Channel programs News

CRN 40th Anniversary Panel: 5 Key Ways The Channel Has Evolved

C.J. Fairfield

CRN has been a ‘catalyst’ in bringing alignment to the channel and bridging the gap between the vendor and the solution provider, says Jason Wright, CEO of MSP Avatar Computer Solutions, in a panel discussion with other executives at XChange 2022.

While technology and ways to do business have changed tremendously over the past 40 years, one thing that has remained steadfast has been servicing customers and solving their issues.

In a panel to celebrate CRN’s 40th anniversary, executives spoke about how the channel has evolved over time and what partners, distributors and vendors must do to keep growing. The panel was hosted at CRN parent company The Channel Company’s XChange event in Denver this week.

The panel was moderated by Jennifer Follett, vice president of U.S. content and executive editor of CRN, and Steve Burke, news editor at CRN. Panelists included Blaine Raddon, CEO of The Channel Company; Jason Wright, CEO of Houston-based MSP Avatar Computer Solutions; Michael Goldstein, president of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based MSP LAN Infotech; and Donna Grothjan, vice president of worldwide channels at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.

The panel members began by reflecting on how they started in the industry and how CRN played a pivotal role in helping them keep up with current industry news.

When Goldstein first found CRN, he knew he was its key audience.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, they’re talking to me,’” he said.

For Grothjan, CRN was the way to keep up with what was going on in the market and find insight into how to look at her business and enhance it. It also provided a pulse on how her company was doing in relation to competitors and if it was staying up to date.

“It’s a bible,” she said. “It made me really start to question myself, am I doing the right things in my role or company and what’s top of mind with solution providers?”

Wright said CRN has been a “catalyst” in bringing alignment to the channel and bridging the gap between the vendor and the solution provider.

“It’s really about service, delivery and execution,” he said, adding that people do business with individuals they like.

“This hasn’t changed,” he said. “So 99.99 percent of the relationships I have were garnered at these conferences. CRN and The Channel Company have done a swimmingly good job of building community.”

Derek Nwamadi, co-founder and CEO of Dallas-based MSP Quantum Symphony, said the panel was a good look at where the channel needs to go to remain viable.

It’s about being a trusted adviser, becoming more focused on value selling and doubling down on business outcomes, he said.

“It’s not just about the technology and the future trends, that’s very important, but how do you as an MSP be able to say, ‘This is the business outcome of why we’re doing what we’re doing?’” he said. “If you hold us accountable to the business outcomes, the technology pieces that we integrate become that much more valuable because they can tie it together.”

Here are five ways the channel has changed over 40 years and what needs to be done to be successful in the future.

CJ Fairfield

CJ Fairfield is an associate editor at CRN covering solution providers, MSPs and distributors. Prior to joining CRN, she worked at daily newspapers, including The Press of Atlantic City in New Jersey and The Frederick News-Post in Maryland. She can be reached at

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