09 Apr 2014
Teenagers of the 90s will recall the famous 'Ironic' song by Alanis Morissette, where some of the points made in the song were not ironic at all.
However, I've been spending the past few days at Ingram Micro's global Cloud Summit and i cannot hold back anymore.
It has been a great event for me - plenty of networking with genuine VARs without any PR people breathing down my neck and making sure I didn't talk to anyone without their say so. Absolute bliss.
So before I launch into my latest tirade, thanks to Ingram UK for including me in proceedings like a normal human being, rather than a journalist who is going to just distort the truth and put words into people's mouths.
It is nice to feel trusted.
However, part of being able to mingle with the attendees from all over the US and Europe is the fact that I get real feedback and it affirms exactly what I make of things too.
My main gripe, is that at events like these, and ideed at CRN's own events, people get up on stage and tell channel partners that they must adapt to the to certain models (in this case the cloud) or die, change the way they do business, completely reevaluate their company structure and culture and think about their customers' needs more.
Indeed a report I wrote for CRN recently - The IT Buyers Guide - says the same thing (bar adapting the cloud model or die). Customers are more savvy and are not interested in sales people pitching products in technical speak, or trying to impress them with accreditations. They want to know how they can use IT to better their business and how much it is going to save them.
It is all about knowing your customers and treating them like human beings.
Fair play to the partners in the room, they always take it all in their stride, make notes and nod accordingly.
However the irony starts when vendors get on stage.
It doesn't matter who the vendor is, in most instances they just go into a massive pitch for their latest product offerings and how wonderful they are and how such and such a partner is making bazillions by selling this product etc etc. Pitch, pitch, pitch.
No explanation of why this product will help partners, how it will benefit their business, what it actually means for them in terms of investment and time spent getting to know the product - just slides and slides of figures and words that don't mean much at all.
It drives me mad.
In fact I would say this shows a disrespect for partners actually. Because the same vendor that has been lecturing partners to change their business models, is actually unprepared to change their own and actually think about how they can promote their messaging to their partners in a way that actually engages them and helps them.
I don't know who is to blame for this. Over-zealous marketing teams that think nothing is more important than the company mantra, or badly informed PR decisions.
Either way it needs addressing. And quickly.
Because the more I see this happening, the more obvious it becomes that perhaps many vendors really don't understand their own channel partners very much at all.
Now, isn't that Ironic?
07 Apr 2014
I knew there was a reason I didn't attend any 'Women in' sessions in the UK.
So perhaps the US wasn't the best place to actually start as they tend to be a little more emotional than us Brits.
I actually had to leave the session - entitled 'Women of the Cloud', because I couldn't take any more.
I still believe that by drawing attention to the fact that you are in a 'minority' group within an industry - you stand out for the wrong reasons.
It is a fact that women were just not that interested in IT 20 years ago - so it is no wonder that they are not that prevalent in top positions in the present day.
It is changing. Slowly but surely as the younger generations begin to take more of an interest. It is not something that will happen overnight.
Then we come to some of the things that were said.
One person said women were jealous of other women in power. That is absolutely not the case in any situation I've been in.
Others said women supress their personality in the workplace, because they feel they will be penalised for it.
Only if you are an annoying idiot that everyone wants to slap should you supress your personality - in fact I can think of a few people I've met down the years that really should supress themselves more.That goes for men as well as women.
Another likened the way women in IT are treated and made to feel about progressing their career to a women in an abusive relationship. "It takes seven attempts to leave an abusive marriage, and the same amount of times to leave a job you are unhappy in."
Then we were advised to mentor a woman and help them progress in their careers. Well, if they are capable and good at their jobs, of course people are going to help them progress their careers. If you are male or female and crap at your job, nobody is going to want you around. It really doesn't matter what gender you are.
I went in there, really hoping that my mind would be changed about this whole subject, when in fact my biggest fears were reaffirmed.
Women are not doing themselves any favours by having these closed sessions.....
I just don't want to attend one again.
31 Mar 2014
I am due to fly out to Miami next week to attend Ingram Micro's global Cloud Summit.
This is a first for me and I am looking forward to seeing the event in action.
But one of the sessions I've been invited to is entitled: "Women of the Cloud".
It is intended to discuss the topics most affecting women where the cloud is concerned - what are the opportunities, what are the issues most concerning them, how does the industry attract more women to the cloud.....that sort of thing.
But I have to be honest. Whenever I see anything like this talking about 'Women in IT' or that sort of thing, it makes my heart sink.
Why do women need to be singled out where the cloud is concerned? Can we do something that men cannot?
Will there soon be a discussion about 'Men in the Cloud'?
