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When you look at how things are shaping up in enterprise IT, the No. 1 priority is to improve business processes followed closely by reducing the cost of the IT budget.

The issue that most IT organizations have, however, is that they are overly wedded to antiquated technologies and not close enough to the business to effect meaningful change.

Solution providers, on the other hand, tend to have a much better handle on how technology can not only be used to affect business processes of their customers, but also to  know what new technologies can be brought to bear to lower the total cost of computing.

At least, that’s how it is supposed to go. The only way solution providers can maintain that fundamental difference between them and an internal IT department is to stay current on the latest trends and technologies. That means make more, not less, investments in training.

Of course, training is expensive. That’s why partnering with vendors that make it easy for solution providers to get training for free or at a nominal cost is critical. IBM and Cisco Systems are two good examples of vendors that go out of their way to make sure their channel partners are as current as possible on new technologies and business trends.

That also means that vendors that try to milk their certification programs for cash need to be treated with a great amount of suspicion. It’s pretty clear from their actions that they are more interested in either making money off their channel partners or trying to restrict the amount of capital that solution providers have on hand to invest in their own business.

Outmoded ideas about what makes for a good channel program need to be eliminated with extreme prejudice during these incredibly difficult times. That means that any vendor that puts up roadblocks and hurdles between the solution provider and closing the deal needs to be replaced. This is no time for sentiment or patience. Customers are under extreme amounts of duress, and it’s about time channel programs started reflecting a new reality that is likely to be with us through much of 2010.

If a solution provider wants to survive this downturn, then it needs to have the smartest people possible on staff. Vendors that help make that happen are invaluable. Vendors that are not invested in helping their channel partners be as smart as possible are going to wind up on the trash heap of history once they are acquired anyway.

In the final analysis, training is everything. Business flows from the intellectual capital of the solution provider. Vendors not interested in making those investments are not really a friend to the channel.

Mike Vizard is senior vice president of market strategies and content services at Ziff Davis Enterprise and a regular contributor to Channel Insider.