The concept of a reseller association has been knocking around almost as long as the IT channel itself but has never managed to get off the ground. Historically there have been some good, and not so good, reasons for this.
Perhaps, chief amongst them was a widespread reluctance for resellers to engage each other on topics that could be considered matters of commercial advantage. It is time this was put to bed because the channel is in desperate need of industry champions to communicate its value to vendors and end users alike.
As the market matures and an increasing number of products commoditise, the traditional IT channel is seeing an alarming amount of its hardware business lost to the large retailers. The battle for consumer hearts and minds has largely been lost already and even a growing number of small business owners are shopping for computers and printers at large retailers such as Harvey Norman or Officeworks.
At the moment, this is a worrying trend for the traditional IT channel. But this industry is forever subject to fluctuation and my bet is that many of those business users will revert back to their local dealer once they have endured a nasty experience on a vendor support line. In a free market, it is up to individual resellers to ensure the level of services they provide are high enough to make customers keep coming back.
Last week's column (see ARN may 17 edition) alluded to falling reseller numbers in Europe and suggested we can expect to see the same happen in Australia. Local Acer boss, Charles Chung, said earlier this year that the number and average quality of dealer was already falling. Make no mistake about it, this is going to be survival of the fittest and any business not providing its customers with a good experience is headed for the graveyard.
In regional Australia, that job should be a little easier because the local branch of Harvey Norman is usually a little further away and customer relationships often stretch back over a number of years. The challenge is going to be greater for those operating in the cities and major towns. But those offering highest service levels will stay afloat and prosper as services become a greater portion of their business.
Getting back to the formation of a channel organisation, most schemes floated in the past have been driven by the vendor community. This was problematic because it immediately clouded any sense of neutrality that would be vital to making the concept work.
This sense of neutrality is one of the major attractions of building a reseller organisation within the existing framework of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA). The biggest drawback is that it would start out as a talking shop for channel heavyweights that is incapable of addressing wider community needs.
But even if it is initially open to accusations of elitism, it would be better to get something established within the AIIA than to sit around saying it is a good idea for another 10 years. Actions speak louder than words.