The SMB Conundrum in the ChannelBy Michael Vizard | Print
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Demand for leading edge technologies is high, but skills remain in comparatively short supply
It used to be that the small-to-medium (SMB) market was a place the channel sold products and technologies that had matured to a point where they could be safely deployed by organizations that didn’t have much IT expertise. But in recent years it’s becoming clear that there are different classes of SMB organizations and that a larger percentage of them are becoming more comfortable with leading edge IT technologies.
A recent survey of 1,500 IT professionals who work for SMB organizations that was conducted by Spiceworks, a provider of systems management software, finds a major percentage of those organizations have embraced technologies such as virtualization, cloud computing and tablet PCs. Granted some of these technologies are crossing into the mainstream in 2012, but the survey shows that the rate at which SMB IT organizations are moving to adopt newer technologies is moving faster.
That obviously has a lot of implications for solution providers in the channel that need to invest in expertise in those technologies in order to effectively sell, service and support them. The biggest problem many solution providers have is finding people with the right skills to that even though unemployment rates would suggest there should be plenty of job candidates. The challenge is that there is often a mismatch between the skills of the IT personnel available in the market and what solution providers are looking for in terms of staffing.
Almost by definition solution providers are going to be look for IT professionals that are up to speed on the latest technologies because, after all, that’s what they sell. That creates something of a dilemma because rather than build a farm system, most solution providers are looking to hire people with the right skills versus spending the time and money to train people. It takes time that solution providers don’t have in a fast moving market to develop IT talent. While organizations such as CompTIA are trying to increase the IT talent pool available to solution providers, the fact remains that there is almost always going to be a limited supply of people qualified to sell and support new technologies no matter what the state of the economy. In fact, from the perspective of most solution providers it’s incumbent on the employees to stay current on technology if they want to stay gainfully employed.
In an ideal world, vendors would be doing a lot more to train IT professionals. After all, if no one knows how to use their products it’s unlikely anybody is going to want to buy what they are selling. The same issue applies to the channel. If no one really understands how a product works it’s hard to convince somebody else they should buy it.
And yet time again we see new technologies coming to market in the hopes that somehow expertise on how to use that product will somehow magically manifest itself. In theory at least, training should be a key component of any vendor’s go-to-market strategy. In reality, vendors are hoping that solution providers in the channel will invest in training to pick up the slack. Unfortunately for those vendors, solution providers are generally a little too busy trying to figure out how to make the previous generation of products work to learn how the next generation of products works unless somebody makes it worth their while. And that, of course, is the great shame of the channel given the fact that demand for leading edge technologies in the SMB sector has clearly never been higher.