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July 30, 2008
A group of channel partners have come together to form the Technology Channel Association (TCA) to represent — as the name implies — indirect channel organizations selling technology solutions.
The founding members — mostly independent telephony agents and master agents — have been meeting nearly weekly since March to define objectives and put structure around the concept, which members began shopping to prospective charter agent and vendor members in late June. The official launch for the group will take place at the Fall 2008 Channel Partners Conference & Expo, Aug. 18-20, in Boston.
TCA’s president Dany Bouchedid, CEO of COLOTRAQ, said TCA’s initial goal is to unify the industry by developing best practices, training and accreditation programs for indirect sales partners. Once these programs are well established, TCA can promote its members and/or certified TCA partners to potential customers.
The goals are not unlike existing trade associations, even those for the channel, such as CompTIA, which represents VARs, and is sponsor of numerous certification programs. Seeing the synergies, the group absorbed an interconnect association, the CT Pioneers, in 2001. A convergence certification followed in 2007.
TCA’s founders decided to go it alone because of the unique needs of the agent community, said TCA Vice President Geoff Shepstone, president of master agency Telecom Brokerage Inc.. The channel for carrier services is less mature than those for voice and data gear.
“Every industry has some entity charged with the betterment of the overall community. For telecom agents, there isn’t anything,” Shepstone said, noting organizations like TelecomAssociation and the Agent Alliance have complementary, not competitive purposes. Indeed, the TelecomAssociation is a for-profit information and e-mail broadcast service for agents, and the Agent Alliance is a closed buying consortium with group contracts for the sole benefit of its members.
“I see the organizations as complementary with distinctly different goals,” said Jack Knocke, COO for master agency MicroCorp., explaining his company’s decision to be a founding member of TCA in addition to a member of the Agent Alliance. “The TCA is an open membership organization for the indirect channel community with the intention to collectively improve and grow the overall channel. … Furthering best practices and building channel standards for collaboration should help us all drive more business through the indirect channel.”
Agent Alliance CEO Bill Power said based on initial information about TCA, the alliance would be supportive of its goals. However, at press time, the Agent Alliance had no formal role in TCA.
While the short-term focus of the group admittedly is around the interests of its founding members, the name suggests a broader vision. “We wanted to make sure that we opened ourselves up down the road to leverage some leadership on our board and membership from sectors that are related and that have been around a lot longer working with the channel,” said Bouchedid, noting the communications hardware market as one such sector. “There’s a lot of real maturity in other sectors that we can learn from. We would eventually like to have a lot of leaders come join our board of trustees or membership to leverage their experience and best practices.”
For now, TCA is going after the low-hanging fruit in the agent community. Its outreach will begin in earnest at the Fall 2008 Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Boston with presentations on Aug. 19. Vendor members signing through the end of the conference will receive 30 percent off regular dues, which range from $2,800 to $9,600. Partner member fees are waived for partners signing up before the show ends. Regular fees range from $250 to $500 annually. Charter membership status also only is available through Aug. 20.
“We are extremely excited to be a part of the TCA. Finally, we have an association focused on the success and growth of the channel,” said Ryan A. Kelly, vice president of NetWolves.
In addition to Bouchedid and Shepstone as president and vice president, TCA has two other officers. Vince Bradley, CEO of World Telecom Group, is secretary, and Ian Kieninger, general manager for carrier sales at CDW, is treasurer. Rounding out the board of trustees is MicroCorp’s Knocke and Peter Radizeski, president of Rad-Info .
Formal election of board members and officers will be held according to the bylaws, which were not yet ratified at press time. TCA also planned to file for its tax-exempt status as a 501C(6) not-for-profit organization.
In addition, TCA will float an RFP to secure an association management company to run the day-to-day organization and programs for its members. Bouchedid expected that process to take six to eight weeks.
Intelisys Telecom Solutions
PHONE+ (Official Media Partner)
Telecom Brokerage Inc.
World Telecom Group
• Provide trusted leadership in addressing industry challenges.
• Deliver value-added programs and services to meet the identified needs of its members.
• Leverage the collective voice of the indirect sales channel community to ensure its long-term success.
• Advocate the indirect sales channel as a viable and sustainable alternative to the direct sales channel.
• Develop a knowledgebase of best practices that will foster the growth and success of both indirect sales channels and their vendors.
• Consolidate market data and metrics to support the impact of the indirect sales channels on the overall success of the industry.
• Develop and promote industry-wide standards of conduct through the mutual collaboration of indirect sales channel partners and their vendors.
Find out more about TCA at the Fall 2008 Channel Partners Conference & Expo. TCA will hold informational meetings for prospective vendor and partner members at 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., respectively, on Aug. 19. For more information about the event, visit www.channelpartnersconference.com
Read more about:Agents
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