I've been thinking of writing this blog since the invite was sent out - but have ummed and ahhed for too long!
Also 'Women of the Cloud' sounds like a whole new breed of females that actually comes from the cloud - I'm thinking Dr Who or some Sci-Fi film.
Every six months or so I receive press releases about women in IT or something similar and the subject does actually intrigue me.
Am I insulting the 'sisterhood' by being so scathing? Or do most women working in our industry feel the same?
There is a definite camaraderie between women in this industry because there are so many men, but do they feel the need to be singled out in this way?
I'm genuinely interested in hearing what people say at this event next week, and be assured I will report back with my honest feedback as well.
Any thoughts, please do let me know.
Positivity is certainly oozing from many channel pores at the moment and long may it continue.
Having recently won 'Brand of the Year' at our internal Incisive Media awards, we at CRN all know how nice it is to have your name called out as a winner and receiving a reward for all your hard work.
From what I am hearing at the moment there are a lot of companies that also deserve some sort of accolade for their achievements.
The CRN Sales and Marketing Awards are aimed at rewarding individuals and teams within the channel for their sterling work over the past year.
They differ from the Channel Awards because these focus more on company achievements.
Now in their third year, we are hoping the awards will be bigger and better than ever.
There really is something for everyone, with categories aimed at vendors, distributors and resellers.
For vendors there is a chance to shout about your partner programme, your partner website and your partner-facing events, along with plenty more team-based categories - it looks like the competition is going to get heated already.
For distributors there is a chance to reward the manager of the year, support team of the year, or website of the year, along with many others - we hear of the great things distributors are doing all the time, but now is your chance to really shout about it.
And finally for resellers, if you have recently invested in your website, why not enter it into our 'Website of the Year' category? Or if you are particularly proud of how you treat your staff - there is a category there for you too. Or if your sales and/or marketing teams have executed a particularly brilliant campaign - why not give them a chance to bask in the much deserved glory of a CRN SMA award?
The closing date for entries is 21 March - so please don't leave it too late to get involved.
If you are shortlisted, you will be able to battle it out on the night of 3 July at the Brewery in central London, and enjoy a great night out as well.
What is there to lose?
To find the full list of categories and submit an entry - click here.
20 Feb 2014
OK, first up, I'm delighted to have the excuse to use a picture of a dog reading a newspaper!
But on a more serious note, the PR debacle involving one now red-faced firm called House PR, left a lot of us old-school hacks shuddering in horror.
A journalist from The Telegraph - Tim Walker - released an email to The Press Gazette apparently sent from said PR firm, in relation to his accreditation for The Brit Awards ceremony at the 02.
It started off quite nicely, saying that a car would be picking up him and a colleague to take them to the venue.
But after that it got a bit more worrying, outlining the kind of coverage they were EXPECTING from the event in return for a ticket and even worse than that telling him exactly what he should be tweeting from both his brand and PERSONAL Twitter accounts. Giving helpful templates to cut and paste into Twitter.
Perhaps in the school of PR that the boss of this firm went to, this kind of expectation is the norm.
But where I come from, after nearly 17 years of journalism, this is probably one of the most worrying developments I have seen, and I fear for the future.
I will say before I launch into my rant, that for every handful of terrible PR firms there is at least one decent one that understands how the media works.
Naturally, if you are invited to an event as a journalist, you will find a way to cover the most interesting news/announcements, and in the era of social media, of course you are going to mention where you are and the key points arising. And use some sort of hashtag relating to said event.
IN YOUR OWN OPINION/WORDS AS A MEMBER OF THE FREE PRESS.
For an awards ceremony such as the Brits, there will be guaranteed copy to follow, regardless of the angle, and most journalists would have tweeted the goings on to their followers anyway. But telling a member of the press what to write and how to phrase things on social media? Really, House PR?
This of course resulted in the requested hashtag #PricelessSurprises being put to very good use by a range of Tweeters, but not exactly how the PR firm wanted.
Now to relate this to my own experience in our industry. I am seeing the rise of the controlling PR/marketing agency to a similar degree. What worries me is the amount of titles that are selling out for an easy life, particularly where advertisers are concerned.
I have always had firms come to me expecting coverage in CRN because they bought an advert in 1819, or because they are the sponsor of such and such event.
I tell them the same thing. Regardless of who they are, what they do and what they spend, if their news is worthy of coverage, they will get it.
But we will find our own angle and cover it how we see fit. It is as simple as that.
If it is unadulterated tosh that is of no value to our readers, we will not cover it.
Similarly all those PR agencies trying to crush news and control when something is covered - I am saying now on the record - if we find something out, that is true and has been verified by several trusted sources, we will run the story. We will not wait until a more convenient time for the marketing machine to kick into life.
