2018 Channel Influencer Awards

Nature vs. Nurture: What Defines a Channel Legend Most

The combined edit teams from Channel Partners and Channel Futures have collaborated on new awards for a new era. Here're our findings.

**Editor’s Note: Click here for access to our special digital issue that highlights the Channel Influencers.**

Welcome to our 2018 Channel Influencers Awards. This is our first awards issue that leverages the combined editorial teams representing Channel Partners and Channel Futures. Our objective: Name the top organizations, people, trends and technologies driving change in the channel and beyond today (background on how we made our picks is here).

Now, you would think that friendly tech journalists working under the same corporate umbrella would agree on most selections and criteria. But we didn’t — at least not at first. Some of us wanted to honor longevity and predictability, two qualities I know channel partners admire. Others wanted to recognize disruption and innovation. After some back and forth, it hit T.C. Doyle, a longtime tech industry journalist and the current editorial director at Channel Futures, and me why our team was at odds: Just like individual channel partners that go to market with different product mixes or business strategies, we, too, have our unique perspectives. Like you, we value different qualities in tech vendors, thought leaders and innovations themselves.

Take Tom Kaneshige, author of the popular ZeroOne blog that regularly appears on Channel Futures. Tom believes GE, a company that is outwardly in disarray right now, is ideally positioned to make the most of the IoT opportunity. GE, Tom notes, claims that its focus on the IoT will make the 126-year old industrial giant “a Top 10 software company by 2020.”

An old-guard company making a bold move in a new and fast-changing space? After reflection, I not only get the selection, I like it.

In contrast to Tom, our colleague Nicole Henderson chose Salesforce.com as one of the channel’s “25 Orgs to Watch” in 2018. At first blush, I thought this was a safe choice. Salesforce, after all, is already an established market leader with a defined business proposition. (How much more established can you be than opening an office tower that cost more than $1 billion and stands taller than any other building west of the Mississippi River?)

But Nicole’s reasoning adds an interesting twist. She chose Salesforce not for its unique partner ecosystem but for its revolutionary AI-based platform, which helps customers take the guesswork out of sales forecasting. “Einstein,” as it is known, “is delivering more than 475 million predictions daily,” Nicole writes. This could literally transform commerce on a scale that only Amazon has done of late.

The more I looked at the selections featured on our Channel Influencer Awards list, the more I liked their diversity. T.C. does too. So what, I asked him, separates a run-of-the-mill entrepreneur, idea or organization from a true standout?

“Many people believe it’s the level of disruption they create,” he told me. “Think Uber or Amazon. But that’s not the only thing that makes a company great. Steve Jobs once famously knocked Microsoft for having ‘no taste.’ Fair enough, but Microsoft proved that you can achieve greatness by relentlessly grinding away year after year.”

T.C. Doyle, Informa

On that, I would agree. But great companies, I noted, perfect and innovate. Microsoft certainly does.

“Agreed,” he said. “Organizations, people and products alike must be able to both grind and leap. You have to be skilled at both being disruptive and sustaining innovation. You have to be able to carry out best practices and improvise simultaneously. And you have to be able to take risks and play it safe.”

T.C.’s words speak to something I’ve observed in my own tech journalism journey: There is no one right way when it comes to building a great career, organization or industry. Which brings me to our 2018 list of influencers and the question: What is the true source of excellence? Nature or nurture? After working on this project for several months with our talented team, I am more convinced than ever that greatness relies on a mixture of both.

Speaking of both, I think you’ll agree that our 2018 “Channel Influencer of the Year” embodies that ethos. This person is both a disruptive innovator and an operational guru. Over the span of this person’s career, they have taken great risks and made prudent, level-headed decisions.

We’ll unveil this individual on the cover of our upcoming print issue, and recognize all our winners at a combined gala with our CP 360° awardees (have you applied yet?) at the Spring 2018 Channel Partners Conference & Expo at the Venetian & Sands Expo in Las Vegas. There, 6,000-plus partners and suppliers will converge the week of April 17. Please join us, and tell T.C. and me what you think of our selections.

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