Australian Reseller News has often remarked on the need for the majority of resellers to transform their businesses from a reliance on product margin to increasing services revenue. I don't think we need to anymore.
If you believe recent Inform surveys and anecdotal evidence from the many resellers we speak to every week, the channel has well and truly seen the light and is heading for it.
Even most distributors - who by definition should be simple box movers - are doing everything they can to grab their share of the services pie with value-added offerings.
Today, services is undoubtedly the name of the game. And every reseller out there will tell you it's the game that they're playing in.
Of course, as a journalist, one of the first things you learn is just because someone says it's so, doesn't mean it is.
How many resellers today really could survive if their top three suppliers suddenly decided to only sell direct tomorrow? If you're a truly services-oriented business, that shouldn't faze you. My guess is that very few resellers would be around for long if that was to happen.
The feeling I get is that most resellers are resigned to the fact that many vendors, especially the PC suppliers, will sometime in the future go direct in some way. The hope is that resellers will have enough time to complete the transition to a services model between now and then.
However, there are some businesses that aren't just aiming to become services-oriented companies, they're already there. Some have been there for some time.
The need for vision
In truth, that's the name of the game. Reading how the market is going to evolve and then getting there before the rest. If you're finding yourself being forced to move to survive, chances are it's already too late.
So start thinking about tomorrow today. As you transition to a services model, ask yourself what services are going to provide the edge in the future.
As Senteq's Jonathon Fisk comments in this issue (see page 34), simple installation and maintenance services are already a commodity offering. And as reported in previous issues, analyst groups like IDC and Gartner see professional services growing at much faster rates than maintenance and support services.
Resellers must have a vision. That's the one recurring trait I would identify in every single managing director of every truly successful channel company. And it's not even a vision of what your own company is going to look like a couple of years down the track. Share a vision with your customers. What technologies and services can you supply them with that will give them an edge? Start looking to the markets that analysts predict are set to boom and ask yourself how your customers might benefit. Investigate e-commerce, voice-over-IP, intranets, extranets, customer relationship management software, business intelligence tools and so on. Because a great reseller is not someone who lets others shape their business, it's someone who shapes the business of others.