Value-added distribution is alive, well and growing. That was the consensus of the inaugural ARN Round Table attended by several prominent industry figures in Sydney last week. We will bring you more on the content of the discussion in next week’s issue, when we reveal what top executives from distributors Avnet and Ingram Micro, vendors IBM and Enterasys, and resellers Computer Merchants and MBS, said to each other when they sat down for an industry heart-to-heart.
Today, though, I would like to discuss channel round tables and the value that you, as the community ARN in many ways represents, might see in using ARN as a facilitator of industry dialogue and debate.
I have often said that I see ARN as a communication platform for all levels of the channel, whose primary role is to champion, as well as to report, analyse and, yes, to provoke too. As our role as a publication becomes more that of the provider of the intelligence and analytical content to the community we serve, it is also becoming increasingly obvious that your input and participation in this project is a conditio sine qua non. In other words, in order to facilitate dialogue, we need to know where dialogue is badly needed.
We’ve learnt from our first attempt at bringing industry people together that round tables are a perfect forum in bringing different levels of the channel together. One of the two participating resellers praised the egalitarianism inherent to the format itself, noting that it was not often a reseller got to communicate directly with the vendor whose products it actually sells.
More importantly, however, it was noted that in a structured forum of this kind, dialogue was an inevitable by-product. And the channel, according to the participants, definitely needs more dialogue — be it as an exchange of ideas and experiences, or simply as the key in building stronger channel relationships all round.
Two questions remain open, however. In bringing people together, how useful are elements such as a balanced spread of channel representatives (in other words, covering all levels), as opposed to, for instance, the opportunity to debate with your direct competitor or a channel partner with whom one has a history of difficult relations? Secondly, in attempting to provide value to the broader channel community, how specific — or how wide — do you think the range of round table topics should be? And what are the issues that should be discussed? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!