Don`t Call Time on Partner Conferences

By Sara Driscoll  |  Print this article Print

While conferences may seem like a boy's week away, the networking that goes on there is vital to keep channel relationships healthy.

It’s not exactly a dirty word, but it is something that is seldom mentioned in channel quarters. Dealing with conflict between VARs and vendors occupies many solution provider thoughts, but although less spoken about, conflict between VARs themselves is also a growing problem within the channel.

There has always been healthy competition between solutions providers, whether it be regional or around certain technologies, but with economic woes worsening and vendors appointing more and more VARs into their channel ecosystems, it means the competition is getting out of hand. 

This is where personal relationships and knowledge of your competitors' business come in. And the best place to formulate these is at channel conferences. There, away from the office and the humdrum of everyday life, VARs get to talk real business and find out from their peers exactly what is going on in the world.

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Many solution providers will admit that partner conferences have become mostly a boy’s week away, involving business and drinking in equal measure.  But, while drinking together and whiling away long hours at various bars may not seem like a useful way to spend their time, it is in fact vital for VARs to network together in this way.

The problem is that most vendors cannot justify the expense of putting together a conference where they think VARs are simply drinking and talking their way through the agenda. 

But what this networking between VARs does is help to minimize inter-channel conflict, and therefore save the vendor the hassle, time and cost of having to police every deal. Take, for example, the fact that IBM has cancelled its PartnerWorld, an annual conference with about 4,000 partner attendees.  PartnerWorld has been replaced with the IBM Partner Leadership Conference, with 1,400 delegates selected through an invite-only basis. 

IBM wants a more-focused partner conference, which is to be applauded.  However, the problem is, with less than half of the number of partners attending, VARs will miss out on vital networking with rivals and peers and therefore be unable to cultivate relationships with their competitors. 

Then, when a situation arrives where two partners go in for the same deal, instead of utilizing these relationships to sort out the problem among themselves, VARs will not be able to just pick up the telephone to each other, meaning the vendor is left to soothe the inevitable battles that are likely to ensue. 

Sara Driscoll began her journalism career at 16 years old on her local newspaper, The Watford Observer. Working part time, she covered a range of beats. Leaving to complete her Journalism Degree at Bournemouth University, UK, Sara then went on to graduate and work for Emap. She began as a reporter on APR, Emap's construction title, being promoted to senior reporter with a year.Sara then joined VNU Business Publications as Deputy News Editor on CRN, the weekly trade title for channel players. She covered industry/business news from vendors, distributors and resellers, product announcements, partner announcements as well as market and trend analysis, research and in depth articles to predict up and coming trends in the sector. She was promoted within a year to News Editor, a year later to Deputy Editor and the following year became Editor. Sara remained editor of CRN for three years, launching the magazine on new platforms including CRN TV and eBooks, as well as several magazine and web site redesigns. She was called on for expert industry comment from various publications including appearing on live BBC news programs. Sara joined Ziff Davis Enterprise as Editor of eWeek Channel Insider. She runs the title in all formats – online up to the minute news, newsletters, emails alerts and events. She also manages the brand of Channel Insider in all formats - events, shows, awards, panel debates and roundtables.Sara can be reached at:sara.driscoll@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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