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If the 2000 decade was about automation for the IT services
channel, the current decade could well be about social media.

For many out there, the jury is still out on the
effectiveness of social media in a business context. But now that the channel
is about to get a dedicated social networking service, some holdouts might have
a change of heart.

The service is called ChannelEyes, expected to go live in
February. And here’s why I think it has every chance of succeeding:

The man behind ChannelEyes already has helped transformed
the channel, so he certainly understands the business.

Like it or not, social media has become fundamental to how
we communicate.

Let’s expound on that first reason. The IT channel
transformed itself over the past decade into a primarily services-based
business, paying far more attention to long-term customer engagements than the
deal of the day.

Central to that transformation were two technology advances
that allowed IT service providers to engage more tightly with clients and
improve service delivery. Those advances were remote monitoring and management
(RMM) and professional services automation (PSA), which combined laid the
foundation for the emergence of the managed services provider (MSP).

At the genesis of this new era of channel services were
several key pioneers, Bob Godgart among them. Formerly the CEO of PSA vendor
Autotask, Godgart was one of the visionaries who identified a critical need in
the IT channel – automation.

Godgart was fond of using the cobbler’s children analogy: So
busy is the cobbler making shoes for everybody else that he never finds the
time to make them for his kids.

He rightly saw that solution providers, while deploying
automation systems to help customers with accounting, customer service, billing
and inventory, typically were either doing the tasks manually in their own
shops or using disparate systems cobbled together that didn’t communicate with
each other or offer the best performance.

That’s why Autotask, and competitors such as Connectwise and
Tigerpaw Software, came into being.

Along the way, as these vendors were assembling legions of
channel partners, who use the software to run their own business and integrate
it with RMM tools to help run those of their clients, Godgart spotted another
area where the channel fell short – vendor communications.

While vendors run portals chockfull of information for
partners, distribute email newsletters and engage in mass marketing campaigns,
Godgart says solution providers don’t necessarily get the information.

There’s too much of it, and providers can’t keep up.

Godgart aims to change this with ChannelEyes. Once live,
ChannelEyes will let vendors initiate discussion threads around their products
and services. Partners and prospective partners can join the discussions to
learn about the offerings.

Vendors, as well as distributors, other IT suppliers and
associations will have the flexibility to tie their information streams to
different geographies and sets of target partners.

The basic service will be free, but vendors can pay for
“premium feeds” if they want to run video, post photos and manage multiple
feeds. This is how ChannelEyes plans to make its money.

While information initially will flow around
vendor-initiated threads, Godgart says ChannelEyes eventually also will allow
channel partners to create their own discussion threads.

Godgart is careful to point out ChannelEyes is not a
replacement for vendor portals, newsletters and email communications. Rather,
it is a complementary service through a secure, controlled environment.

When asked if he believes ChannelEyes will have as profound
an impact on the channel as PSA software, Godgard didn’t hesitate to say it
will be bigger. By facilitating education and communication, ChannelEyes will
integrate vendors and partners more tightly, and that should result in higher
sales.

Whether he is right remains to be seen. But one thing is
sure: If anyone knows how to make a difference in the channel, it’s Godgart.

Pedro Pereira is a columnist for
Channel Insider and a freelance writer. He can be reached at
pedrocolumn@gmail.com