ARN has been privy to a variety of discussions and suggestions about the formation of a channel association. There have been calls for a system builder summit for local whitebox assemblers and manufacturers. We have also seen United Electrical Engineering propose an industry "watchdog", the Australian Reseller Association, which would be the IT channel's equivalent to a Rotary Club.
We have taken a look into a new group called the Australian Channels Association (ACA) being established by industry participants, Robert Nagy and George Kaponay. Its charter is to improve communications and networking and allow companies and individuals to raise the profile of the channel community.
Kaponay said the association couldn't provide people with a shingle for the door, but it would work towards best practice at both an individual and company level.
But the burning question still remains: would any of these organisations actually be worth it?
One channel vendor who spoke to us about the benefits of the ACA said he was inevitably pessimistic. The reseller pointed to his involvement with various existing industry development groups as a prime example. While his peers were happy to sit around the table as pretence for participation, all still turned over their notebooks to keep the company secrets safe. I mean let's face it - resellers are out there to crush the competition and be number one. It's the name of the game right?
There is also the fear that these so-called holistic organisations could be commandeered by select bands of vendors, channel parties or outside groups seeking to merely promote their own interests.
Maybe it is a case of which side of the fence you're sitting on. Okay, so competition is hot and heavy between the smaller resellers and integrators. But a forum like the ACA could be used to further discussions between distributors and their vendors about channel programs, support, and the like.
It could also be a great way for a distributor to gain some prestige with its resellers. With times so tough in broad-based distribution, a wholesaler's participation could be a way of demonstrating they are not just focused on parcel pick-up.
Alternatively, perhaps a channel-specific association, much like the Australian Institute of Management or Australian Computer Society could get passed the mistrust inherent with resellers by focusing on broader professionalism across the industry. It could lobby government, set out policies and strategies for channel improvement and define what it is to be a channel representative.
This is a big debate which does warrant a lot of thought. For Nagy and Kaponay, the effort is worth it. We will let you decide if you agree or disagree.
In other news, Commander has announced it's looking for budding IT dealers to join its Commander Centre franchise. It is interesting to see Commander bolstering its efforts at the small part of town while it's undergoing a hostile take-over of services integrator, Volante, at the higher end. Commander's extended $1.01 per share offer for the company expires on March 9. Despite the many efforts Volante has made to throw off the bid, my money's on Commander coming up trumps. If the emails mailed out by the Save Volante Group are any indication, the integrator has many disgruntled employees who are keen to see new blood take the reins.