Channel Partners

SPR 2016

For 25 years, Channel Partners has been a resource for indirect sales channels, such as agents, VARs and dealers, that provide network-based communications and computing services, associated CPE and applications, and managed and professional services

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"A shortage of qualified talent is causing a lot of angst in the channel," says Greg Richey, director of professional services at distributor Ingram Micro. "Security, networking, app dev and within verticals like retail, finance or health care." The stats back them up. By 2018, Wi-Fi traffic is set to exceed all 2G, 3G and 4G cellular traffic combined, says a study by ABI Research. By 2020, in-building traffic will hit 53 exabytes per month. No wonder Robert Half says wireless network engineers, with a pay range of $108,750 to $150,750, saw a salary bump of almost 10 percent over 2015. The 451 Alliance's Voice of the Enterprise surveys tell the security and data center demand tale: More than half of enterprises employ fewer than five dedicated security personnel; 22.6 percent have no security staff at all. To compensate, spending on security products and outsourcing is strong, with 44 percent of enterprises expecting to increase their budgets. "It's data security, it's physical security, it's a broad swath," says Richey. For data centers, 60 percent of enterprises plan to increase spending on servers, and 79 percent plan to spend more on converged infrastructure in 2016, often to build hybrid clouds. Are you staffed up to capture this business without pricing your services out of custo mers' budgets? "The talent shortage is a double- edged sword because it drives up the cost of engineering," says Neil Medwed, president of Preferred Technology Solutions, who likens the situation to a pro baseball team that overpays for midle vel pitching. Few experts see competition for hot specialties easing. For channel companies, coping takes a mix of tactics, including keeping employees engaged with new challenges, mastering the certification game, crafting the right company culture and hiring smart and then retaining well. GET CREATIVE For most agents, the big risk is waiting too long to either hire the expertise needed to ramp up new services or figure out a workaround. "It's truly about agents making the time to expand their worlds and vision," says Bradley. "Getting agents to adopt new technology and network with the IT industry has always been an issue. Typically, folks do not do something until they are forced to." The flattening of barriers between telecom and IT channel companies is giving rise to an interesting dynamic, as firms with telecom roots compete for business with "born in the cloud" solutions providers and, in many cases, fail to see the danger of procrastination. "Customers need agents with cloud skill sets more than ever," says Jo Peterson, vice president of converged cloud and data services for Clarify360, a Teleproviders Company, and co-founder of Cloud Girls. "They are short-staffed, or short on internal skill sets. Cloud is the wild, wild West right now in terms of not having enough qualified folks on both the vendor and partner sides of th e O.K. Corral." Three options to cope with current holes in the talent fabric are to forge alliances with other providers, specialize so you own a market or source talent from master agent or distrib utor partners. In fact, Drew Lydecker, president of Avant Communications, says where some see a shortage, his company sees the opportunity to become more of an enablement distributor. "What we have seen is a lack of skilled knowledge workers around cloud and some of the next-generation technologies within our traditional customers, both from a VAR and from an agent perspective," says Lydecker, mostly because they're in transition and don't know who to hire. "We've filled that void," he says, often with people hired from manufacturers including Cisco, EMC and NetApp." When a partner is ready to add staff, Avant will step in and help identify the right person. Bradley agrees that the talent is there, from both vendors and masters, if agents would only ask. "We have implemented a higher level of cloud training, working in partnership with CompTIA and Microsoft technical resources," he says. WTG is also beefing up its sales engineering practice. Partners are also getting more willing to team up on contracts — if they can get past turf worries. "We are seeing more and more people coming to us and saying, 'Hey, I'm doing a security job, I need to put it on XYZ server, and I need some cloud. Who do you know that can help me provide that solution?'" says Richie. It makes sense — smart people like to collaborate, and not just within t heir own teams. Peterson says she addresses the need to protect the business by requiring a formal, signed memorandum of under - standing between parties outlining exactly who owns the custome r relationship. Another option for agents is to specialize and staff up accordingly. Whether cloud, security or a vertical, hiring one star can entice others. Lydecker says Avant's focus on next-gen cloud is attracting partners and individuals who want to get in on the wave of disruption that the clo ud is causing. SPINNING UP A PRACTICE At Channel Partners Conference and Expo, we're offering educational sessions on developing security and IoT practices that can establish your company as that "go-to" source. No matter the technology, when adding a specialization, some principles apply. FIrst, build on what you know. "Leading with Microsoft products, such as 365, flattens the curve," says WTG's Bradley. FEATURE For most agents, the big risk is waiting too long to either hire the expertise needed to ramp up new services or fgure out a workaround. 8 CHANNEL PARTNERS DIGITAL ISSUE SPRING 2016

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