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STATE OF THE CHANNEL: Behind the numbers

A detailed look at where the Canadian channel is and where it needs to go

About 10 years ago, while helping host a reseller roundtable for CDN, I watched our guests walk in and expected to see fists start flying. Instead, I saw glad-handing between executives from Ingram Micro, Tech Data, EMJ Data Systems and Merisel.

“You have to be friends with your competitors in Canada,” one of them said afterwards. “We’re just too small a group.”

I prefer the term “close-knit.” More than any of the audiences we serve at IT World Canada, the Canadian reseller channel represents the most cohesive community. Everyone has worked for everyone else, or with everyone else, or wants to. Everyone golfs at the same tournaments. Everyone attends the big trade shows, looking for opportunities or presenting them to someone else.

Everyone is focused on the same goal: trying to find a way to squeeze more margins – and more value – from technology products and services that are always at risk of commoditization.

CDN has been informing, entertaining and hopefully inspiring legions of value-added resellers and solution providers to raise the bar in terms of service, support and performance as a critical economic engine of growth in Canada. We have watched a disparate band of “dealers” turn into a more sophisticated set of trusted business advisors to companies across the country.

Even experienced CIOs and IT managers sometimes admit they are too busy focusing on understanding the business needs of their employer to keep pace with the relentless changes in IT products. That’s the power of the channel: acting as a liaison between innovation and adoption.

Beyond the stories we tell in print, online and in video, much of our activity at CDN has been around audience recognition, through highly popular programs such as the Top 100 Solution Providers, the Channel Elite Awards and more recently, the Women in the Channel event. What we haven’t offered – what no one, until now, has offered – is a detailed look at where the Canadian channel is today, and where it needs to go in the future.

The State of the Canadian Channel 2011 is based on an e-mail survey of 200 VARs and resellers conducted earlier this year. Most of our respondents were small and medium-sized businesses (though 10 per cent employed 100 or more). All were generous with their time in responding to our many questions about their priorities, their challenges and their plans for the coming year.

I’d like to thank our sponsor, Ingram Micro Canada, for helping make this research possible and to our loyal audience for helping us take the pulse of this evolving profession. I hope the results prove useful in the coming year, and beyond.