It's amazing what a bit of competition can do.
If you had said this time last year that it was possible that Compaq was going to sell directly over the Web I think that the chorus of complaints from resellers and integrators would have been deafening.
If you had told many of the distributors that the world's two biggest players, Ingram Micro and CHS, were going to storm the Australian market, many would have packed up and gone home (of course, some have).
But after reporting so many times last year about how critical it was for the channel to decide exactly where it was adding value and what unique services and offerings it could bring to the table, many of the stories inside this week's issue suggest that that is happening.
There are examples in this week's ARN where everyone from software retailers to resellers, integrators and distributors has settled into a niche or on a unique value proposition.
Largely, this has been the result of competition. For example, every single Compaq distributor will over the next couple of weeks have to present to the company reasons why it should be one of the half dozen or so partners that Compaq keeps on. They will need to articulate exactly where they fit in to the picture and explain exactly what their unique value proposition is. They will be grilled over weaknesses and will need to have the plans in place that will demonstrate how they will address them.
Compaq distributors may not be happy about having to "jump through hoops", as one said to me, but the exercise can do them nothing but good. Because basically, they are having to take a good hard look at themselves.
The big picture
How many of us really take the opportunity to do that? Most businesses are so busy trying to take care of the day-to-day operations that they often forget to stop and take a look at the big picture. They are too busy to think about where possible threats and challenges are going to come from. The most successful businesses tend to be the most paranoid. They're ready for any challenge and have fall-back plans and offensive strategies for anything that might be thrown at them.
Some don't see the threat or don't react quickly enough. On this week's front page, Q*Soft and Software Express represent examples of companies that have been forced to close or sell out because they did not successfully react to competition.
But then you have companies like Digiland that are attempting to ensure they are ready for the almost certain attack of Ingram on the HP market by restructuring their business, hiring new talent and moving into new businesses. And you have the resellers and integrators who are fairly blas about any move Compaq may make to sell direct. I have to be honest, we thought resellers would be screaming for blood. The fact that they are not is a sign of a healthy and mature channel.