August 4, 2020
Today was the opening day of CompTIA ChannelCon Online 2020, the virtual conference. Sessions ranged from topics such as diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, to what’s next for the channel, partner experience trends, and maintaining (and growing) your sales pipeline in times of economic uncertainty.
Diversity and Inclusion in Tech
CompTIA’s Todd Thibodeaux
CompTIA ChannelCon Online opened with a virtual town hall meeting on “Diversity and Inclusion in the Tech Industry.” Moderated by CompTIA president and CEO Todd Thibodeaux, the session consisted of five executives — all current or former CompTIA board members.
While speakers expressed hope that real change will come from America’s social justice and equality protests, their hope is tempered by a history of past promises gone unfulfilled. However, the conversation shone a light on what has to happen to alter the current course.
Transformation Lead’s Georgette Fraser-Moore
“We have to have those hard conversations,” said Dr. Georgette Fraser-Moore, founder and CEO of Transformation Lead. “We need to find ways to communicate that don’t make people feel even more separated.”
“The typical blockers are fear and ignorance,” said Eric Hughes, partner of Agio Advisory. “These topics are hard, yes. But in order for us to advance this conversation, we have to get to a place where it’s not just [underrepresented demographics] advocating for these human rights. It has to be the majority.”
Diversity in the Workforce
One of the ways the industry can demonstrate its leadership is to make a true, long-term commitment to diversify its workforce, CompTIA ChannelCon Online panelists said.
Comcast Business’ Barry Williams
“There have been plenty of studies that shows the more diverse the company is the better the opportunity you have to be successful,” noted Barry Williams, executive director, indirect channel sales, Comcast Business.
“It’s time for the tech industry to step up, for [venture capital] to step up and start asking the diversity questions,” said Louis Steward, chief innovation officer for the City of Sacramento, California. “You have to have the will to hire to make your company reflect the customers you serve.”
The momentum of the movement for change and the large numbers of people involved have instilled hope, and point to a willingness and want for a shift.
“This is not just a Black challenge,” said Thibodeaux. “This is a community challenge. You must now do the work. This needs to be a new channel of change.”
What’s Next for the Channel?
Another session dove into the topic of what’s next for the channel. Industry experts discussed the impact the first half of 2020 has had on the channel and asked the question, “Where do we go from here?”
Experts discussed practical advice and strategies to keep partner businesses moving forward in these unprecedented times. Most solution providers and MSPs have found that their value to customers has increased during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s especially as clients view them as essential partners. Their role as trusted advisers has been critical. So how can one maintain and enhance that role moving forward?
“Many in the channel were trying to tread water in 2008 and make sure they didn’t go out of business, but those that were able to invest were more robust when things got better,” said Carolyn April, senior director of industry analysis at CompTIA, and moderator of the session. “That’s an economic dynamic that exists and hopefully we’ll see that in the channel today.”
The other panelists wholeheartedly agreed in the sense that …
… preparing your business now to take advantage of new opportunities and new markets will provide a competitive benefit when “normalcy” returns.
The Need for Education
Tim Basa, vice president of sales and operations at AppSmart, said many of his company’s partners have taken the time to educate and train their staff during COVID-19, a notion that should serve them well going forward. “They’ve said, ‘What can I do?’ Maybe they haven’t sold this product suite before, or they didn’t sell SaaS. But they wanted to pivot to SaaS or a contact center, and were quick to get educated,” Basa said.
Juan Fernandez, vice president of managed IT services at ImageNet Consulting, and vice chair of CompTIA’s Channel Development Advisory Council, agreed that creativity is often born from necessity, and he expects advances around powering the new mobile workforce and creating an improved customer experience.
“We have to innovate during this time. It’s 100% ‘have to think differently,’” Fernandez said.
Maintaining (and Growing) Your Sales Pipeline
The session ‘Maintaining (and Growing) Your Sales Pipeline in Times of Economic Uncertainty’ discussed the tale of two channels.
In times of economic uncertainty, our first inclination is to hunker down and brace for the worst. For companies that want to be standing after the dust settles, this is the time to nurture relationships. People must increase their audience and fill their pipeline. Heather K. Margolis of Channel Maven and Larry Walsh of The 2112 Group went through the ideal steps shops should be taking right now to ensure their success for the future.
“We now have no more excuses for waiting on digital transformation,” said Walsh. “The channel is grossly underprepared and not equipped for omnichannel. We need to figure out how to keep the customer. Even if you get them into the pipe, you have to figure out how to nurture the relationship. This has to happen through continuous engagement.”
“It is time to think about building relationships; that, and helping MSPs/solution providers build relationships around the business outcomes that you can help them achieve,” added Margolis.
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