Of all the Channel Awards, those for Outstanding Achievement are the most coveted. These are effectively the Vendor, Distributor and Reseller of the Year awards and they are held in high esteem. One reason for this is that the Outstanding Achievement awards have not been short listed and are awarded purely on the highest number of votes. This year the competition for those categories promises to be very strong indeed and the previous winners, who will again be among the favourites, cannot afford to be complacent.
All three of last year’s winners are well aware that they have a struggle ahead of them if they hope to retain their crown. Last year Fujitsu Siemens Computers (FSC) won three awards – if you count Ian Snadden picking up the Channel Personality Award. But the main accolade for FSC was the Outstanding Achievement award for the Vendor category.
Gary Fowle, marketing director at FSC, knows it will be quite something if the company can reach the same heights again in 2006.
“Obviously, we’d like to win again,” he said. “We think that we’ve done a good job for our resellers again in
2006 and winning the Outstanding Achievement Award two years in succession would show that we are not only doing the right things, but also that working hard to deliver what the channel really needs does pay dividends.”
For the main Vendor of the Year prize, however, the likes of Microsoft and Cisco are in the mix this year, not to mention Hewlett-Packard. The tremendous channel breadth that these companies have means that they can never be discounted. FSC is also facing stiff competition from Kingston Technology, which always attracts a lot of votes. Kingston netted the main Vendor award in 2004, demonstrating to everyone that it is not necessarily the biggest or the most fashionable player who wins.
Ann Keefe, sales director for the UK and Ireland at Kingston, thinks the company can make an impact again in 2006.
“This is the fourth year that we have been short-listed and we have won an award for the past three years,” she said. “We are 100 per cent channel focused and our business has grown by 34 per cent year-on-year for the third-quarter. This clearly demonstrates that we are contributing increased business levels to our channel partners.”
Abdul Terry, marketing manager at last year’s winner of the Corporate Reseller and overall Reseller of the Year awards, Equanet, thinks it is hard to predict who will come out on top among the vendors.
“FSC has done some great work with the channel this year and it would be good to see its continued success recognised by the channel,” he said. “However, there are a number of vendors out there that deserve recognition. I think FSC has a real fight on its hands.”
Fowle said that the important thing is for resellers, channel companies and end-users, to cast a genuine vote.
“I just hope that resellers come out and vote for the companies that they believe really deserve to win,” he added. “To me that means the companies that are not just committed to their partners, but those that are also innovative and go the extra mile to make a difference.”
He thinks FSC might also have a chance in the Editor’s Choice category, which could be awarded to a product this year.
“I’d like to think we have a chance with our Pocket Loox six-in-one hand-held,” he said. “This has been a real success story for us, particularly in the education sector and there are plenty of additional opportunities out there for resellers with this product.”
Keefe believes Kingston has a chance here with its DataTraveler product range. “That’s been outstanding for us this year and it would be a great accolade to win the award for this product,” she said.
Terry said that the best product for Equanet to sell this year has been VMware, which he described as a “must-have product for large corporate and public-sector organisations”.
There is plenty of competition for the Editor’s Choice award, but this is one that you cannot vote for – the choice is down to the editorial team, as is it is for the Channel Personality of the Year award. Suggestions for winners of these categories this year include Intel, for its Intel Core Duo range; Apple, for the “re-birth of their brand and offering from iPod to Mac Pro”. For Personality, Steve Haddock, partner group manager at Microsoft, Bernie Dodwell, European security manager at Westcon, both heads of Computer 2000 (C2000) and Bell Microproducts have been touted.
Alex Tatham, director of commercial products at Bell, suggested that the IT Dealer service should win the Editor’s Choice award. “While these guys are in the specialist vendor category, what other vendor is used by so many channel players and continually expands its service?” he said. “Most HP resellers would be lost without it.”
Steve Lockie, managing director of C2000, which has won the Distributor Award for an unprecedented seven years in succession, knows it will not be easy to repeat that success for an eight time.
“Of course we’d love to win again, but we are never complacent and always feel honoured to be nominated,” Lockie said. “The Channel Awards are the premier accolade for channel companies in the UK. It has been a challenging year for everyone in distribution so it will be interesting to see who walks away with the awards this year.”
