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Leaving the comfort of what I had known for 14 years (no matter how crazy it was)—that of being a channel chief, with a staff (and an assistant, Julie, who I miss every day), sales and quota responsibilities, 300-plus e-mails daily, 12-hour days five days a week, working weekends and travel to wherever a sale took me (not always to glamorous locations I might add)—to enter the world of the analyst community was a big unknown.

But it couldn’t be tougher than what I was doing before, right? Well, it is tough, but in a very different way.

I often get asked, “Do you like it?” And, “Are you glad you made the move?” But the best question is, “What exactly do you do?” And not just from my mother, either. As I look back on my first year, that answer has changed with each passing month. I am responsible for covering IT channel sales, programs and alliances worldwide for Gartner.

What that really means is I am expected to conduct research and produce written analyses outlining high-level market trends, recommendations and findings within the indirect channel. Which, if done right, will help our clients become more successful with their indirect strategy and sales volumes.

More than that, though, I get the opportunity to have hundreds of interactions around the globe with IT vendors, distributors, direct marketers, retailers and solution providers, which without a doubt has been the most exciting and fun part of my new gig!

Walking into this role, I felt I had a fairly good understanding of the channel and its inner workings, but I must say I sure have learned many new and interesting aspects of our business this year. One thing I’ve learned is most (if not all) IT vendors face the same challenges in developing a robust, scalable, simple and effective channel program as the next guy, regardless of size.

Yet, where you are in the development cycle of your program has a big impact on what you have to face. Is the channel new to your business? Did your program launch in the past two to three years? Or is it very mature in its evolution? Are you trying to create a “me-too” program or develop something truly innovative and differentiated?

That is where you can begin to see variation in the challenges with which a company is faced. The partner community—VARs, system integrators, ISVs and solution providers—on the other hand faces a different set of challenges. Navigating the volumes of new vendors, products, programs and customer demands is a delicate balancing act.

I must say, without a doubt, all whom I have met wouldn’t wish to be doing anything else. One thing is for sure, people who choose to work in and around the technology industry, more specifically in the indirect sales and delivery channel, are passionate about what they do … and I am grateful to be a part of it.

Tiffani Bova is a Gartner analyst covering channel sales, programs and alliances for the IT leaders that Gartner serves. She can be reached at