What's in a Name? An Entire Industry

What's in a Name? An Entire Industry

No longer can the channel be called by a single acronym. Or can it?

The IT channel of today is the most diversified in our industry’s history. Have we lost the ability to simply name the channel by a single acronym (VAR, SP, MSP)?

The acronym used to define the channel over the past 25-plus years has described both the business model being deployed by the channel, and the technology delivery solutions being provided to the end user.

We started as “resellers,” which evolved to “value-added resellers.” When “value add” wasn’t sufficient to describe the benefits being delivered, we adopted the term, “solution provider,” which clearly expanded the scope being delivered to customers. And then when selling and implementing complete IT solutions wasn’t enough, we evolved yet again to a title near and dear to me personally: managed service provider. Yet again we were providing customers, vendors and the channel a title that described what we do and how we do it.

This does not suggest we in this industry are like lemmings, who as individuals seem to move a single entity, following each other off a cliff.  We’ve been able to differentiate and brand ourselves uniquely, while still being able to fall under the generic title. However, there’s no denying that the majority did this by continuing to be defined by the current title of "the channel."

Today, the title being adopted by the channel seems to be the first step in differentiation. In speaking with hundreds of “channel partners” (the term used by vendors to describe the channel) over the past 12 months, I'm amazed at how many times I’ve been corrected, when generalizing the channel by even the term "MSP." “We are not an MSP, we’re a cloud services provider,” or, “We’re a CIO services company.”

Diversification of the channel now seems to be starting with the title used by the company to define what it does. By not being able to use a simple acronym to define the channel, the job of technology journalists and editors, along with vendors delivering solutions to the channel, becomes more difficult.

This is another great milestone for our industry but it has left me confused. If you have a new acronym we can all agree on, please send it over, or, better yet, add it to the comments below.

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