20 Nov 2015
It is always with a sense of relief that I make it into the office the day after the channel awards.
And that special 'channel awards feeling' is definitely present today. It is taking me about ten times longer to complete something than normal!
I have to first of all say I was bowled over by the ACM Gospel Choir and Rob Brydon - they both made the evening that extra bit special, and the fact that Rob Brydon sang his own walk on song will stick in my mind for a long time to come. Wow!
It was reassuring to know that Mr and Mrs Brydon lose sleep at night wondering who will win the SMB Reseller of the Year award.
Now I know the usual comments will start about the winners and there really is nothing else I can do to convince people that the awards are given out on merit by the judging panel, but I do urge you to speak to the judges, don't just take my word for it.
Many of the judges were once very cynical about the whole process, but having been involved, are very happy to talk about it to whoever is interested. And I will continue to recruit doubters to prove to them that it is a genuinely independent process.
I should also say I cannot give individual feedback on every single entry, and I really don't have the time to do that, but please do re-read your entry and see if it could be made more UK centric (if you are a vendor), can you include other facts and figures, are your testimonials good enough, does your entry entertain and fully inform the judges, or is it just a block of rehashed corporate statements? Every detail counts, particularly as those near the top have really upped their game.
Congratulations to all our winners and Judges' Commended winners, you really did achieve something last night.
And as ever I would say to those who made the shortlist, but who didn't scoop the prize; please don't give up, keep trying because the slate has been wiped clean, and next year's awards are there for the taking.
However before we do launch the next awards, we will be further tweaking the categories, so be prepared for some changes as we continally strive to keep it fresh.
Thanks to everyone who came along last night for their contiuing support of CRN.
11 Nov 2015
I had to laugh to myself when I heard that Asda is not participating in Black Friday this year.
Yep, the very same Asda, owned by US giant Walmart, who is, in the main, responsible for bringing this bizarre event to the UK in the first place.
That should be a line in an Alanis Morissette song if ever I heard one.
I couldn't believe my eyes last year when I saw the scrums up and down the aisles in supermarkets and major retailers. People grabbing stuff their neither want, nor need, just because it is cut price.
Of course, a lot of people calmly sit at home and snap up bargains that they neither want, nor need, because it is cut price. Or claim they are buying said cheap items as Christmas presents for friends and family, who also neither want, nor need them.
Cue a few days after Christmas, a returns frenzy, both online and in-store, as the scale of the amount of stuff bought that is neither wanted, nor needed, becomes apparent.
So boringly predictable! And it is coming to a website/shop near you very soon. Just not Asda.
And while I'm on the subject of the dreaded C-word, why is Christmas music playing in the shops already? It is NOVEMBER. I don't want to hear snow falling all around me, or to rock around a christmas tree.
Christmas is in DECEMBER.
It must be my age, but I often find myself thinking back to the Christmases of my youth, when there was a real build up to the big day, and adverts didn't start creeping in before the clocks even changed.
Christmas music and ads only started airing a week or two (at most) before, and then you couldn't get enough of it!
The excitement was at its peak on 25 December, but now it always feels a little flat because we have been hearing about it for so long already, that we are over it before it begins.
And on the subject of adverts - I really feel for Currys PC World. Not only did they splash out a considerable amount of money on hiring Jeff Goldblum (£10m actually), and release a set of adverts with a serious message about appearing grateful for some really naff presents, but two other retailers had exactly the same idea about their ad campaign message.
It is like going to a large black tie event and spotting two other women wearing the same dress as you.
I wonder if a few 'advertising experts' are having their heads banged together as a result.
07 Oct 2015
The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook (WEO) has predicted lower global growth compared to last year and has already caused some national news outlets to start warning of another global recession.
According to the IMF’s latest figures, world economic growth will drop from 3.3 per cent to 3.1 per cent this year.
That is the lowest annual growth rate since 2009 and just a smidge over the three per cent level where economy watchers believe signals a global recession.
The fall was spurred on by weaker growth in emerging economies including China, and the impending rise in interest rates in the US.
Maurice Obstfeld, the IMF economic counsellor and director of the research department, said: “Six years after the world economy emerged from its broadest and deepest post war recession, the holy grail of robust and synchronised global expansion remains elusive.
“Despite considerable differences in country-specific outlooks, the new forecasts mark down expected near-term growth marginally but nearly across the board. Moreover, downside risks to the world economy appear more pronounced than they did just a few months ago,”Obstfeld added.
But is it time to start worrying about another recession?
The last thing we need is for those people controlling the purse strings to start getting all cautious again, especially when it appears budgets are being released for much needed IT investment across the board.
The IMF itself admits growth will go up to 3.6 per cent next year, so that is slightly further away from the dangerzone.
I must admit, the industry people I speak to seem to be pretty positive so far this year, but this could be because I’m a journalist and they don’t want me sniffing around for a story!
