As the IT market has matured over the years, the role of the humble reseller has become increasingly complicated - which is why it is more important than ever to find your area of the market and concentrate on being the best that you can within that space.
Few things are worse for your business reputation than biting off more than you can chew and failing to deliver on promises made to a customer. You can be sure that the IT manager will look somewhere else next time and, in the meantime, will advise anybody who cares to listen that your cowboys, I mean company, should be avoided at all costs.
The message is simple: If there's any danger that you are sailing into unchartered territory, it's time to call for assistance. Although it will obviously mean a smaller slice of the pie this time around, building up a small network of partners with complementary skills will give your business greater access to a broader range of opportunities in the long run.
Vendors know all about the need to do this and senior executives are forever changing hats to suit a particular situation. They call it co-opetition and, although this is an example of the marketing speak that is destroying our language, it makes as much sense at reseller level as it does in multinational vendor land.
Of course, it is the vendors who are most eager to see their channel partners pooling resources to improve the end-user experience. It makes much more sense for them to train resellers extensively in narrow fields than it does to create an army of partners best described as Jack of all trades but master of none.
Advances in technology have also been a major factor in breaking down inter-channel partnership barriers. The convergence of voice, video and data in all segments of the market is dramatically changing the way we work and play. That rate of change is gathering pace all the time and only larger organisations can afford to create specialist divisions. For everybody else, it is a matter of constantly redefining your strengths and looking for depth of penetration in one field as opposed to broad coverage.
Then there are the end-users - from the largest enterprise organisations right down to the home office - who have decided en masse that they want to buy solutions to problems rather than the latest product release.
If part of the desired solution falls out of your professional comfort zone there are three alternatives - do it anyway and risk alienating the customer by failing to meet expectations, give the whole project a miss or bring in a specialist to handle the problematic part of the project. It isn't difficult to decide which makes most sense.
The definition of a channel partner is evolving to reflect these changes in the market. In tomorrow's world, all IT resellers will consider other channel players as valuable partners. Many have already started to do so. If your business is still trying to win the battle single-handed, it's time to swallow your pride.