After six long and enjoyable years, this is my last ARN column. This half-page is normally dedicated to my musings on current events or trends within the local IT industry but I’m understandably in a reflective mood today.
I first arrived in this country as a backpacker with a 12-month visa and no pre-conceived ideas about what to expect. Trained as a journalist in the UK, I’d worked for the Guardian Group on regional newspapers and must confess I had little knowledge of (or interest in) technology. Even worse, I thought the channel was a body of water that separated England and France, which the occasional lunatic swam across.
After a few months of travelling down the east coast I got off a bus in Sydney needing to find work. Having just missed out on a contract to writen the history of NSW Police, I interviewed for a journo job within the ‘Channel Division’ of IDG Communications. I knew it was IT related but little more than that and, although it didn’t seem ideal, I thought it would pay the bills until I found something else.
Despite my reservations, which were due largely to my lack of tech knowledge, I quickly realised that ARN was a business publication that just happened to cover the IT industry. What’s more, this ‘channel’ thing I’d never heard of was packed with people that wanted to share their views on what was happening within the industry. Sorting through the rumours and speculation to find genuine news stories has been one of the highlights of my time at ARN.
I also think I’ve been lucky enough to write about the channel during a very interesting time in its history. When learning the ropes I was reading a lot about this company called ‘Dell’ that everybody else seemed to be afraid of. Some people were warning that its ‘direct sales model’ was going to ‘kill the channel’ and other ‘normally channel-friendly’ vendors were ‘re-evaluating their business models’. It all sounded a bit worrying to me.
But sitting here today, those scaremongers have been proved wrong and Dell has launched a global channel model of its own in an attempt to claw back the market share it has been losing quarter after quarter. If you can’t beat them, join them.
The channel has never been more important than it is now – technology is increasingly adopted by SMBs as a competitive differentiator and vendors are scrambling to get a piece of the action. The huge product margins might no longer be available but they are being built back into the equation through services as the IT industry continues to grow up.
I like to think ARN has also matured significantly in recent years as we adapted to our own challenges within the publishing industry. The weekly news magazine I started working at six years ago now has a much improved Web presence, hosts regular round table lunches and has an annual awards evening. It’s an important part of the local IT community and that makes me very proud.