Attendees of the inaugural European Channel Leadership Forum (ECLF) were treated to a refreshingly brutal account from IT leaders of what they seek in their IT suppliers.
The final session of the event, which featured IT bosses from Save the Children and two commercial firms, encapsulated the rationale for CRN and our sister publication Channelnomics Europe in putting on the event in the first place.
When we put this new event in the calendar, the idea was to bring together the cream of the IT channel, alongside various CIOs.
The other major goal was to provide VAR, MSP and SI bosses with the content they genuinely wanted to hear about, and we gleaned what content this might be from interviews we conducted with about 15 of them at the start of the year.
Hearing from CIOs on what they love and loathe in their IT suppliers was near the top of your wish list.
The message from the end users in this final panel session was: specialise, prove you are a stable business, and - above all - don't try to pull the wool over our eyes.
The swankiness of the venue, the May Fair hotel in west London, was matched only by the calibre of the 50-plus reseller, SI and MSP bosses who attended the event to discuss the channel's most pressing issues.
Collectively, they represented firms with over £18bn in revenue, with bosses from Insight, Dimension Data, Bechtle, Crayon, Damovo and BT Business Direct among those present.
Following a keynote from Insight's EMEA president, Wolfgang Ebermann, and a slap-up meal last night, the first keynote of this morning saw Incisive Media's content director, Tom Wright, take to the stage to present research on the changing IT buying cycle.
And he had some fairly eye-watering stats for the audience.
Resellers should stop focusing solely on chasing traditional IT budgets, he said, highlighting findings that a good deal less than half of IT spend is now budgeted for.
"The IT budget, as we know it from 10 years ago, is an endangered species," Wright said.
Digitally transformed businesses make decisions three times faster than traditional organisations, Wright added, meaning suppliers will in turn also have to become more fleet of foot.
Next up on stage was Niko Mykkanen, the EMEA channel boss of Amazon Web Services, a vendor whose revenue run rate has gone from zero to roughly $14bn in a little over 11 years.
Known for its direct-selling roots, AWS is embracing the channel, Mykkanen said, adding that skilling up partners was one of the biggest investments the public cloud giant has made this year. Partner certifications are up 159 per cent year on year, he said. But, addressing concerns from partners that the bar is too high to become certified, Mykkanen said that although maintaining a high bar remains essential, the firm is "looking into how to make it easier for you".
Following Mykkanen was Andy Gass, the UK managing director of Tech Data, who gave an overview of the distributor's digital strategy following its takeover of Avnet Technology Solutions.
"We are a middleman organisation. We have no automatic right to exist, unless we can show value," Gass said.
GDPR was the next topic under the spotlight in the first panel session of the day. One of the panellists, CAE's Justin Harling, said we are seeing the good, the bad and the ugly of GDPR, with the ugly being "the amount of time we are spending talking to lawyers". Another panellist said that only one customer had actively asked them about GDPR.
Next up, four of the vendor showcase sponsors for the event - Agilitas, Autotask, Webroot and Oracle Netsuite - took to the stage to give a five-minute overview of their business - and well done to all for mastering the difficult skill of keeping to the time limit.
After the morning break, IFS economist Paul Johnson began his presentation by warning that he had only bad tidings for the audience, and he wasn't lying. His findings were an eye-opener for everyone.
The final event of the day, the IT leaders panel, added context to all that had come before, and the CIOs on the panel didn't pull their punches.
We hope everyone who attended found value in the event, and we would very much welcome any feedback on how we can continue to shape this event as it evolves.
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