C2000 has been through a number of changes over the past year but, as Lockie said, it has not been easy for any company in the sector. All that channel businesses can do, in such testing times, is their very best to meet the changing needs of the market.
“We have worked hard after last year’s restructure to better align with the market,” Lockie added. “We are in good shape and any awards would be testimony to all the hard work put in by the UK team. All we can do is to keep trying to improve and do the very best for our customers.”
Many in the industry would share the view of Grahame Smee, managing director of distributor equIP Technology with regards to the Outstanding Distributor awards.
“The Distributor of the Year should be a company that adds real value for resellers, a company that provides new, leading technology,” he said. “It should deliver increased revenues and margin and back that up with world-class support and training. If only there were actually a company out there like that!”
The implication perhaps is that there may be such a company, but while companies like equIP will certainly challenge in the particular category for which they are short-listed, it is one of the big guns that would seem most likely to claim the main award. But well-known and respected companies that are perhaps not the biggest but, are very widely respected must also have a chance.
One such company with high hopes is Midwich. Darren Lewitt, divisional director at the company, appealed to resellers to make use of their vote.
“Midwich has invested a great deal of time and effort to help its specialist customers,” he said. “I am confident that our customers will vote for us. The feedback we have received so far has been very positive.”
Enta Technologies is another company that could be in with a chance of glory – it is short-listed for four
separate categories. Jon Atherton, vice-president at the distributor, said: “I’d love for us to win, but I am not sure what day I’d wake up if we did. We work hard at Enta and if we win something this year, I think it will be a just reward.”
Readers should use their votes with care though, according to Keefe.
“Distributors and resellers need to think about what is important to them when voting,” she said. “Margin is key to their success and feedback tells us that Kingston products make excellent profits for our partners. Quality and service are also very important and partners should think about how easy vendors are to do business with.”
While all the contenders would be delighted to win, there is also a recognition that there are plenty of other deserving companies in the mix.
Lockie said: “There are many deserving vendors and resellers out there and I think that all of the companies that have made it onto the short-lists can be very proud of their achievements. We work with many of them and we know how hard they try and what a good job they do for their customers. There is often focus on the negatives in this industry, but there are a heck of a lot of positive stories out there as well.”
Lewitt said that he would like to see Samsung named as the Vendor of the Year. “Samsung has managed to boost its brand to tier-one status in the display arena, and has publicly stated that it intends to dominate the print market by 2010,” he said. “A hugely successful advertising and sponsorship campaign means that the Samsung brand is now as salient and respected as Sony. The support that Samsung provides to its partners is second to none.”
John Carter, managing director at DMSL, would like to see some different winners this year.
“It would be positive to see some of the unsung heroes of the channel win some awards,” he said. “Personally, I would like to see BT win the Outstanding Achievement Award for the way it has brought broadband to the small business world. That has probably created more opportunities in the past 18 months than anything else in this industry. It deserves to get some recognition.”
Atherton said that he would like to see Microsoft win the Vendor Award. “It deserves some recognition. When you think about all the business it has delivered, it is hard to deny that it has done a tremendous job for the channel as a whole.”
Meanwhile, Terry thinks IBM is the most deserving vendor this year.
“Its support has been brilliant over the past 12 months,” he said.
Unfortunately, IBM did not even put an entry into the Awards this year – and it was not the only major vendor that missed out on the opportunity – so it stands little chance of winning the major accolade, especially as competition is so strong this year among companies that are pressing for votes from the channel.
From current voting patterns, it looks as though the Reseller Award will probably be the most keenly contested of all the awards this year. Once again, Equanet would seem to be the favourite for the category.
“Equanet is a corporate reseller of the highest calibre,” Lewitt said. “Its unique sales floor is a sight to behold, and it will take something very special to beat it.”
Equanet is certainly eager to hold on to the prize. According to Terry, if it does win it will mean even more because the competition is so strong now. Winners are never in any doubt about the value of these awards.
“Winning a Channel Award is the equivalent to winning an Oscar,” Keefe said. “It proves that the industry respects and admires those that it chooses to win.”
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