Stand up and take a bow resellers, you beat the Internet - but only just. The latest survey of Australian IT managers by Quadrant Research Services (The 1999 IT Publications Readership Survey) hit the streets last week and - surprise, surprise - the channel came out on top again.
The good news is that of the total 600 respondents, 72 per cent said computer dealers or resellers are either very important or important when it comes to providing the information that helps them make purchasing decisions.
This, of course, will come as no surprise to many of us as resellers have topped the list for years now. In fact, while digging through ARN's database in search of reports on past Quadrant results I noticed the people we contacted effectively said `yeah, tell us something we don't know'.
Frank Borcherdt, managing director of Effective Computer Solutions, said he was `not surprised by these results at all', while Jonathon Fisk, managing director of Senteq, said it validated the channel's ability to `provide the breadth and scale of information required'.
On the other hand, you should be surprised to know that resellers' hold on the cherished `most important' moniker is a shaky one.
Back in December 1996 we reported on Quadrant results that revealed 78 per cent of IT managers named resellers as important or very important. At the time, resellers were `more important' than software suppliers, friends/colleagues, computer consultants and manufacturers' publications as a source of information.
So why are resellers losing their commanding lead? Quite simply, the Internet happened.
According to the latest Quadrant research, 71 per cent of IT managers now rate IT Web sites as either very important or important when it comes to purchasing decisions.
It's therefore not hard to predict that the Internet will bump resellers off the top rung next year. We actually shouldn't be surprised by this result either, but non Internet-savvy channel companies could see it as bad news.
The Internet could easily be thrown into the `channel under threat' basket. It would be understandable to worry about just which Web sites IT managers are visiting for purchasing information and whether your site is one of them.
My guess is most IT managers visit a mix of sites run by the channel, vendors and industry publications such as this one.
But fear not! The future, as they say in Internet circles, is the portal. I believe resellers, VARs and integrators must continue to build industry- beating portals capable of effective business-to-business e-commerce transactions and which carry the most comprehensive set of links to every possible source of information your customers will ever need.
The catch cry of the channel has long been about building services, industry partnerships and adding value. If you treat the Internet as another avenue for executing those strategies it won't matter if the Internet beats resellers in the next Quadrant survey. The real proof of the pudding will be in how your portal performs in the Internet usage surveys, and that's another argument all altogether.
Mark Jones is editor of Australian Reseller News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org