The IT channel was originally created to maximise the efficiency of our industry's route to market. However, with some manufacturers dealing directly with the user and fulfilling orders via distribution and resellers, a legacy of confusion remains.
Who ultimately owns the relationship with the user's customers? Whose responsibility is it, for example, to communicate new technologies and product information without setting expectations that cannot be met by either the Var, the distributor or the manufacturer?
At P&I Data Services, we are striving for change. By encouraging communication with vendors and distributors through a single, primary source, i.e. the Var, we are finding ways of presenting a consistent message, thereby exceeding customer expectations.
It is a process, however, that can fall down if channel partners stop talking to each other. For instance, take product shortages. When a manufacturer promotes the latest in leading edge technology and the customer is promised an end to a headache, it is generally left to the Var to explain why it is not available for another month.
We believe the only way forward is to lessen the impact of product shortages on users by developing trust and teamwork with channel partners. The emphasis has to be on communication. If the communication channels are working in the right way we can give our customers realistic expectations.
Initially, it is the user that must trust the Var to share its plans and strategies, enabling the creation of a true partnership. Unfortunately, the industry has hardly helped by creating a cutthroat price war which has led the user to buy purely on the basis of product codes.
However, once this trust is built up, both distribution and manufacturing can be brought into the picture. At this point, it is the Var that must trust the members of the channel to present the user with a team, working in unison to deliver the right solution.
But are distributors and manufacturers prepared to work with Vars in this way? And if so, do they have the desire to make it work?
It would appear that while niche distributors have made great progress in this respect, broadliners have yet to embrace this concept. In addition, one could question whether the manufacturers have got it right. By creating the pull through for leading edge technologies, the demand often outstrips availability. Can a manufacturer complain when, having explored all other possibilities, the Var cross sells with a comparable system rather than lose a customer?
At P&I, we find that while there are still only a few partners with whom we can work this closely, once the user acknowledges the trust between themselves and the Var they realise the value in the relationship.
It's certainly the key reason why customer retention at P&I Data Services is second to none.
Ian Summerfield is MD of P&I Data Systems.
Automation firms UiPath and Automation Anywhere close out their funding rounds with $265m and $300m respectively
View photos of last night's awards ceremony in London
View photos of all the winners from the 2018 Channel Awards
After a glittering awards evening in Battersea celebrating 25 years of the Awards, we are pleased to share the list of winners and judges' commended winners