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Any commander will tell you that the secret to winning any war is to have better intelligence about the battles than your enemy. To do that, you have to have better tools for gathering that intelligence, and in the channel one of those tools is deal registration.

Deal registration is one of those things that everybody acknowledges is for the general good. But because the deal registration process might be abused by overly aggressive inside salespeople or other solution providers seeking to freeze rivals out of accounts, the whole idea of deal registration still gives some people pause.

To alleviate some of those concerns, some vendors have turned to third-party application service providers such as Blue Roads to try to help mitigate some of the perceived trust issues associated with vendors trying to guard the proverbial channel hen house.

But while all this deal registration activity is commendable in terms of what it does for minimizing channel conflict, you can’t help but wonder if the time has come do something with the data that not only helps solution providers but also benefits the customer.

For instance, customers don’t buy a particular product in isolation. If they are out shopping for servers, chances are they will soon be looking for security solutions and additional network infrastructure. So if vendors mined their deal registration data, they might soon discover that what they have really created is the foundation for a business intelligence platform for the channel.

>p>The issue, of course, is figuring out how that data might be effectively shared across the channel ecosystem because a lot of vendors collect data in areas they have products that target, but they don’t have the proper set of incentives to share that information with other vendors that sell products in complementary areas.

For instance, IBM’s data on new server deals and Cisco’s data on new switch deals could be mutually beneficial to both companies and their partners. It would also help the customer because it would create a source of information that allowed solution providers to be a lot more proactive when it comes to lead generation.

Of course, there are significant boundaries that need to be overcome before companies in the channel can work in concert at this level. And some would even go so far as to say it might never happen given the inherent communications challenges.

But that said, this is one area where the potential of the distribution model remains largely untapped. And in the meantime, Dell and its partners are working toward developing this very type of capability. So if the channel writ large can’t find the mechanisms to respond, then Dell is going to increasingly have more intelligence about forthcoming business opportunities than rival solution providers.

Given that, it just might be in the best interest of all concerned for vendors, distributors and solution providers to begin talking about creating their own rival intelligence network because as history shows, it’s not the superior force that wins the battle but rather the smarter force.

Michael Vizard is editorial director of Ziff Davis Media’s Enterprise Technology group. He can be reached at