EDITORIAL: On auto pilot

EDITORIAL: On auto pilot

On Thursday this week, a conference that represents a milestone in the Australian IT distribution channel is taking place in Sydney. For the first time ever, close to 40 representatives from local vendors and distributors are coming together in a workshop environment to hear about, what is generally accepted in the US to be, best-practice partner relationship management.

ARN is proud to be a sponsor of the Channel Strategy Workshop, which is being put together by consultancy firm Channel Enablers, the latest venture of channel stalwart Braham Shnider.

What is so significant about this workshop, I hear you ask? Well, apart from being clear evidence that the industry is continuing to mature, the central identity in the proceedings is referred to by US technology vendors as a "guru" in channel management.

Having worked extremely closely with various companies to enhance channel strategies, including vendors such as BEA, IBM, NCR, Remedy, StorageTek, Sybase, Informix, Oracle, HP and SCO, Mike Dubrall knows channel management.

Dubrall formed Technology Channels Group seven years ago and has been working in channels for 20 years. Working as a consultant many years ago, he delivered a business plan that helped to introduce Unix into the market place. He pinpoints Unix as the first channels-oriented product and ever since then, he has been working to show vendors how channels can be effectively and efficiently built, managed and developed.

In case you are thinking "what would a Yank know about the Australian channel," it should be noted that Dubrall has worked with many of his major clients in Australia. He claims to have been down here 26 times in the last decade to work on channel initiatives.

Some of the channel programs resellers are now participating in were set up with consultation from Dubrall and Technology Partners Group.

But perhaps even more important than who is running the workshop, is the fact that vendors are now clearly identifying channels as their best opportunity for success in Australian markets. The world's biggest single chunk of terra firma is the land of small and medium enterprises, and they are the current wave of technology adopters.

Those small and medium enterprises traditionally deal through a trusted local reseller that can supply them with all their hardware, software and consulting services needs. The vendors that are not building and efficiently managing their channels are not going to get a slice of the SME technology uptake.

The fact that these vendors are showing a willingness to invest in their channel strategies and programs is a significant indicator of the continued role the channels will play in the future of technology implementation.

When I recently spoke to Dubrall, he said that perhaps the biggest single investment, and therefore change, that is currently occurring is in the way US vendors are managing their channel strategies is "channel automation". He said it is inevitable these partner relationship management solutions will find their way Downunder.

Dubrall said his experience in the US is that resellers see channel automation as a bitter-sweet pill. They appreciate the more effective and efficient administrative functions that allow them to get information and access to technical resources quicker. But on the other hand, they "bristle" at having to provide more information or at the notion that some of the transactions they do are now automated so they have no direct involvement with the customer. A lot of the customer data is directed straight to the vendor.

What do you think about so-called channel automation?

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