In part two of CRN's chat round the table with some of the Channel Awards’ longest standing judges, our panel openly shares some of their frustrations and their wishes when it comes to awards entries
It has always been a challenge convincing the industry that winning a Channel Award is based solely on the quality of entry alone, not how much is spent in sponsorship, or who has the ear of any particular judges.
Over the years we have seen entry quality continue to improve, and the ones who should be really proud of themselves are the resellers/MSPs and distributors . Without fail, the quality of entry from companies of all sizes has really improved and it is evident how much time and thought is put into each one.
However - and this is going to sound harsh - it is mainly vendors that need to up their game. Some have really grasped what is needed to compile a winning entry, but others just seem to continually miss the mark.
Every year CRN publishes detailed entry criteria, which if followed would help create an entry that is just what the judges are looking for.
In this second article in the series, following on from Part One, our judges discuss the issue of entry quality, and also what frustrates them the most about judging. The comments from the vendor judges really do highlight how some vendors need to rethink their entry strategies.
Of course, it is always appreciated how much work is needed to create an award entry, and CRN always values the support of the industry, but the judges simply want more companies to be in with a chance of winning, hence some pretty caustic feedback below.
Starting on a positive note, former IBM channel boss June Hall said that distribution has upped its game and the quality of entries was noticeable.
"I'm involved in the distribution categories, and the standard has got better and better each year, even during the Pandemic," she said. "The distributors focus on the value they add to their vendors, their staff and sustainability. They are very good at what they do and competition is always tight. It is also always satisfying to see new entrants each year."
Hall added: "I do get frustrated sometimes when we can't give everyone an award, especially when the standard of submissions are so high. But some newer entrants also assume we know everything about their organisation - but we don't!"
Carl West, sales director UK & Ireland at Foxintelligence, is head of the distribution panel, and also agreed that quality is on the up.
"We always have a scale of quality when it comes to entries, but the overall standard has improved dramatically in the distribution categories," he said. "Companies have learned that shipping things and offering credit is not enough to win an award. I would say that as companies do more outreach and look to add tangible value to their business there has been a tangible improvement even at the lower quality end."
But he said his biggest annoyance is a lack of effort in entries.
"We can see when people haven't bothered. This may be an indication of the performance of said companies. There is a checklist, please use it."
Simon Meredith, long-standing channel journalist and marketer, and head of the reseller panel, said some bigger players have been conspicuous by their absence over the years.
"I feel like saying to them: ‘Come on, how much effort does this really take? How much resource do you have?" he said. "I was particularly pleased when the awards moved to a two-phase judging process because it is much fairer.
"The standard of entries is higher now than ever," Meredith added. "I think that's down to experience and more companies making use of graphics and video, but it is still content that really counts. What have you done that's different or ground-breaking? And what do your customers say about what you do for them? That counts more than just about anything else,"
Turning to the vendors, the judges certainly did not hold back.
Channel veteran Ian Kilpatrick, now chief Revenue Officer at AssetLogic, said his biggest bugbear is when vendor entries don't answer the criteria questions.
"Organisations sometimes behave like politicians, provide answers that they want us to hear and ignore key questions. An example is for a UK-based award, telling us your global numbers isn't a question. Neither is describing all the functions and benefits of your product, which eats up words that you could have used to help you win. The quality of vendor entries has improved, but some are still outsourced to PR and then not proofed for quality and content," he said.
Former Avnet boss John Toal is also a long-standing vendor panel judge. "My biggest bugbear is with videos - if they are longer than Ghandi - they are definitely not going to win, some have been close to that length!" he said. "All the companies that enter are sales led businesses - why oh why can't they apply that approach to the story they tell us?"
Sandrijn Stead, CEO of C-View Technologies, is head of the vendor panel, and was happy to share his grievances with the judging process.
"Things that wind me up: Zero prep for the presentations, the statement ‘Just ask me anything' and companies that enter two or more awards with the same damn entry," he said.
He added that the standard is very up and down with vendors: "Last year I honestly saw the worst submission I have ever seen. A day later, with five more judging hours under my belt I read the best submission I have ever seen. Almost every judge gave it top marks and it was not a 30-minute video produced by Martin Scorsese or James Cameron."
Tony Lock, Director of engagement and distinguished analyst at freeform Dynamics has been judging vendor entries for over 15 years.
"The most common, indeed reoccurring, annoyance [for me] is the fact that many of those composing the entries do not trouble to read, or possibly understand, the criteria the judges want / need to see," he explained. "The other issue, another that happens multiple times each year, comes in the length of submissions. A few have almost reached Novella length, but sadly often lacking an exciting storyline to draw the judge through without bumps. Or needing an extra caffeine boost."
Lock said a lack of customisation was also apparent in some vendor entries.
"Too many entries are still made up from cut-from-the-web vendor content or, worse, entries made to another competition with no attempt to make it fit CRN UK criteria, even to the extent of even mentioning the UK channel," he said. "Overall the quality has improved over the past decade, but I wonder when we will get our first AI-generated entry and if we will be able to spot it?"
Paul Briggs, director of global corporate development at BNZSA and former CRN editor, acknowledged the effort needed to create entries, but said the effort was worth it judging by how many firms display their tropies in their various receptions.
"It is always very difficult to please everybody with the judging methodology when it is paramount to be impartial and unbaised in making what is ultimately a subjective, albeit collective, decision," he said. "There will always be those that cry foul of the judging system if they don't win an award or the various new categories that are created to accommodate an evolving channel landscape."
Briggs added: "Entry quality, particularly with vendors, largely depends on the sales, marketing or PR firms that are engaged to enter the awards and the perceived ROI of the work needed to enter them. There is a lot of effort required and it takes up a lot of people's time - so those that don't have a clear strategy, good coordination between various stakeholders, and deadlines to do a good job, will likely lose out to the ones who do."
The deadline for entries is THIS Friday 30 June - click here to submit your entry. The very best of luck to all.