TCA Aims to Bridge IT and Telecom ChannelsBy Howard M. Cohen | Print
The Technology Channel Association has the potential to bring together the telecom and IT channel communities.
Visitors to www.tcasite.org are greeted with an invitation to join the Technology Channel Association, "the first-ever trade association for the indirect channel."
They will also learn that "the TCA represents the interests of the Vendor community and provides the indirect sales channel with a unified voice which can be heard at the appropriate levels within the Partner community."
TCA's goals include leveraging the collective voice of the indirect sales channel, advocating the indirect sales channel as an alternative to direct sales, offer education on market data and metrics, and more.
After all, this is what the channel has been hoping will come from organizations like CompTIA, the VentureTech Network, VARnex, the International Association of Microsoft Partners (IAMCP) and others for years: a unified voice with the much larger manufacturers and distributors as well as advocacy for their common business concerns.
Digging Deeper to Find Telecom Focus
As with so many websites today, however, you have to dig deeper. In this case, you need to get to the "Education" page where the first hint appears in the form of their top headline certification program, "Certified Telecom Professional (CTP) Certification." Then you start to realize that this association is for telecom partners.
"TCA was formed, in the beginning, to create a unified voice for the telecom partners and to get more credibility with the carriers," explained Khali Henderson, a member of the board of directors of TCA and senior partner at BuzzTheory Strategies. "But they always felt like it was going to be something more, like it was going to involve the IT side because convergence was already a real thing. That's why they chose to name it the Technology Channel Association, rather than just Telecom."
For TCA, the most pressing concerns were to create some credibility with standardization. There were far fewer barriers to entry into the telecom channel than in the IT channel. There were no real certifications required. Many former carrier executives created their own telecom agent firms to enjoy more control over their own lives in their own business, enhancing their lifestyle with greater freedoms and latitude.
The other edge of this sword, however, was a lack of respect from the carriers with which they did business just because there were no certifications or other qualifying factors. TCA was created to end this by providing education leading to certification.
Henderson further qualifies her statement about convergence by adding, "Today, telecom agents want strong referral relationships with VARs in both directions, but it has taken a longer time than anyone anticipated for these relationships to grow."
She points out that customers are forcing change. They want cloud services, but they're not sure whose cloud services. One thing they do know is that they don't want to find themselves buying products from one company, carrier circuits from another, cloud from yet another and finding themselves in the middle of finger-pointing storms when support issues occur.
TCA Heading Toward a Tipping Point
With major IT distributors now showing up at telecom industry shows, major IT publications making inroads into the telecom channel and telecom providers adding more and more cloud services, it seems inevitable that this convergence of IT and telecom will soon come to a tipping point.
Susan Penevolpe, a former TCA board member and currently a partner channel manager for Colt Technology Services, observed: "Telecom salespeople are more about 'the mighty dollar,' the available commission, and the IT side seems more concerned with providing the right solution for the customer. They want to help them make decisions today that don't limit their choices tomorrow."
This perhaps defines the elements that may hasten the arrival at the tipping point for the convergence of the telecom and IT channels. As the IT channel becomes less about "reselling" and more about providing solutions, and the telecom channel focuses more on the value of the deal, perhaps the two will join forces ultimately so telecom reps can sell the solutions that IT partners provide to increase the size and value of their sales of circuits and subscriptions.
Howard M. Cohen has spent 30-plus years as an executive and community leader inside the IT channel. He now writes and presents about it in Channel Insider, Redmond Channel Partner, Insight Technically, Channel Partner and more.