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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"The Microsoft 'rules of engagement' in their new channel program allows for renewals, so essentially all agents need to do is renew their existing customers on cloud products and services. Once that leap is made, they are officially into the cloud/IT space overnight." Partners also need to concentrate on maintaining a talent funnel and deploying staff mindfully. Richard Murray, president of CarrierSales, says his company takes a layered approach that uses expensive talent wisely. "With our sales engineering model, we go in for the initial deep dive, lay out the design, then involve the rest of our team." They take it from there, and engineering can go on to the next design. "This helps significantly in staying scalable," says Murray, while educating people up and down the stack. Take advantage of resources, especially hands-on training. For example, WTC offers "Cloudology" trainings and issues a cloud certification; the goal is showing agents how to leverage the industry resources available to them. For security, Avant's chief cloud officer, Ron Hayman, is a noted expert in cloud security and has led the company to begin developing certifications in ethical hacking and other areas that interest technical talent. Yes, it costs to take employees out of the field. But as the saying goes, if you think education is expensive, try ignorance. "A big part of the problem is that there is no 'easy button' when it comes to this stuff," says Bradley. "You have to do the heavy lifting." Finally, realize that dabbling around the edges won't work if you want to specialize in complex technologies like hybrid cloud design or security. "You really need to commit and create an entire arm of your business devoted to it," says Murray. "Customers want the full gauntlet of consulting services, design, implementation and support. It creates a revenue stream, but also requires that much more time." Not to mention specialized engineering expertise. CERTIFIED MADNESS Vendors uniformly insist on certifications for high-demand products, and plan to require more. That's a challenge for the channel because of the cost of training, the overhead of making sure you consistently have the right people in place — and the worry that you'll spend on certs only to have the staffer use those skills to get a higher-paying gig elsewhere. "It's a reasonable question that every employer must deal with," says Hilary Gadda, director, Telepartner Channel, TelePacific Communications, and co-president of Women in the Channel. "We don't like to manage to the lowest common denominator. Not doing something that makes sense because you're worried about losing your investment to someone else is not a good way to run a business." Gadda invests in certifications for employees when it benefits her company and provides a strategic advantage. "We also think it is a method for improving retention," she says. Reimbursed training is a valued perk — for employees, being valued and challenged is often as important as a raise. "Sometimes engineers feel underutilized and don't like being kept in a box, and will entertain moving onward and upward," says Murray. "It's easier for us to retain because we are supporting so many different kinds of telecom, cloud and IT services." With more products and related certifications, employees can broaden their product knowledge a nd skill sets. "One of the exciting things about our industry is how fast technology changes, so it's difficult to get bored," says Medwed. "The flip side of that is that unless you commit your company to providing ongoing education and have proper staff count to accommodate taking engineers and consultants out of the field, your engineers — and your company — fall b ehind quickly." Be smart about how industry certifications and provider partnerships look from the outside, to both potential customers and employees. Outlook: Where Are the Women? By Nancy Ridge One factor contributing to a shortage of IT talent is that there continues to be a shortage of women choosing IT and technical careers. There are a number of studies on this topic, and much has been written about it. Statistics continue to bear it out: Google's engineering workforce is only 17 percent female, Pinterest's only 21 percent, Facebook stands at 15 percent. Although I haven't seen any hard numbers from telecommunications companies or indirect channels, I would venture to say the numbers would be similar or even lower. Difficulty in career advancement continues to be cited as a major factor; however the reasons we're failing to attract young women are varied. According to a Harvard study first conduced in 2008 and updated in 2014, they include a "hostile" male culture, a sense of isolation and lack of a clear career path. Women in the Channel and other organizations are pushing back with outreach to young women in schools, mentoring programs and bringing the conversation of gender diversity as a path to financial success to the table. (The Women in Channel event at Channel Partners' Conference & Expo will include telecom and channel leaders discussing why gender diversity matters and what they plan to do in 2016 to address it.) We need the channel to band together here. Let's create an environment that fosters and engages women. Not only will we help fill our own need for technical talent, we will be taking the lead in attacking a major problem plaguing the IT industry as a whole. NANCY RIDGE is executive vice president, Telecom Brokers, and past president and co-founder of Women in the Channel. FEATURE 10 CHANNEL PARTNERS DIGITAL ISSUE SPRING 2016

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