By Peter O'Neill

I have an exciting engagement next week; I will moderate a session during an annual review meeting of a leading tech distributor with its leading vendor. The topic we’ll discuss is the cloudy future of our industry and what that could mean for the roles and responsibilities of vendors, distributors, and resellers. I’ll have a presentation prepared, of course, but all analysts operate under the principle of “two ears, one mouth,” so I’ll also expect to hear much insight from both distributor and vendor on this topic —  and both parties will be represented by their top executives.

My colleague Tim Harmon and I have just submitted a report that explores this topic, based on a recent survey of 165 executives of channel companies across the world (only 52% in North America). We talked to resellers, distributors, systems integrators, managed service providers, and other channel players — in fact, no single executive was prepared to say that just one of these titles applied 100% to their company. We did the survey in collaboration with the organization Outsource Channel Executives. Interesting facts that we gathered in the survey include the fact that nearly two-thirds of these firms employ applications developers; most resellers are attracted to becoming managed services providers to their client base. Tim also went into some of these findings in his recent Forrester teleconference.

So, here are the title and agenda of my session next week:

                The Coming Upheaval In Tech Industry Channels

  • Diverse forces align to change the business of IT.
  • Cloud computing will change this industry.
  • Channel partners' plans and problems with “cloud”
  • The customers’ point of view
  • How will the new revenue streams be shared in the channel?

In our preview today, our distributor client was the most confused by my use of the word “customer.” They are already making the strategic move from being vendor-oriented to becoming more reseller-oriented, so they thought customer meant “reseller.” But I did not, and I argued that, at the end of the day, it is the tech buyers who will be deciding the successful roles and responsibilities in our industry, not the players. It caused an interesting discussion which I am glad we had before next week's meeting.

What do you think about that point? Or the other things I plan to talk about.  I look forward to your comments as always.

 Always keeping you informed! Peter