Would be keen to hear any thoughts on this and whether anyone is concerned about a looming recession.
21 Sep 2015
Living in landlocked Leicestershire – the chances of me getting out in a boat are pretty slim, so I always jump at the chance to get on the water – bizarrely never suffering from seasickness, and preferring the water as choppy as possible.
On arrival at the Isle of Wight, the EMC branding was very visible on the quayside, and after registering and signing some scary looking waiver forms for my forthcoming boat trip, I was able to watch the various crews board their vessels and sail out to sea to begin their races.
Sponsored by EMC and organised by Britannia Corporate Events, this year’s event saw 20 boats, crewed by people from the IT industry (some never having sailed before), take part in a number of races over two days, with the winners being crowned on day two, after amalgamated scores and handicaps were taken into account.
Companies including EMC, Microsoft, Computacenter, VCE, Fortinet, Exclusive Networks, TM Group, Avnet, Skyscape, Juniper and Commtech all had boats and were determined to lift the trophy. Considering the event has been going for nearly two decades, competition is extremely tough.
Once the teams had all left the marina, I was escorted onto a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) and introduced to my skipper Graham, where we spent nearly four hours racing around between the yachts with the official photographer, catching some great pictures and footage of the action.
It certainly was quite rough and ready, and I got thoroughly soaked, but the weather stayed fine and it was an absolutely amazing experience (even though we did get in trouble with some of the boat crews for causing too many waves by cutting in front of their boats – oops!)
Once the races were over and the various crews had returned and had a chance to shower and change into black tie, it was time for the evening event to raise money for three charities – NSPCC, Dreams Come True and the Jubilee Sailing Trust.
There was a silent auction, and a normal auction, plus a crazy game of Heads and Tails – which I didn’t win, natch.
After one of the most moving speeches I have ever seen, both in this industry and outside of work, from Microsoft director Jay Epton, the money came flooding in, and the CEO of British Home Stores (BHS), Dominic Chappell, made a huge donation of £25,000, with a pledge to donate the same every single year the event runs. Wow!
Races continued the following day, until the event came to a close with an afternoon tea and a prize-giving ceremony before everyone headed back to the mainland for a well-earned rest over the weekend.
So far the event has netted over £70,000 (and still counting) which is a fantastic result – well done all.
The winners of the event were: First place: EMC, second place, Catalyst IT and third place, Net Evidence.
The Microsoft boat, skippered by Shaun Frohlich – one of the founders of the Silicon Cup – came in fourth. Better luck next year Shaun!!
From what everyone was saying to me over the two days, the aching muscles and bruises were worth it, and it was one of the best team-building events they had done.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am so glad I finally got to see what it was all about!
17 Aug 2015
As I have been managing our US sister site Channelnomics.com for the past couple of weeks while the site editor is away, I've been sucked into the story that a Colorado-based reseller has been drawn into the continuing Hillary Clinton email saga.
And a juicy one it is too.
The Americans certainly like a scandal involving politicians as much as we do. And I have learned that the American political set up is even more confusing than I found it when I did a module on it at University (many moons ago).
The focus is on the security of Clinton's private emails when she left her post as Secretary of State, and whether or not any sensitive or classified material was sent to/from this address.
Officials on opposing sides are not happy becasue the email was not a government-issue one, but a private one, managed by VAR Platte River Networks.
As far as Platte River Networks was concerned, it was just doing its job. But it has had a visit from the FBI, and Homeland Security is now demanding answers.
As the plot thickens, and it emerges the server was actually wiped clean in December 2014, many officials are asking questions why a reseller was managing and protecting an empty server, and whether it backed up the emails that were sent from the address during the time it was managing and protecting them.
But as concerns grow over the security implications of this story, talk is turning to whether new legislation will arise out of this, meaning the onus may be on the reseller to ensure any classified/sensitive data is properly secure and they will be held accountable if it is not.
In the current situation, Platte River Networks should emerge unscathed, and with far more publicity than it could ever have dreamed of paying for.
And many VARs, already have the top level of protection for their clients' data anyway, so they may not be that concerned.
But take government-level classified information, that threatens the actual security of the country as a whole into account, how confident would they all be then? Particularly if the sender has been careless about what they are sending and to whom from a non-approved email account.
Should the reseller shoulder any of the blame? Surely they cannot be expected to monitor every email sent from their customers' accounts in case they are sending sensitive or classified government data from a private email address?
Anything that happens in the US usually has repercussions for the UK, so I will be continuing to watch this story with interest, particularly the journey of Platte River Networks.
03 Aug 2015
The truth is, I never intended to stay for more than two years. But here I am 15 years later, still at CRN and still amazed at the continuous change in the industry.
I really can say that no year has ever been the same in all that time.