The idea of a free press is exactly that. Free.
It is a fine line to tread, and I acknowledge we as the modern media are all having to accommodate changes to how publishing works and respect the companies that support us, but there is a way of doing it that keeps independence in tact and respect on both sides. It is certainly not to be dictated to by some PR firm that is after the maximum recharge potential from their clients.
I worry that the next generation of journalists, (and so-called bloggers who think they are journalists) are somehow being conditioned to think this is the norm and that PR firms are the ones holding the reins. Indeed this is happening more and more in the US.
Hopefully there are still enough of us senior journalists out there that can stop this rot before it really gets hold and make sure the younger ones understand how it really works.
11 Feb 2014
Microsoft's long search for a new chief executive might be over but Satya Nadella's journey is only just beginning.
It is not a job to be taken lightly, but how many would love to have a go based on the compensation package he will receive? Let's face it, how many of us would have given Vista the thumbs-up?!
His basic yearly salary will be $1.2m, paid in fortnightly installments, along with a cash bonus of up to 300 per cent of his salary as CEO each year - a further $3.6m.
And to add to that he could well pick up a stock award of $13.2m at the end of the year, providing the firm performs according to plan. That is a not-to-be-sniffed at $18m for year one.
And as part of a longer-term plan, Nadella could pick up more shares over the next 10 years - adding up to a potential 2.7 million shares worth over $100m, according to some estimates.
Now all of this is performance based - if Microsoft does well and performs well in the market, Nadella will enjoy a spiralling bank balance on a regular basis.
But if the company fails to perform under his stewardship, then he will receive his basic salary, but nothing else, thus ensuring Microsoft does not lose out.
Very clever way to employ somebody in a top position and a great way of encouraging them to always strive to achieve the best possible results.
05 Feb 2014
If rumours are to be believed, the economy is starting to pick up.
It is definitely feeling more positive out there from everyone I'm speaking to, so that is encouraging.
And that is good news for everyone either in employment or looking for employment apparently. Becasue it means a decent payrise might be on the cards, or there actually might be a job out there. I'll believe it when I see it!
But even in this period of relative uncertainty, one thing is key, and that is holding onto valuable staff. Without them, it is very difficult to keep a business running smoothly.
However I don't think many bosses will top the generosity of UKFast's chief Lawrence Jones.
Every year he hands out long service rewards to his staff, and this isn't just a bottle of cheap plonk.
For those that have done five years, they get £1,000. And those that have managed ten years' service get a whopping £10,000 cash. Jones even pays the tax on that for them.
That is a pretty amazing perk and you don't hear of it very often.
His reason for doing this is that the costs of recruiting and training someone new to a similar level woud be pretty high, so he is safeguarding his interest so to speak. It is a fair point.
I hear pretty often that people are the biggest asset to many companies, but it is a fact that some look after their staff a lot better than others.
However as times do start to pick up, employers really do need to be on their guard and instead of cost-cutting, should look at ways to keep staff happy, as good staff could well be poached by ambitious rivals looking to grow aggressively.
While few could afford to be as generous as Jones, remembering to make long-serving and hardworking staff feel valued will become even more important in any boom times ahead. Happy staff mean productivity. Unhappy staff are not good for business.
Money may not be everything in life, but few people woud fail to have a huge grin plastered on their face after being handed £10,000 tax free.
Employers take note.
30 Jan 2014
Moving house is a stressful time in anybody's life - but moving offices is equally stressful. Add a whole new way of working to the mix and it is brain freeze time!
That is something I had firsthand experience of this week as we moved from our old offices in Broadwick Street to our new office in Haymarket. Just a five-minute walk away, but a whole new world of working that's for sure.
For a start, we are now actively engaged in 'hotdesking' - something none of us journalists that make up the Incisive Media tech group are actually sure about. We have all written about it and heard about it, but never actually done it. Now we are. I am not going to say any more about that right now!
We have swanky-sounding technology to replace hard phones, and team members are being encouraged to work from home at least once a week.
As expected, day one was terrible - we had no phones, everybody came in so there was nowhere for everyone to sit, and the technology didn't quite work according to plan.
We are now coming to the end of the first week and things are settling down, but it hasn't been an easy experience for a bunch of stuck-in-their-ways hacks like us.
There are still a few teething problems with the phones - but these are being addressed, so if you call CRN and either get cut off, or can't get through, please bear with us. Always email if you are trying to get in touch as well until things smooth out.
Normal service is resuming!
Views - both channel related and everyday life observations - from CRN Editor Sara Yirrell. If you have any gossip that you would like to share with me please do get in touch and also we would love to see your comments at the end of the blog.