Editorial: Barefoot in the channel

Editorial: Barefoot in the channel

You could be forgiven for thinking that the recently released TMP job index's optimistic IT employment outlook comes from outer space.

At a time when so many of the IT faithful are using their redundancies to start coffee-van businesses or cashing their market-battered options to join Bob Ansett's new age and very wireless Barefoot Beach Executives movement in Noosa, the nation-wide employer survey claims the industry is in for a 5.8 per cent job growth in the next quarter.

That's certainly good news for the unfortunate LAN System's 11 staff who last week learnt first-hand how vague terms such as market correction and changing industry dynamics translate into downturn. But what does the survey really tell us?

The TPG index is based on information which the companies participating in the study are willing to disclose, and we all know how thin the line is between the obligatory front-end "growth" bravado and the unforgiving back-end bean counting. These days if you take the second away from the first, it is safe to assume that you'll be left with a negative net effect.

No-one is more painfully aware of this than LAN Systems' managing director Nick Verykios, who has always taken a lot of pride in the great "one for all and all for one" environment he has created at his network distribution company, when he finally had to admit defeat by the "changing industry dynamics". Verykios may have fought the relentless pursuit of the direct sales model by LAN System's most significant vendor, Cisco, and the effect it had on the distributor with his usual bravado, but in the end it was the bean counters that won the game.

LAN's 11 - and Verykios' reportedly tearful send off in their honour - are a graphic reminder of one of the main effects the newly invigorated direct sales "dynamic" is having on the channel - its human cost. Sitting at the top of the IT recession battle agenda, the "changing dynamic" has seen distributor after distributor and reseller after reseller forced to "correct", "realign" or simply let go, forcing scores of the industry's faithful into building, fork lifting and coffee-selling jobs. In the executive ranks, tough times have seen veterans like David Shein and more recently Enterasys' Sheldon Speer tune out with a single line, "I've just had enough".

Acer's resellers may be experiencing similar feelings in the wake of the launch of the vendor's new direct-to-user strategy. Looking at it with a degree of gloomy foreboding - and despite the vendor's protestation about its supposed "commitment to the channel" - one has to ask what is the value of a commitment that takes away resellers' ability to add value and turns them into pick-up joints for vendors' non-mediated rendezvous' with the end user?

In the end, one wonders if TMP's predicted 5.8 per cent IT job growth will be divided along the ranks of the deepening channel divide, with vendors hiring their own sales force and resellers turning their backs on marginless (and from a partnership perspective increasingly meaningless) relationships with brand owners to make a buck in the built-to-order whitebox game. For those stuck in the middle, there's not much to look forward to, except perhaps being barefoot and wireless on a Noosa beach.

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