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Venture Tech’s past meets its future with VLAN program

WBM's JoeAnne Hardy takes over for outgoing Don Conaby

WBM Office Systems president JoeAnne Hardy understands she has big shoes to fill replacing Don Conaby, the outgoing Venture Tech Network president.Conaby, the president of Oshawa, Ont.-based solution provider Conpute, was the first VTN Canada president to share the role with his U.S. counterpart, Scott Goemmel of PMV Technologies of Troy, Mich. Both were considered North American co-presidents, according to Kirk Robinson, who heads the VTN worldwide for Ingram Micro.

Under Conaby and Goemmel, VTN completed the integration of the Canadian and U.S. councils, creating a North American structure.

With a North American council, Conaby and Goemmel led the members along with Ingram Micro’s Justin Crotty in developing the Seismic managed services offering with Level Platform Inc. of Ottawa.

Through a newly created initiative called VLAN, however, Hardy will now be able to tap the minds of Conaby and Goemmel along with other past presidents.

Robinson said the VLAN initiative was something that needed to get done.

“It was a sore spot for past VTN leaders because they were left out and now they can take on some of the tasks the council can not take on,” he said.

Hardy said that core memory of VTN would be lost without an initiative such as VLAN.

“You lose the core history and knowledge of what has been tried and now you have this sage panel of people with experience and passion at your side,” she said.

Conaby said the work load on the VTN president is a heavy one and VLAN helps.

“Past presidents have been very passionate about the VTN community. Every one of them served full terms and the organization is around 10 years old and we still have a very active membership,” Conaby said.

Hardy will be the fifth VTN Canada president.

“For me this is an opportunity to spread some of the passion for VTN out a little further with the charter members,” she said.

One of her top priorities for VTN is to develop a social networking platform for the members.

Under Conaby, VTN Canada established end user tools such as the virtual trade show. Hardy wants to continue that work with the launch of the social networking tool.

“It will get a lot of traction and members will be able to utilize that,” said Hardy. “We have already seen some hilarious things in the general session with some mock pages, but I think it will end up being an important tool that will help us differentiate against other VAR communities out there in the market.”

She also wants to recruit the next great partner to VTN. One that can fill a geographic spot or specific skill set that VTN Canada needs.

VTN deals
The VTN Invitational had more than 800 attendees made up of more than 30 vendors and almost 500 VARs.

The event is ideal for partnering and deal making. Take for example, ESI Technologies of Montreal, one of CDN’s top 100 solution providers offering to increase reseller’s recurring billing by 50 per cent. The company has created a mini company called ESI Action where they offer financial and distribution tools for creating quotes, order invoicing and figuring out manufacturer claims.

Also part of ESI Action is professional management services, a CRM and an XML link to a major distributor.

ESI is also offering Octopus, an integrated IT service management help desk solution for companies of all sizes. It is ITIL-based and contains configuration management databases, self-service Web applications, a computing equipment discovery tool and performance measurement tools.Besides ESI’s offerings, the VTN event had vendors such as HP announcing HP PurchaseEdge, a points reward program that enables resellers to earn free HP products by just continuing to obtain printer supplies from the vendor.

Resellers can get printers, scanners and digital cameras along with opportunities to earn more points. The program also includes access to account information, program news, a quarterly point statement and special promos through a password-protected Web site.

Projector maker Optoma announced the Partner Vision program for top level authorized resellers and installers. What Optoma wants from this program is to encourage resellers to deliver complete solutions centered around its digital displays.

PartnerVision has a dedicated Web site, indirect dealer SPIFs, an education program, priority technical support, dedicated bid desk and product marketing and sales tools.

Avad and ITS
One of the new additions to the Canadian operation will be Avad, which Ingram acquired more than two years ago. Avad, under the leadership of Chris Burns, has been run independently from Ingram. Avad will be opening its Toronto office this quarter and is planning a Western Canadian location early in 2008.

Avad Canada will be run separately from Ingram, but Charlie Spano, the newly appointed co-GM of Ingram Micro Canada, said that the company would be using the subsidiary’s HR and payroll functions. “This is a whole new customer set,” Spano said.

Mark Snider, Ingram Canada’s other co-GM, added that the difference between Avad and Ingram Canada’s CE/IT division, run by John Henderson, is that Avad comes from the high-end home stereo channel, while Henderson’s group deals with VARs who want to offer CE solutions to customers.

That too is priority for 2008, Snider said. Henderson has added digital signage VARs and six new team members to his group.

“Avad is more for home installations and working with companies in construction or those who set up boardrooms. A lot of them come from the home stereo side, but they’re really high-end. They are not interested in the guy who buys a large screen. They are interested in the guy who buys the large screen along with the home theatre chairs,” Snider said.

Ingram Micro Canada will also introduce the ITS Division, which is targeted at the growing trend of server virtualization and storage consolidation. “This is just another new market and moves us up the value chain,” Snider said.

Snider said the ITS Division is one of those new services that makes the broadliner more value-based. Snider and Spano plan to use some of the U.S. operations’ resources in ITS for technical support for the Canadian roll out.

Other priorities for 2008 will be in Ingram Canada’s Extreme division and its Outlet program.