Get Ready, Austin! Here Comes Channel Partners Evolution

Lorna GareyPlans are shaping up for Channel Partners Evolution 2017. Some vital stats:

We’re at the Austin Convention Center from Sept. 25 thorough 28. We’re colocated for the first time — our partner is a launch event called SDxE: The Software-Defined Enterprise Conference & Expo, aimed at enterprise IT pros charged with digital transformation but saddled with static legacy infrastructures.

We’ll have adjacent expo floors with 200-plus exhibitors, accessible to all. We’re running our first-ever golf invitational. We expect 4,500 to 5,000 attendees.

We’re pulling in our sister sites MSPmentor, VAR Guy, Talkin’ Cloud and the WHIR to broaden our content scope, including the first CSP Opportunity by MSPmentor track, headed up by my colleague, Penton senior content director T.C. Doyle. We have seven pre-conference tracks across both events, including a mini HostingCon and an Essential DevOps Workshop.

Keynoters range from Salesforce’s Tiffani Bova to LinkedIn’s Shawn Zandi. Besides welcoming our friends Women in the Channel, we’re partnering with Women in Technology International for a mixer with a purpose (more on that later). We’re launching Channel Partners TV. Our veteran’s initiative will be back and better than ever.

I’m tired already, and that’s just scratching the surface.

To say our entire extended team is excited is an understatement. Access to the dozens of education sessions at SDxE is, in my opinion, a golden opportunity for partners. At no other event can you attend a workshop on how partners can capture large-enterprise business, then catch a talk by Jim Ford, chief architect, global product and technology at ADP, on how his company uses containers and microservices to innovate. That’s the sort of knowledge that will get you some time with forward-looking customers.

For our exhibitors, the breadth of the partner and customer ecosystem represented is unmatched.

You will need an All Access Pass to get into all those precons and sessions, but I believe it’s a smart investment.

Not Everything Is New

If you attended the fall show last year, you met Amy Acme and Acme Connected Apparel. We asked keynoters to take a few minutes out of their presentations to give Amy some ideas on how to operate a digital business for the 21st century. Amy will be back in Austin. This year, she’s gotten some funding and is trying to decide how best to spend it to expand beyond her existing client base. Hopefully, some of your customers have that same problem.

Among her questions: Costs of running everything in the public cloud are adding up. Should I buy some hardware? Colocation space? If so, what do I base my private cloud on? Who should manage it? She’s looking to get some specialized software delivered as a service. Can you broker that and make some customizations? The WannaCry ransomware attack was scary. Am I at risk? My clothing uses IoT sensors. What’s new there?

To capture this business, you need to be able to sell the sophisticated services vendors want to offer. Sure, that takes new technical and business skillsets, and we have sessions to help you gain them.

But that’s just part of the story.

One impetus for this massive revamping is an internal memo written by Doyle and the Penton Think Tank on the future of the channel. A few months ago, VP of the Informa business and technology network Art Wittmann and I read it and agreed completely with T.C.’s conclusions. That’s remarkable given that we all focus on different pieces of the channel and come from diverse backgrounds.

As Art pointed out, what that agreement means is simple: It doesn’t really matter where you started in the channel. The eventual and ultimate end game is looking pretty singular.

You hear the phrase “trusted technology adviser” all the time, to the point you might be rolling your eyes. I know I do. Art, T.C. and I likewise agree: That concept misses the bigger point about digital business transformations.

“It’s right there in the name,” said Wittmann. “It’s not a technology transformation, like going from POTS phone lines to VoIP was, or like moving your website from your own servers into the cloud is. It’s a business transformation, and therefore the channel partner of the future isn’t just a trusted technology adviser, they’re a trusted business adviser.”

We started that discussion this spring in Las Vegas, with 5,700 of our closest friends. Now it’s time to come together and learn how to assemble a set of services that can meet the complete needs of your clients, or pretty darn close. You can be making coin on both sides of the sale — an infrastructure upgrade through software-defined networking, maybe even an OpenStack private cloud, as well as the services a digital business like Acme needs, whether developed in-house or sourced from an emerging class of SaaS providers, many of them selling on the AWS, Azure or Google Cloud Platform marketplaces.

Mastering this mix is how the partner of the future gets a healthy recurring revenue stream, and healthy company valuations.

Teaching you how is the point of Channel Partners Evolution, SDxE and our Channel Futures Forum preconference tracks — Ransomware: Prevent, Recover, UnderstandIoT Boot Camp and an all-new Digital Business Workshop.

Join me in Austin for fun, food trucks on the expo floor and the broadest selections of education we’ve ever offered.

Follow editor-in-chief @LornaGarey on Twitter.

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