As we approach year's end, I feel the need to reflect on the channel's progress. It just seems more of the same. Or is that just the depressing effect of December's dark and dreary days?
The same old doubling of performance for the same price on the desktop.
Today's standard desktop with 200MHz Pentium, 2Gb disk, 32 Mb memory now costs exactly the same as 1996's standard 100MHz, 1Gb, 8Mb. Is that the sort of progress the channel needs?
Our aim is to improve margins, reduce competitive pressure and present a more professional channel. But how?
The manufacturers continue to trim their organisations but push as much product as possible through any channel they can, with the reseller carrying the burden at the sharp end. With rising salaries and skill shortages, supplying faster desktops at the same price year in, year out, is not the future.
This year, however, the manufacturers have produced powerful multiprocessor Intel servers. Combine this with advances in clustering technology and the channel finally has products to deliver mission-critical systems to the corporate market. And with this goes the possibility of higher and better quality margins.
Many users still remain sceptical that the channel has the skills to deliver. They're used to working with mid-range Vars, partnered by the manufacturer. They may be right to question the technical skills available in the channel today.
Some years ago Compaq and IBM introduced System Reseller and System Centre accreditations intended to differentiate the channel, but the investment needed by the reseller was poorly rewarded. Now that we have real products to address the market, it is time for the manufacturer to revisit Enterprise accreditations and investment. Not for marketing purposes, but by them investing seriously in their channel.
So here's my Christmas list.
Dear Manufacturer, you recognise the need for better trained staff to sell and support your products. Invest in your channel. It's not reasonable to expect the channel to make the investment alone. Please provide free sales and technical courses, and demand attendance from those resellers seeking accreditation. Make partnership with the reseller a genuine aspect of your approach. And realise that success in selling systems is about quality not quantity. It's your responsibility to make sure your channel can move to support your high-end products in future.
And while you reflect on this, our Christmas party will be in full swing.
This generally involves much revelry, drunkeness and the discovery in days to come of photos taken under the kilt of the sales director's explaining his Big Yin nickname! But enjoy it because next year it'll be the same again - or will it?
A Happy New Year to you all!
Jim Duncan is Managing Director of Abtex.
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