What business are you in?

What business are you in?

It might sound a bit zealous to open my first editorial by saying how excited I am to assume the reigns at ARN, but the fact is the channel is by far the most dynamic and interesting segment of the Australian IT industry.

I have worked at ARN for some months now as news editor, and to say the learning curve has been steep would be an understatement.

My previous life at ARN's sister publication Computerworld saw me engrossed in end-user land, and specifically the networking industry.

Since I started here in April, I have witnessed more industry change than during the entire time I spent working at Computerworld and, before that, Network World (may it RIP). And when you are a journalist, not only does change equal more work, it creates a never-ending supply of interesting stories.

In fact, I had a go at my predecessor, Philip Sim, for stealing my thunder last week by referring to that wonderful old cliche in his last editorial `the only thing constant about change is change itself'.

At the core of this sentiment is the fact that change, and change management issues, lie at the heart of every company competing for business in the channel.

I have heard feedback that some resellers, particularly small `white-box' PC assemblers, are resigned to the fact that they only have a finite amount of time left before companies like the big retailers (or a certain high-profile vendor) run over them shouting the services mantra.

Meanwhile, distributors must compete for reseller mindshare to support their business model while living under the spectre of the threat that if they don't add the right kind of value they can kiss healthy growth goodbye.

And you only need to turn to the battle of the much-maligned PC vendors - Compaq, Dell, Gateway, HP et al - to realise that it's not easy on the manufacturing side of the fence.

So the question you must ask of yourself and your company is what business are you in?

If you are an integrator who replies, `I sell and integrate hardware solutions,' you've missed the point.

This week's lead story about Dataflow's auction site is a great example of a company I assume recently realised how to expand its business based on an understanding of its core function. (Either that or it's great at spotting US trends.)I'm surprised more distributors have not jumped on the online auction bandwagon yet because it gives them the opportunity to capitalise on their core function - building solid relationships with resellers, not simply shifting boxes out the door at breakneck speed.

And for resellers, it's a fantastic way to grab a bargain easily and cheaply - which is of course the real issue if you are looking for a quick high- margin sale to make budget.

Dataflow is ideally positioned for online auctioneering because much of its business deals with commodity products like desktop software.

If you will allow me to indulge in some introspective thoughts, ARN's mission is not simply to write about the channel, but to foster the community that has grown up amidst its pages since the launch of its first incarnation as Reseller Magazine in September 1991.

Likewise, the journalists (we don't just sit around and type all day as our production staff kindly observe) specialise in building and maintaining relationships.

As a result, I look forward to meeting and hearing from you in the future. Is your business under threat? If so, it's our mission to find out why.

Mark Jones is editor of Australian Reseller News. Reach him at

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