why they should make this change; the ability of the industry to embrace change; the lack of standard definitions what do we mean by solutions provider, for instance; the ability to manage skill sets of solutions providers; and, frankly, just building trust in the community between manufacturers and distributors and solutions providers.
How is RTAC working to address those problems?
RTAC is working on a three-phased approach [based on manufacturers feedback] Theyre gathering a lot of research and theyre putting together a list of qualities that theyd like to have in partners, a list of where their partners currently are at and then a list of where theyd like their solutions providers to be at. And, then theyre developing a framework kind of a model where we would take a channel partner and do an assessment. We would ask them to identify what areas of focus they need to work toward to be able match the top priorities on that comparison table. Then [CompTIA will] roll out a set of deliverables, the tools, the resources needed to get channel providers at the point theyd like to be at.
: What kinds of training or education are you offering?
We believe it probably will involve a series of Web-delivered classes, instructor-led classes, research tools, consulting services, mentoring services, a whole warehouse of deliverables, but until that Phase 1 research of defining standards and finding a framework, and confirming all of that really happens, its hard to really say.
When will the program be fully launched?
Our expectation, the timeline the manufacturers have laid out, is that we would largely work on these research elements in 2005 so that we would have the tools for an organization to assess where they are in this spectrum between reseller and solutions provider. In 2006, the focus of our activities for RTAC [is] really around creating the deliverables that map to those needs.
How is CompTIA defining solutions providers, or has that really been narrowed down yet?
We actually agreed to a standard solutions provider definition at our last meeting.
A solutions provider is an organization that provides a mix of technology-based products and services designed to solve an explicit business problem.