The judges for the Channel Awards are a mix of journalists, analysts and representatives of third party organisations that either specialise or play an important role in the UK channel. Collectively, they are responsible for selecting which companies will make it onto the short lists for the awards. They will also provide half of the votes that will decide the final winners, the other half of the votes coming from resellers. Decisions will be made from the entries, and judges will draw on their own knowledge and extensive experience, but essentially they will all be looking for the same factors.
“Although it is moving much faster today, the principles are the same,” said Phillip Howells, joint founder of specialist research firm, Better Answers. “You need to keep it simple, do things that make a difference, and develop relationships and trust. We’ll be looking for companies that understand that and are putting the resources in place to make those relationships work.”
Jeremy Davies, senior partner at pan-European research organisation Context, has a similar view. Like Howells, he has been scrutinising the channel for more than 20 years and told CRN that all that has really changed are the prevailing conditions. “It’s tough for everyone at the moment and what’s important now is how a channel company creates value in innovative ways and helps to develop long-term customer relationships that build annuity-type business.”
There are two judges from the channel think-tank Canalys: president and chief executive Steve Brazier is well-known to the channel, and senior analyst Alistair Edwards is a former journalist who now runs the company’s Channels Analysis service. Edwards believes companies that have responded to this year’s rapid market changes will emerge as winners.
“The winners will be companies that have identified and moved into new value growth areas – as opposed to just volume. Winning vendors are those that have recognised the need to support their most effective channel partners rather than escalating competition with them. Winning distributors have recognised new market opportunities and invested in helping to skill-up the reseller base.
The resellers that stand out are those that have understood factors such as customer satisfaction in building a sustainable customer relationship while managing their own cost base intelligently in the face of continued price erosion.”
Consolidation has been another major theme this year and some judges will be looking specifically at how channel players have responded to the resulting changes. Keith Humphreys, senior consultant at networking and communications analyst EuroLAN, said: “It has progressed to a point where systems have been integrated and duplication of roles has fallen under the spotlight. The winning trend in the channel is solution selling. Gone are the days of the specialist – such as the networking VAR. Today corporate customers look to a solution pro-vider taking responsibility for an entire project.”
Bob Tarzey, service director at specialist channel researcher Quocirca, is also interested in consolidation, in particular in what the mergers have achieved and how they are benefiting resellers and their customers. “It has been a year of convergence at many levels, but in particular around IT infrastructure. I would be interested to see how resellers are taking away the pain around implementation from their customers, especially resource-strapped small businesses.”
Another important theme at the reseller level this year, Tarzey added, has been best practice. “Well-managed IT infrastructure and processes lead to better delivery of IT value to the business, which leaves everyone involved – resellers and vendors – with a better reputation and the end-user business with a positive view of IT – that will grab my attention.”
Mike Briercliffe, chairman of the IT Forum Foundation and of Tech-nology Means Business joins the judges for the first time this year. He too will be looking for simple demonstrations of value being delivered. “One of the questions I’ll be asking is: ‘How are they adding true value and is their participation in the value chain justified?’ I want to see vendors that care for the channel and the user, and about market development. For distributors the question is: ‘How are they adding value outside of stock and credit?’ I’ll be looking for resellers that add value in an innovative sense and reward commitment from vendors and distributors with loyalty.”
Other judges include Nitin Joshi, director of Vantis, and a veteran of business recovery and insolvency expert in the channel; Keith Warburton, executive director of the Association; and Simon Meredith, the author of this article, who acts as a consultant to CRN and the Channel Awards.
CRN editor Sara Driscoll has been on the panel for the last three years and on the paper for more than five years. She is the most important of the judges as, in addition to casting votes for all awards, she must also decide on the Editor’s Choice winners. While other judges, the editorial team and people in the industry are consulted, the editor always has the last word.
“The awards represent a great differentiator for all the short-listed and winning channel players, therefore selecting a winner is extremely difficult,” said Driscoll. “The standard seems to get higher with every passing year, so it is vital that our awards reflect the increased effort that some companies are making with their resellers. It’s all about what a com-pany does to improve the standard of business it conducts, and how what it offers can help increase the profitability of partners.”
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