The Channel's Best Bet

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I’ve been following, participating in, researching and generally involved with the IT sales channel for nearly 30 years. My first interaction with the channel came as a business reporter when I did a story on a bookstore owner in a Boston shopping mall that was changing his business to selling PCs in the 1980s.

I’ve seen a lot of changes since then. Through it all CRN and Everything Channel, both of which have gone through some ownership, name and business model changes of their own over the years, have helped bring clarity to what needs to be done to build successful channels and channel businesses.

It’s different today, and many of the best minds in the channel whom I know well and admire have been discussing that with me for months now. So when a small group of elite solution providers identified their desire to assemble the top thinkers in the business to attack the agenda for the successful channel ecosystem of the future, we jumped on it.

When we first began discussing the concept of the Best of Breed, or BoB, conference, to be held Oct. 24-26 in Monarch Beach, Calif., we agreed it could not be an open-to-anyone event. In order for the collective group of us truly interested in advancing the needs of the channel to build an event that could solve real problems, we knew we would have to limit its accessibility or risk getting bogged down in minutia. So what is BoB all about? It’s not about back-end rebates or fighting over margin, market development funds or certification costs, or about the untold number of other details vendors and partners go back and forth on daily.

What it is about is setting an agenda for advancement.

I, like all the other attendees of BoB, be they on the solution provider or vendor side of the coin, believe we are in a period of unprecedented business model changes. We’ve heard and probably said that before, but the difference is that this time you can’t do what you have done in the past to get through it.

Traditionally, solution provider organizations with good technical expertise, a customer base and sales skills could power through a business model change like open sourcing or a technical leap like the one brought on by the Internet browser.

I’m convinced that just isn’t going to be enough this time. Desktop virtualization and the desire to have any information we need on any device at any time are unparalleled technical challenges being enabled by the cloud.

No business or individual (other than a gadget freak) buys technology just for the sake of it. They buy technology because it solves a problem or advances an opportunity. More importantly, most of us don’t really want to own the technology—we just want access to the computing power that meets our needs.

I believe we are going to see suppliers facing survival challenges as a result of this. By the way, large numbers of solution providers, many of them coming off difficult times due to an anemic economic rebound, are also facing the same stress. The difference is many suppliers have the resources to duke it out for years. Solution providers face cashflow issues that can tank a business in months if the business model changes and they are not prepared.

That’s where BoB comes in. We believe we have constructed an event with an agenda built by partners that is poised to tee up the business model issues and allow partners to learn from each other, from suppliers and from Everything Channel’s research.

BACKTALK: Make something happen. Robert Faletra is CEO of Everything Channel. You can contact him via e-mail at

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