Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

As 2007 draws to an end, the “what’s happening next year?” articles are starting to appear. I grabbed the opportunity to contribute my thoughts when eWEEK’s Channel Insider asked me to comment on 2008 expectations. After considering a couple dozen items, here is what I believe are the important trends that will, ultimately, impact solution providers.

2008 will be a year of maturation. Trends that have been in incubator and introductory stages over the past 18 to 24 months will become standard operating procedures. Maturation point is always interesting for solution providers because it is at this point that they must decide how to leverage the trend versus simply observing its development.

Industry social networks are ready for prime time. Social networks will become a standardized vehicle for channel enablement, relationship development and communication. They have been organically growing within reseller communities and between certain vendor departments and the channel, especially around technical support issues. With companies, such as Gartner, sponsoring, and Ingram Micro implementing social network vehicles, the movement is in full swing. Decide which social networks will be most productive for you. Watch for distributors to charge vendors for access to their sponsored social networks.

Solution providers’ migration to vendor status will accelerate. While resellers have always created their
own solutions, they are getting serious about growing those businesses and moving to vendor status themselves. Three issues are fueling this maturation. First, solution providers are continuing to look for ways to increase their revenue and profit potential. Opening their solutions to other resellers optimizes growth potential. Second, resellers are inclined to trust resellers before vendors. Because of this trust, growing a channel can be a speedier and easier process for a solution provider than for a traditional vendor in channel start-up mode. Lastly, with vendors such as Symantec, HP, IBM and others bundling solutions for the SMB space, resellers that have traditionally owned that solution space must either increase their market share or succumb to turning over their solutions business to encroaching vendors. Companies such as Connect Wise have proven a solution provider can successfully make the move to vendor status. VARs should keep the competition between SMB vendor pre-packaged solutions and reseller developed SMB solutions in their focus. Choose which way you’ll partner.

Global “synchronization” of the channel community will grow. The years of the North American channel community leading channel development and driving channel change are over. Vendors are making channel-related decisions at the international level immediately, not secondarily. Channel organizations—from resellers to distributors—are reaching out to think and act in global harmony. In January 2007, ITCA (International Technology Channel Association) was formed with board members from Malta, Germany, the United Kingdom and included Alan Weinberger of ASCII from the United States. This year, the Global Technology Distribution Council, whose members represented $100 billion in global technology sales in 2006, continued to increase its European membership numbers. It has also added new members in India and China. Finally, channel-based service companies are going global. Pay attention to OnForce’s recent European expansion announcement. Overall, vendors that think and implement channel strategies at a global level initially will be more adroit than those that focus on sequential geographic roll outs. Look for vendors to implement global partner councils.

Vendors will either accomplish partner enablement and flourish, or flounder. While partner enablement has become the pet concept of 2007, many vendors still don’t understand it. During vendor conversations I’ve participated in (or eavesdropped on), partner enablement is often described as follows. “A partner is enabled
if it sells more of my product,” or, “My company has achieved partner enablement when more partners are selling more of my product.” In reality, true partner enablement means establishing a relationship that ensures a positive impact on both the vendor’s and the partner’s businesses. Dell is one vendor that is clearly showing signs of understanding partner enablement. While speaking at Gartner’s IT Channelvision conference recently, one brave reseller reported that Dell offered to bring him a certain number of service accounts if he became a Dell reseller. Dell was close to delivering 100 percent of those accounts at the time of the conference.

Clearly this is partner enablement. Dell enables and assists the partner in growing business; the partner was positive in representing Dell and had committed to sell its products. Expect the word “enablement” to become passe. VARs should tie their business to any vendor that demonstrates an understanding that relationship-loyalty-enablement is a singular continuum.

So as 2007 concludes, let eWEEK’s Channel Insider know if you agree and what you think are the key trends facing 2008. And above all, have a happy holiday.

About Tricia Wurts, Wurts & Associates.

Wurts & Associates is an 18-year-old marketing and channel consulting firm. It focuses, specifically, on delivering custom and confidential insight, strategies, tactics, implementation plans and programs to the IT industry. Its projects address issues within four disciplinary areas—channel sales and associated marketing, service and support, training and potentially related certification, and required infrastructure.

W&A’s founder, Patricia (Tricia) Wurts, is a past vice president of marketing and business development for Tech Data, an original member of the A+ certification think tank, three-time past board member for CompTIA and a Gartner, ASAP, CompTIA and Synnex featured speaker. Its associates have had backgrounds with Ingram Micro, Cisco, Seagate, CompUSA, Tech Data and more. W&A has performed projects for more than 80 IT vendor clients including IBM, Dell, Cisco, Compaq/HP, EMC, AT&T, Cable & Wireless, 3Com, Symbol, Xerox, Fujitsu, Canon, Novell, Nokia, Symantec and more.