When I first arrived at CRN we broke news in print each week, and if someone remembered, the news was put online once the print issue had gone out. The concept of breaking continuous news online just wasn't on the radar. And I remember when that shift happened and the furore it caused with all the die-hard print journalists!
Also the industry itself was probably about twice the size it is now, and I was there to witness the rapid consolidation that is still happening today - probably more noticeable in the distribution and vendor space.
But in turn, one of the biggest shifts has actually been in the reseller space: when I started on CRN, the majority of firms were proud to be box shifters, as there was massive margin in hardware, and the idea of services was a pipe dream to many or at best some sort of break-fix service bolted on where needed.
Comparing how things are to now, it really is a complete sea-change and it is still happening - I certainly don't think it is over yet. And you have the interesting scenario of distributors becoming more service led, and vendors still battling over that indirect/direct argument.
The positive thing today though is that most of the vendors really do appreciate their channel, and at the very least understand the value that their partners bring to the mix. Of course there are still some exceptions, but I will not name them now. I'm sure you know who they are.
As I started writing this, the news broke that Kelway had been bought in its entirety by CDW - and this is a prime example of how fast the industry is moving. They will now be part of a multi-national giant and a truly global player. I'm sure a few more will go the same way in time.
Anyone remember that old saying - Get big, get niche or get out? It seems like it is still relevant all these years later!
In other news the site we licensed last year from the 2112 Group - Channelnomics.com - is five years old today, so it really is a time of celebration.
I'm looking forward to many more positive things to come. Who knows what will happen in the next 15 years?
21 Jul 2015
I had an email in my junk folder this week inviting me to sign up to a roundtable led by an ‘expert’ on what journalists want from PR people.
Having been a journalist for 18 years, I think I just about know what journalists want from PR people, and I quipped to the sender that perhaps I could tell them a thing or two about how to deal with journalists.
But whatever industry you are in – knowing your audience/customer is absolutely crucial, or you will quickly create bad feeling.
The problem is now that we all have such vast databases that just aren’t nurtured properly – blanket emails are sent out in the hope that they will be seen by the right people, when in fact someone should take the time to sort that database out, ask questions, and only send an email to the relevant people.
It is something we are working very hard at here at Incisive Media.
If the person who sent me the email about PR had done that, I might not have got so irritated last night.
Not that it takes much you understand. However I get that managing a database is a little like trying to hold Mercury in your hand, it cannot be fully controlled, there is always going to be some that slips from your grip – the trick is to try and keep the majority of it intact. Both people and companies come and go, or are acquired, and their requirements and interests change. And this is a two way thing.
If your customers won’t respond to your communications and actually let you know what interests/is relevant to them, things get even more complicated. It is all too easy to feel that you are talking to yourself when you get no response.
It is a fact that customers are more savvy now than ever before, and are not worried about shaming a company on social media or just taking their business elsewhere if they are not happy.
But for those that go that extra mile to really get to know their customers, and find out what they want/need/are interested in, the effort will be fully rewarded.
As long as those customers also appreciate that they have to do their bit too.
06 Jul 2015
It is very easy to get angry when something beyond your control is not going according to plan.
For example I get ridiculously angry over trains being late, as anyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook will agree.
But losing my rag at the train staff is not going to get me to my destination any quicker, and they will not forget my face in a hurry. For all the wrong reasons.
It doesn't matter how angry I am about the trains, it is not the fault of the train staff that a signal has stopped working, or the train has developed a fault.
Treating people with respect is something my parents drummed into me from an early age, one of their favourite sayings being "be careful who you tread on, on your way up, as it is a long way down".
It doesn't matter if you are speaking to an MD or a cleaner, a multi-millionaire or a pauper - we are all human beings at the end of the day and respect costs nothing.
My first job in local papers involved something hideous called a 'death knock'. Which basically was when someone died, you were sent out by your news editor to speak to the family, get a picture of the deceased, and get a story in the paper.
Some journalists had different approaches - some would be quite aggressive, knocking on doors, ringing phones and not leaving until the family had answered. But my approach was to write a polite note expressing my sympathy and leaving my name and number, giving them the option to call me if they wanted a tribute to their loved one in the paper. Nine times out of ten, it worked.
It was a really difficult job, and earning the respect and trust of the family was not easy. And making them talk about something so raw was very draining for both me and them. It required patience, kindness, understanding, and on occasion also having to deal with a very angry news editor demanding to know why my story was not ready to go for that evening's edition.
Why am I bringing this up? I hear you ask.
Nothing in particular, but I wrote a song earlier this year about looking back over your life and wondering if you had actually achieved anything worthwhile. And I found the lyrics lying around this weekend and had another read through.
It is interesting that so much emphasis is put on material wealth when talking about success, when really it should be more about the type of person you are and how you have treated those around you throughout your life.
Another favourite saying of my family is "you come in this world with nothing and go out with nothing". Very true indeed.
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