Thirteen top UK reseller and MSP bosses came together last night to swap stories on how they navigated the last 15 months during the pandemic and shed light on what opportunities lie ahead as the UK emerges from the Covid crisis.
You can view the pictures from the night, which was sponsored by Agilitas, here. The full line-up of guests is displayed at the bottom of this article.
Held at Shangri-La, The Shard in London, the A-list dinner was, for many of our delegates, the first time they had attended a face-to-face industry event since before the pandemic almost 16 months ago.
Last night's guests said a return to face-to-face interaction in line with government guidelines signalled light at the end of the tunnel for the industry after what has been a torrid and difficult time for many.
CRN's A-list dinner, which is loosely based on our A-list, was grounded on the theme of business returning to some normality and customers going "full speed ahead" with their IT investments.
There was an overwhelming feeling of optimism and positivity from the delegates in attendance about the future of the IT sector following the pandemic.
Softcat CEO Graeme Watt said that the opportunities that lie ahead for the channel are brighter than ever.
"I think our industry is in rude health," he said. "We have witnessed that technology has an increasing part to play in our lives and the development and consumption of that technology continues to evolve at a great pace.
"Our customers need help in making the decisions that are right for their business and their ambitions and I am sure we can continue to play a significant part in the channel."
Penny Williams, public sector sales director at CDW, echoed Watt's optimistic sentiment.
"I think there's huge optimism following government guidelines and getting back out into the market meeting with partners and customers and I think there's huge optimism among the channel," she said.
Paul Shannon, CEO at ANS Group said that there's a new energy from customers to go full speed ahead on their IT projects.
"Meeting with all of my industry peers after so long has been brilliant," he said. "They are as optimistic as I am about the channel's prospects for the next few years. For us it's all public cloud, digital transformation and security and customers are going full speed ahead."
Jo Feldman, group sales and marketing director at Idea, added that the Covid pandemic helped transform his business into a services-led organisation.
"Covid enabled us to push our agenda in terms of reducing equipment and increasing our services business. That has been great for us; it has accelerated our productisation of cloud and modern workplace. Overnight we saw a lot of our classic infrastructure and network projects put on hold and budget was repurposed into the desktop which gave us a great Launchpad to accelerate those propositions," he said.
"There's a real shift in the market in moving from a provision of technology and to a provision of service and a shift to business outcomes and discussions which is a real eye-opener for our sales teams."
"It's great to see how healthy the channel is. That's been the message from everybody and we're in good spirits as businesses.
"There are so many opportunities as customers try and focus on their core business. They're either accelerating what Covid has allowed them to achieve and change, or their shoring up their finances and having to reduce their cost base. The opportunities are endless and they're in almost everything that we do," said Andy Wright, commercial director at XMA.
"There's tonnes and tonnes of opportunity. The traditional reselling is really important to customers, and the increased importance of mobility means that even almost 'commodity' device support is actually really important to people. It's a great time to be in IT."
Jigsaw24 CEO Roger Whittle said that the IT industry has set itself up for a strong H2 based on the strength of both the hardware and software markets in a post-Covid environment.
"As we start to come out of the worst of Covid, the IT industry is really well placed for a strong H2. While the key challenges of both Tech sustainability as we battle the climate emergency together and of returning to some form of hybrid office/elsewhere working are all too evident, it is clear that there are many exciting opportunities ahead. We are very optimistic and excited at Jigsaw24."
Content+Cloud CEO Peter Sweetbaum added that the return of the A-list dinner signalled light at the end of the tunnel for the industry.
"Tonight's CRN event was great validation of the collective positivity around our market and the opportunity we all see," he said.
"The fact that for many of us it was the first event in 15 months is showing that there is light at the end of the tunnel finally! There was a common view that the pandemic has underpinned the need and demand for technology solutions and services for some time to come."
Agilitas CMO Richard Eglon said that the A-list dinner radiated a "stronger together" mentality in the channel.
"After a very challenging year for the Channel it was great to once again be reunited with many familiar faces at tonight's CRN A-list dinner. The discussion points and shared experiences were very similar across many of the leaders I spoke with, and there was an optimistic ‘stronger together' rhetoric that demonstrated a positive outlook for our industry as we look to win the COVID recovery"
Full A-list dinner line-up
Mark Chang, CEO, Block
Richard Eglon, CMO, Agilitas
Jo Feldman, group sales and marketing director, Ideal
Yolanta Gill, CEO, European Electronique
Aidan Groom, managing director, Total Computers
Shaun Lynn, CEO, Agilitas
Gareth Meyer, commercial and operations director, Ultima
Paul Shannon, CEO, ANS Group
Peter Sweetbaum, CEO, Content+Cloud
Graeme Watt, CEO, Softcat
Roger Whittle, CEO, Jigsaw24
Penny Williams, public sector sales director, CDW
Andy Wright, commercial director, XMA