Archive for August, 2009

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Reflections on Life’s Truths from the Woods

Beth Vanni

Beth Vanni

Spending 10 days in the woods of the Northeast totally unplugged with my family this past week forced a couple of epiphanies.  Yes, these will sound a bit cliché and simplistic.  But stillness and time (enhanced by pouring rain and relative wilderness) helped me observe first-hand some universal truths for living —  both personally and professionally.   At the end of the day, the IT business, like any business is about how people create relationships and trust with other people.  See if any of these reflections resonate with your values for managing your business and your customer and partner relationships….

  • There is truly an art in listening.  The quieter you are, the more you’ll hear.  Whether it’s the rustling of wind in the trees, the beating of rain on the roof of a tent or the frustrations and goals of an important customer.
  • Different perspectives are important.   In any given situation, two different people can view the good/bad totally differently.  Be careful how to share your reactions.  You might negate others’ experiences.  Worse off, you might limit your own.
  • You can do nothing to stop the rain.    When natural forces are at work, your job is to respond smartly and gracefully.   When you are fearful or complaining you’re wasting energy and losing momentum.  Today’s economy and customer uncertainty is a given –  don’t fight it.  Redirect and differentiate around it.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of adversity. Your ability to be ingenious is directly proportional to the challenges put before you (and your business).   Adversity brings out your most resourcefulness and cleverness.  It also engenders leadership.   Both in you and (more importantly) in your staff.
  • Treat people like family. When you treat people like family, they usually act that way. Cast your net wide and include others in your vision and passion.  Ask them to participate and take a role.  You’ll be surprised in their desire to contribute.
  • Take life down to the basics. You can always live or operate more thriftily, more economically.  Decide what resources you have or need that are truly essential.  Free yourself of those that are simply distractions or for-show.    This can apply to both relationships and physical assets.
  • Contrasts help us fine-tune our judgment. Opposites help us refine our attitudes and gratitude.   A horrible thunderstorm followed by a blazing sunny day gives you a new appreciation for the warmth.  A bad loss on a deal makes you work that much harder for the next one.  A couple of bad financial quarters makes you thankful for the hard work and success of a strong quarter.
  • No one likes a whiner. No matter how difficult things are, no one wants to be around (let alone help) someone who bemoans their problems constantly.  Winners find solutions.  Whiners find problems.   This truth is independent of age, walk of life or profession.   Today’s economic climate thins the herd – leaders and businesses that whine versus those that adapt and win.

August 18, 2009 at 10:05 pm Leave a comment

A View From CompTIA’s Breakaway Conference | Surviving the Recession through Cost Cutting

Beth Vanni

Beth Vanni

Practical Optimism vs. Vendor Dependence
This year’s annual CompTIA Breakaway conference had a distinct air of problem-solving, fraternity and optimism. With its members-driven set of working groups, CompTIA events tend to be constructive and goal-driven.  Yet as a leader of a couple of workshops at this year’s event, I was reminded of the practical survival instinct in play with many of today’s more successful solution providers.

One workshop session, entitled “Surviving the Recession by Cost Cutting without Affecting Customer Service Levels,” included some 15 U.S.-based participants with varying business models. Most partners kicked things off positively, indicating that their calendar Q3 revenues were looking much stronger than those of Q2.  Most also said they had a much clearer line-of-sight to a solid sales pipeline today, compared  to the first six months of this year. The conversation later shifted to the challenging decisions partners have been making to contain costs and recession-proof their businesses.  The emphasis here was not so much on pure cost-cutting but rather reallocation of resources and costs to better differentiate and grow their businesses.

Through our discussion, we grouped the solution providers’ economic activities into several buckets:  cuts already made cuts they’re not willing to make (“sacred cows”) and resources reallocated or shifted.  I found it remarkable in this hour-plus conversation that there was very little connection between these economic business decisions and the partners’ relationships with their key suppliers. In fact, several times, the only pessimism in the room came during conversation about channel program support or funding available from key vendors.

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August 6, 2009 at 4:58 pm Leave a comment

IBM’S “SUNDOWN” ATTACK – Big Blue Goes for the Jugular with Sun’s Channel

By Beth Vanni

It’s been one of the longest standing IT cross-town rivalries for decades.  Innovative, irreverent, scrappy Sun Microsystems maneuvers to compete with big, formal, complex IBM.  A more stark contrast in cultures and marketing campaigns has never before been seen.   But, when Oracle was the triumphant suitor winning the bid to acquire the assets of Sun Microsystems, IBM’s attention was redirected to the assets, customers and partners of its Silicon Valley competitor.

The technology wars have raged on publicly forever between the two companies –  at the operating system, enterprise and mid-range server, middleware and storage product levels.   But, the battleground for channel partner mindshare and investment has been less visible.  Until now.  In an analyst call earlier this month, IBM reviewed in detail its strategy for gaining support and momentum with Sun’s customers and partners during the integration of Sun by Oracle.   IBM touted their wins with 250 Sun accounts just in the first half of 2009 and their migration of over 1800 competitive Sun installations to IBM technology over the past 3 years.  Their “Migration Factory” has offered resources to ease the cost and risks of migrations from Sun’s technology for years now. From a technology perspective, IBM certainly has a compelling and predictable technology story for channel partners.  While application development and chipset innovations have not historically been IBM’s hallmark, what Sun partners gained in innovation they often sacrificed in program and business process predictability.  With rumors abounding about what Oracle will really do with Sun’s legacy systems business, IBM is fueling the FUD fire to hardware integrators about an unclear technology roadmap.

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August 4, 2009 at 9:40 pm Leave a comment

Fitting Social Media into Channel Communications Frameworks

Sandra Glaser Cheek

Sandra Glaser Cheek

By Sandra Glaser Cheek, Director, Consulting & Client services

Social media is forcing businesses to be better. With customers and competitors having more access to what companies are doing and saying in real time, it raises the ante for more transparency, better services and better products.

The next generation of partner marketing strategies will be more responsive, collaborative, and focused on the needs of the partner and customer, not just on the fastest way to close business. Time to market with these social technologies and tools will determine who the winners in vendor community will be. The keys to success will be flexibility, executive support, and the willingness to make mistakes along the way.

As we develop Communications Frameworks for our clients, it’s interesting to see where social media and web 2.0 technologies fit within an organization.

Most major vendors do have some sort of social media plan/strategy and most have begun using some next generation communications tools. This is interesting, because it is unclear that anyone really knows how to formulate and articulate a clear social networking strategy or social media plan for channel partner integration — or provide clear metrics for measurement.

Despite this, it’s clear that it’s time for channel marketers to embrace and prioritize social media technology, as it will be an integral part of the next generation channel program. The impact that sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. have had on the way that users interact and use the Internet for communication, purchasing, and collaboration is clear. Some of this technology, like blogs, podcasts, and RSS are being utilized by vendors — but this is just scratching the surface. To meet the changing customer needs for immediacy, personalization, and participation (sometimes simultaneously), channel programs and the supporting marketing will need to be built with Web 2.0 leading the charge and encompassing social networking, virtual communities, video on demand, wikis, podcasts, and web based collaboration.
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August 4, 2009 at 4:36 pm 2 comments


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