This year's Channel Champions trophies were handed out at the XChange Solution Provider conference in Los Angeles last month and the scores, by technology category, are published in CRN and on CRN.com.
But, behind the scenes, a lot of numbers were crunched to get those final results. CRN's research team analyzed more than 6,000 responses to a solution provider survey conducted in January and February covering 31 technology categories and a dozen partner satisfaction criteria. A closer look at this year's Channel Champions data offers some revealing insights about the state of the IT industry and how solution providers perceive the job that IT vendors are doing.
Take, for example, the vendors with the 10 highest scores in product quality and reliability, part of the broader technical satisfaction criteria. Power protection and management equipment maker APC by Schneider Electric had the highest score here both in 2013 (99.0) and this year (103.5), even as it lost the category to Eaton.
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That not only shows that APC by Schneider Electric is doing a top-notch job in the product quality and reliability department, but it shows how much the company has raised the bar for all other IT vendors. Competitor Eaton, who won the category for the first time, rose to the challenge and was No. 2 in product quality and reliability, scoring 102.6.
"If it's great technology, it's much easier to sell," said Alex Solomon, founder and co-president of Net@Work, a New York-based solution provider that works with nearly three dozen IT vendors. "But we also want a company that understands sales and marketing."
Solomon divides the IT companies Net@Work works with into two groups: vendors and partners. Vendors, he said, just see the channel as another way to move their products to market. "The partners look at our customers as their mutual customers," he said.
So what does the 2014 Channel Champions data tell us about who's meeting the channel's expectations?
The average score among the overall winners across the 31 technology categories was 78.0, up from 76.2 in 2013. So the vendors with the highest scores, at least, have upped their game.
Drilling a little deeper, that generally holds true when looking at some of the Channel Champions criteria. Take the technical satisfaction scores, for example. Intel was the top-ranked company in both 2013 and 2014 (for its processors), but this year the company's 2014 technical satisfaction score was 93.5, up 1.8 points. The average score among the top 10 in technical satisfaction this year was 90.3, up from 88.6 last year.
Scores for support satisfaction were likewise up. Last year Oracle had the top score, 82.5 for its middleware. This year solution providers gave Cisco the top score, 84.1, for its converged infrastructure products. The average score among the top 10 in support satisfaction this year was 78.2, up from 76.9 in 2013.
Cisco with its converged infrastructure systems was this year's top scorer in financial criteria (which includes product margins, rebates, price for performance, services-attach opportunities and sales growth) at 85.7, a big improvement over the top score of 80.6 IBM received for cloud applications in 2013. The average score among the top 10 in financial satisfaction this year was 79.6, up from 78.3 in 2013.
Generally speaking, scores for most of the subcriteria in this year's Channel Champions voting were also between 1 and 2 points higher than last year. In pre-sales support, for example, this year's top score of 86.7 (given to Cisco for videoconferencing) was up from last year's top score of 85.6 (Oracle in middleware). In the price-for-performance criteria, this year's top score of 91.1 (given to Samsung for its flat-panel displays) was up from the 89.2 top score Oracle earned in middleware last year. And in enablement and technical training, Cisco beat itself this year with the top score of 84.7 in converged infrastructure, up from the 82.8 it garnered last year in unified communications.
The one exception here was in product compatibility and ease of integration. Seagate's score of 97.0 for SATA hard drives was the highest in 2013. But this year's highest score (Western Digital's for SATA hard drives) was 95.3.
NEXT: Meeting Channel Partners' Needs