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The single biggest issue impeding growth across the channel is not products or services; it’s the absence of people with the skills needed to implement them.

That’s the assessment of Eduardo Kassner, CTO for the Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft. To address that issue, his team will focus on proliferating skills across the channel by making it simpler for channel partners to leverage Microsoft technical resources.

In terms of diagnosing what conspires to limit the growth of channel partners, Kassner could have his finger on the issue. In a recent survey of 600 IT and business professionals conducted by CompTIA, 46 percent reported that the skills gap situation at their organization has grown in scope and depth over the past two years. The study also finds that 80 percent of IT and business executives are at least somewhat concerned about the IT skills gap at their organization, and 25 percent of large organizations are very concerned.

According to the survey, the top two areas where skills gaps are most apparent are tied at 59 percent: emerging technologies, such as the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), and integration. Following closely behind are cloud infrastructure and digital business transformation, at 57 percent each. Tied for third at 55 percent are cyber-security and data management and analytics.

Kassner said that the same skills gap adversely impacts the channel. Because neither the customers nor the solution providers have the skills required to implement and manage an IT solution, many projects simply never get started—regardless of how much money is available to fund them. Within the context of Microsoft products and technologies, Kassner is trying to make it simpler to tap into the resources Microsoft has available.

Of course, Microsoft is only one element of any IT solution equation. The truth of the matter is that not many channel executives are especially technology-savvy. They tend to be a lot more comfortable discussing margins and rebates.

None of that matters, however, when the solution provider doesn’t have the technical capabilities to implement the latest wave of technologies. The result tends to be a lot of focus on solutions that are already at the top of the bell curve in terms of adoption.

The problem that situation creates is that once those solutions reach the top of the bell curve, they are just about to slide down the commodity curve. That means solution providers are not going to see as much of a return on their investment in those technologies as they might have otherwise.

In an ideal world, every vendor would have a CTO focused on making skills broadly available to channel partners. That, in turn, would create an opportunity for those CTOs to collaborate with the engineering resources that solution providers have invested in to accelerate the adoption of solutions.

After all, solution providers need to sell what they know. All too often, however, what they know isn’t usually as current as either they or their customers would prefer.