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IGEL, Pax8: Scale Is Being ‘Redefined’ As Virtual Partner Training Booms

IGEL CEO Jed Ayres and Pax8 Chief Channel Officer Ryan Walsh discuss the influx of partners being trained virtually as channel participation in virtual education skyrockets during COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a massive increase in the amount of channel partners wanting to boost their IT skillsets virtually as traveling for conferences, in-person training and customer meetings have come to a halt.

At The Channel Company’s Best of Breed (BoB) Virtual Series today, top executives from market leaders Pax8 and IGEL said they’re pivoting resources to meet the high demand for virtual training that has increased partner participation tenfold.

Ryan Walsh, chief channel officer at Pax8, said “scale got redefined” for his company as Pax8 was able to increase its reach virtually to the broader channel community.

“Scale got redefined for us because we were doing a lot of things in the field where we would invite our partners to come to a location and then we would teach them something in person. What happened to us around that scale, is we pivoted to a virtual delivered event and our scale increased,” said Walsh, during a BoB executive panel discussion.

For example, prior to the pandemic when Pax8 held in-person boot camps to help partners better leverage Microsoft Azure, around 30 to 120 people would attend. “Well when we truly embraced this pivoted [to virtual], we were able to support over 1,000 partners registering for this event [who were] showing up and staying for six to eight hours. We didn’t expect that,” Walsh said.

IGEL’s CEO Jed Ayres said when his company launched a new learning management tool in August, more than 4,000 people immediately signed up to be virtually trained.

“We also launched a community like an IGEL community on Slack. We now have almost 5,000 people active on it, 156,000 threads shared, 82 countries, so there’s this whole move to a digital conversation,” said Ayres. Additionally, thousands of people are attending IGEL’s virtual trade shows, “way more than we ever had at a physical event,” he said.

Bob Venero, president and CEO of Future Tech Enterprise Inc., ranked No. 96 on CRN’s 2020 Solution Provider 500 list, said the lack of traveling and face-to-face meetings because of the coronavirus pandemic is opening up time for partners to get better trained and new access to vendors.

“You have more access to folks than you did before because of the lack of travel, because of the lack of being in an office and face-to-face meetings. So it seemed the availability of time for individuals -- whether their the folks that are doing the coding, all the way up to the CEOs and CIOs -- are more available.”

Walsh said Pax8 has put an emphasis on virtual partner education during the era of COVID-19 as IT professional want to fill-in some of the extra time now available.

“Given what’s happened to customers educating themselves more and more everyday, partners that we were working with wanted to take advantage of staying in front of that education so they could add value. For us, we really put an emphasis on education,” said Walsh. “A lot of the really progressive vendors were also focusing on, ‘Let’s educate now during this time.’”

All three IT veterans Walsh, Ayres and Venero agreed during their discussion at Best of Breed Virtual Series on Wednesday that the global shift to a remote workforce panned out better than anybody had expected.

IGEL’s Ayres said two years’ worth of digital transformation for some customers was delivered in two months.

“There was a lot of inertia against some of these work from home scenarios that just got obliterated,” said Ayres. “I think a lot of executives for some of these entry level roles like working at a call center, all of a sudden, all the metrics that they were using to measure these call centers went up – happier customers, more tickets. So a lot of the optics that people didn’t think were possible started showing up. That’s been rewarding to show people what is possible.”

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