It was certainly a night to remember. The 2000 Channel Awards, sponsored by AMD and Cable & Wireless (C&W), welcomed more than 1000 people from the channel and saw 18 awards presented by compere Rory Bremner to the best-performing vendors, distributors and resellers over the past year.
The big winners on the night were Computer 2000 (C2000), Hewlett Packard (HP) and Microsoft, but there were many others. The real victory in the end belonged to the whole channel, as the evening demonstrated the commitment, success and sheer fun of being part of the UK IT industry's business and trading community.
It was the result of some tremendously hard work by the team at Computer Reseller News (CRN) and publishers VNU, not least marketing manager Lisa Glover, who was responsible for organising the best and most successful night in the event's seven-year history.
"It was not only successful but also very enjoyable," said Richard Baker, marketing manager for northern Europe at AMD. "For us it is a demonstration of our commitment to a profitable and enduring channel. The channel always seems to think it is under attack from somewhere. We sponsor the event to show that we support them - and to have a good night."
AMD is a long-standing sponsor of the event, but this year the chip maker was joined by C&W, a company which also wanted to demonstrate its channel credentials on the night, but for different reasons.
Alan Tyler, vice president of the alliance and partner channel at C&W, said: "As we change from being a telco to an IP company, I think it helped to show people where we are going. We've been known as a direct sales company, but now our commitment is to a fully integrated channel."
C2000's highest expectations were exceeded as the distributor scooped an unprecedented six out of a possible seven awards for which it was nominated, including the prestigious Business Distributor of the Year accolade for the second year running.
The real value
Julian Klein, managing director at the company, said that he was naturally delighted to win so many awards, but that their real value lies in where the votes come from. "It is the resellers telling us what we hoped we already knew: that we are doing a decent job. It is great to get this sort of feedback from our customers. We have a team of people here who work hard every day and it's their achievement really. I think it has only just started to sink in here," he said.
Klein believes that the value of the awards has grown over the years. "Our approach has always been to believe in ourselves, to understand our weaknesses, to overcome them and to listen. I think there has been a higher level of confidence in the voting system this year and we would just like to do our best to defend those awards," he said.
Managers of the individual C2000 business units that won awards were understandably pleased. Andy Shepperd, general manager of the company's networking division, said: "It is a positive affirmation of what we have been doing in the past year and a recognition of our efforts over that period. I'm absolutely delighted."
And after collecting the award for Ebusiness Distributor of the Year, Nigel Judd, general marketing manager, said: "Ecommerce is one of our key strategies. It's good to know our customers think it is useful and helps them to do business."
Ideal Hardware was the only other distributor to pick up an award. Commercial director Alex Tatham said: "We were absolutely delighted to win Storage Distributor of the Year and that our customers voted for us, and also that we were the only company to win something ahead of C2000. We have had a pretty good year, but they have obviously had a good one as well. It shows they are the people to beat and we congratulate them."
The vendors that demonstrated clear leadership in the eyes of resellers were HP and Microsoft. HP won the Editor's Choice, as well as the Retail Vendor of the Year and Hardware Vendor awards.
Borel Setten, UK marketing director at HP, attributed the company's near clean sweep in the categories for which it was eligible to its clear channel policy. "I think the channel views us positively because we have been very consistent in saying we can only achieve our objectives through the channel. We have got that message across very clearly. Compaq and IBM have perhaps been ambiguous about their channel strategies," he said.
Setten added that HP's broad market reach also helped. "We have our small to medium sized enterprise two-tier channel and at the other end we have very large systems integration partners. We are working in lots of different segments and they integrate and give us a very good view right across the channel," said Setten.
Microsoft won two awards: Best Product (Windows 2000) and Software Vendor of the Year. Adele Knox-Roberts, distribution sales and marketing manager, said that the company was thrilled. "The Best Product award was great, but to me the Software Vendor of the Year award was particularly significant because there were some great companies in there. It says we are doing something right for the channel."
She added that this year's ceremony was something of a turning point. Previous channel events have seen Microsoft attracting derogatory remarks and even being jeered. Knox-Roberts believes that the absence of this is a reflection of the distance the company has covered.
"Five years ago we would not have won that award," she said. "The general perception of what we were doing for resellers and distributors was not what it should have been, but we are trying to provide the support the channel needs and I think a positive perception is there now."
With one exception, everyone who walked away with an award was, of course, delighted. Morse failed to send a representative to pick up its award for Value Added Reseller (VAR) of the Year.
But even for those who won nothing, the night had its consolations, according to Simon Boyle, marketing manager at VAR of the Year nominee Dimension Data Network Services (formerly Chernikeeff). "Obviously, we were disappointed not to win but when the people at our table saw just how disappointed we were, they bought us a bottle of Champagne. We were pleased just to be on the list because we really only appeared in the UK this summer. We will probably work a bit harder at publicising ourselves next year," he said.
Lynx Technology was not nominated but it would be working hard to change that next year, said Paul Edgeley, managing director. The event was also great fun and good for networking, he added. "It was extremely well organised and I have had several phone calls already as a result of being there," he said.
Alison Heath, channel development director at Netstore, one of Microsoft's newly certified application service providers, also spent much of the evening networking. "It is one of those rare opportunities when you get to see people while they are having a good time. One of our team got three appointments out of it the next day," she said.
There is no denying that everyone had a great time. The evening kicked off at 6.45pm with drinks before dinner. After an excellent meal, CRN editor Paul Briggs welcomed everyone to the "Oscars of the IT industry". Then the cabaret began with a spectacular, if somewhat mystifying, display of fire dancing and angle grinding.
Compere Rory Bremner was, as always, sharp and topical and soon had the audience in stitches, and there was no respite when the extraordinarily hirsute stand-up comedian Milton Jones took the stage. The awards presentations followed, and the party was soon in full swing with music and dancing to a live band until around 1.30am, after which festivities continued at a number of hotels in Chelsea. It was not just a night to remember, but most of a morning as well.
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