October 31, 2023
CHANNEL FUTURES LEADERSHIP SUMMIT — The mother-daughter team of Janet Schijns, CEO of JS Group, and Dr. Ashlyn Szilva, CEO at channel-focused research firm ANS, took to the main stage at Channel Futures Leadership Summit in Miami Beach on Tuesday to talk about the next generation of channel leadership.
The channel has historically been monopolized by men but is beginning to look much different, the duo noted, with more and more efforts underway to alter that notion, said Schijns, who spoke to the channel audience about her firm's efforts to advance female channel leadership to 50% in five years.
JS Group's Janet Schijns
“A bunch of c-suite executives came together to make this a reality,” Schijns said, adding that the program will consist of mentoring, curricula and various resources to extend the tools required for success for those entering the channel community.
"Will the next generation of talent stay in the channel community? Schijns asked. "Perhaps, but that depends on channel leaders. We have to get it right to retain top talent as customer needs have changed along with technology, which continues evolving, meaning talent has to change as well."
Schijns likened it to playing tic-tac-toe when everyone else is playing chess. "How does your firm stand out to next-gen or talent? They are watching, and your actions speak loudly," she said.
The Channel Will Look a Lot Younger in the Coming Years
ANS research suggests that by 2024, 40% of previous generation channel owners will retire. Researchers at ANS estimate that millennials will hold 75% of indirect channel positions. And those folks are risk-takers, according to Szilva, who spearheads research efforts at ANS.
There are some challenges for newbies entering the partner community, such as a lack of notoriety, which she said "can be difficult," adding, "it’s challenging to make a name for yourself in a large pond as a small fish.”
The younger generation of channel members are risk-takers, she asserts, but they do have some demands like remote working capabilities.
ANS' Ashlyn Szilva
"And one person can perform the task of 10 people thanks to tools such as generative AI. They don’t need gen AI to do so, however, saying, “The younger generation can do this the same without the technology," alluding to various advantages when engaging youthful channel partners.
Although they can multitask at a higher rate, it doesn't mean companies should take advantage of this, Szilva contends. This skill set in the channel can and will lead to better operational efficiency in most instances, Szilva told audience members.
Those incoming members of the channel are seeking opportunities as their current employers are overworking them — and a lot of them for less compensation than that of channel roles with more stress.
The Channel Will Be Forced to Modernize
That change translates to updated technology because younger channel members grew up with technology and know how to leverage it, noted Szilva, who said Generation Z employees are likely to leave because of a lack of technology, forcing partners to change to retain talent who can be advocates for bleeding-edge technologies.
Tools like generative AI will also become more ubiquitous in the partner community, and the folks leading the charge for that effort will be the younger generation. For those looking to attract younger talent, mentorship emerges as paramount and what Szilva calls a fundamental aspect of nurturing emerging leaders.
"Digital adaptability is non-negotiable, as these leaders must be agile in their approach to technology, embracing continuous learning and staying ahead of industry trends to drive innovation and maintain a competitive edge," Szilva wrote in a report titled, "The Next Generation of Tech Leadership and Its Impact on the Technology Channel."
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