On Tuesday 13th October I attended the CRN Channel Conference at Whittlebury Hall in Northamptonshire. Over 200 senior executives from IT vendors, distributors, resellers and system integrators attended the event, organised by CRN Magazine and Channel Web. As you would expect, the event was full of men in grey suits, and sponsors were promoting the latest channel programmes, faster chips, better software, cloud computing. So what was Vistage doing there? Well, the event was partly to look at the business environment that the IT channel is facing, the trends and actions that will be needed to survive and prosper. Now my background includes over 20 years in the IT industry, so I’ve seen a few of these conferences in my time. And guess what – nothing much has really changed.
For me, the highlights of the conference were a session from Matthew Poyiadgi (VP EMEA from CompTIA), who looked at how new technologies will change our business and personal lives even more than we think, and a very humerous session from Douglas McWilliams (Chief Executive of the Centre for Economic and Business Research and Leading European Economist)who looked at where our economy is heading (yes, the economy and fun at the same time – well done Douglas).
But apart from that, the IT channel still seems to be looking at the world in exactly the same way that they have done for years. Of course there are discussions about the recession, and about how things have changed, but they just seem to be discussions. As far as I can see, the channel hasn’t changed it behaviour or its models at all to reflect the new economy we’re now in. They seem to have just downsized and are in holding mode until things pick up again, when they expect the good times to return and they’ll go on doing exactly what they’ve always done. But many of us think that things will never go back to the way they were. The recession and the new economy that we’re now seeing has actually forced customers to think and explore options in totally new ways, including considering options that were brushed aside previously. Virtualisation and storage certainly have strong futures in my view, as many solutions and new business models will be based on ‘cloud computing’ and unlimited storage online. Even in these spaces, the real innovation is with the small, nimble, niche players – and the point is it’s not about the technology, it’s about a totally new business models that work from the customer’s point of view, not from the vendor/supplier point of view.
So why was Vistage attending this event? Well, we wanted to make the IT channel aware that there is a great collection of knowledge, expertise, wisdom, method within Vistage that the IT channel could benefit from. We met several chief executives and guess what. Some got it immediately and so we’ll introduce them to Vistage and let them see what they’ve been missing. And others thought they didn’t need any help at all, that the ‘good old days’ will return once again and they just needed to wait it out.
I’ll be meeting more IT executives at CompTIA’s annual EMEA conference at Ascot on the 22nd October where I’ll be presenting the Seven Keys to Sales Success .