Forget size, it’s ambition that matters

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15 December 2016 | 0

Billy MacInnesDespite having survived and thrived for well over 40 years, the channel has frequently been assailed by a chorus of private Frazers on the sidelines shouting “Doomed, we’re all doomed”. But although they’ve had the channel dead and buried so many times, they can never quite get the coffin lid shut.

Why? Because no one else wants to do the channel’s job. Well, to be more accurate, vendors and customers might think they can do the channel’s job but when they find out what it actually entails, very few of them want to do it.

And so the channel has continued, in different forms, to perform an important role in the IT supply chain for many years, despite the Jeremiahs predicting its imminent demise. In fact, if anything, it’s possible the channel could become more populous as its original function as a supplier of IT equipment becomes ever more diminished.

For example, in a recent interview concerning Avnet Technology Solutions’ (ATS) six specialist business units, Miriam Murphy, senior vice president for North Region (which includes Ireland), said the distributor had noticed the emergence of “new next gen partners” that had not been involved in the IT supply chain before. Just because they were smaller, she added, that didn’t “necessarily consign them to a small niche area”.

The distributor found that the focus on specialist areas such as analytics/IoT, cloud and mobile, meant it was working with more partners, including “new partners that haven’t worked in this environment before”.

Murphy’s point that small partners don’t have to be consigned to small niche areas is something picked up on by Renaissance director Michael Conway, who argues that it is much easier to get into the market. “You don’t need to build a server farm or a bunch of infrastructure,” he says. “Your scale is not limited by your size, it’s limited by your ambition.”

A three or four person operation with two techies and a salesperson is capable of creating 24/7 full service provision to deliver to clients “pretty easily”, Conway argues. “You don’t have to have a big amount of scale,” he says, “you can offer a managed service provider type solution pretty easily, even with your own brand, at a small level. A three man band is in a position to grow and develop and provide the level and breadth of services customers need to grow”.

If anything, the challenge could be for larger partners in terms of how they differentiate themselves, especially if large and small partners are essentially offering branded services provided by vendors and distributors.

Murphy argues that one advantage existing partners have over new entrants is their status as “trusted advisors” to customers. “That still trumps new entrants in the market,” she notes. “But my message on that is traditional partners can’t rest on their laurels and continue to operate in the way they’ve always done in the past.”

Nevertheless, existing partners are in a “unique and privileged situation” and they “have the opportunity to invest in next generation technology areas. They would have a lead should they choose to enter that space”, Murphy adds.

She also believes that it will be harder for partners to “embrace all areas of an IT infrastructure project. Now, they are going to have to work together more to get the most of the opportunities. The opportunity for multiple partners in opportunities has increased”.

More partners? Who’d have thought it?

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