For 2010, We Can Bounce Back

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During the past four weeks there has been a bit of good news for 2010. First, Cisco, the networking giant and industry bellwether, posted a 23 percent jump in profit, an 8 percent gain in revenue, and announced that it plans to hire 3,000 workers in the coming months.

Cisco isn't the only one. There are other signs of a recovery for the tech sector. In late January, Avnet beat Q2 expectations, as did EMC. So, it appears that we hit the bottom in 2009. But the real question is: How quickly can small and midsize businesses come back and increase their technology spend in 2010?

Surely the industry is poised for a tech refresh this year with Windows 7, Office 10 and SharePoint. We are also ready for an infrastructure upgrade, and technologies such as virtualization and information security remain of interest. But even with the worst behind us, selling solutions isn't going to be easy. Price and ROI are going to be part of every conversation, and your job will be to find the right products that provide true value to the customer and can help you grow your business.

While tried-and-true applications from Microsoft and Cisco may help you have a better 2010 than 2009, you'll need to position yourself effectively for the turnaround and invest in areas that can help differentiate your business for the future. Cisco and Microsoft are not the only answer.

While the market is still new, you will need to investigate cloud computing. Even though it may not happen this year or even next year, cloud will be a radical shift in how we consume IT. That means you need to at least be moving in this direction and have it as part of your portfolio.

Rest assured, you will not be left out of the equation. Rather, you will be able to shift your business model to one that is more predictable. You still will have the relationship with your customer and you still will pull together all the solutions. It is simply a matter of what and how you are selling them.

Cloud technology and the players are relatively new. So you'll need to scrutinize players with which you may have never done business: Amazon, Google, AT&T, as well as a slew of upstarts. You may also need to look at different skill sets for your organization. Developers, for instance, could help you customize and build on top of these cloud applications.

But most important, you need to look critically at the VAR programs around cloud that will be introduced into the market. Do their channel execs understand VARs? Do they have previous experience in the channel? Are they going to understand what the channel needs to make this transition?

And then you'll need to do some looking inward and ask yourself some tough questions. Do you understand what it takes to shift your model, and are you willing to make the investment? For instance, you may need to move away from reselling hardware or even building out your own proprietary data center. These guys have already done that and may offer programs that make it attractive for you to leave it on the table in lieu of services and integration opportunities.

So, as we hope for pent-up demand to offer us some opportunities in 2010, we can't lose sight of the fact that the technology market is changing and you need to adjust accordingly.

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