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It’s not exactly a dirty word, but it is something that is seldom mentioned in channel quarters. Dealing with conflict between VARs and vendors occupies many solution provider thoughts, but although less spoken about, conflict between VARs themselves is also a growing problem within the channel.

There has always been healthy competition between solutions providers, whether it be regional or around certain technologies, but with economic woes worsening and vendors appointing more and more VARs into their channel ecosystems, it means the competition is getting out of hand. 

This is where personal relationships and knowledge of your competitors’ business come in. And the best place to formulate these is at channel conferences. There, away from the office and the humdrum of everyday life, VARs get to talk real business and find out from their peers exactly what is going on in the world.

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Many solution providers will admit that partner conferences have become mostly a boy’s week away, involving business and drinking in equal measure.  But, while drinking together and whiling away long hours at various bars may not seem like a useful way to spend their time, it is in fact vital for VARs to network together in this way.

The problem is that most vendors cannot justify the expense of putting together a conference where they think VARs are simply drinking and talking their way through the agenda. 

But what this networking between VARs does is help to minimize inter-channel conflict, and therefore save the vendor the hassle, time and cost of having to police every deal. Take, for example, the fact that IBM has cancelled its PartnerWorld, an annual conference with about 4,000 partner attendees.  PartnerWorld has been replaced with the IBM Partner Leadership Conference, with 1,400 delegates selected through an invite-only basis. 

IBM wants a more-focused partner conference, which is to be applauded.  However, the problem is, with less than half of the number of partners attending, VARs will miss out on vital networking with rivals and peers and therefore be unable to cultivate relationships with their competitors. 

Then, when a situation arrives where two partners go in for the same deal, instead of utilizing these relationships to sort out the problem among themselves, VARs will not be able to just pick up the telephone to each other, meaning the vendor is left to soothe the inevitable battles that are likely to ensue.