Opinion

Customers know their stuff, it's time to change the record

Awareness of network performance among end user buyers is reaching new heights, with a survey carried out by Brocade revealing that the modern British worker wants instant access - or as near as damn it - to information, and won't settle for less.

Brocade staff took to the floor at last week's IP Expo in London with clipboards to harangue the clientele, and found that over two thirds of business users say that network performance and reliability are essential to their work.

While those stopped and quizzed among the stands were well up for using collaborative tools, social networks, and all that jazz, it was performance, availability and accessibility that was exercising them the most.

I'm pleased to see this happening. To me it validates the notion that end users are much more informed about IT than we in the industry often like to give them credit for, and cements the idea that the channel needs to be approaching them in new ways.

Earlier this month, Network Noise reported back from a roundtable event hosted by ShoreTel, where it became clear just much end users know about technology, particularly networking and comms technology.

The channel does not control this information as tightly as it used to, and therefore the skills that you can bring as channel advocates must change, and fast.

Azlan's Ian French, also in attendance at IP Expo, agreed that nowadays resellers can unwittingly find themselves in a situation where the "end users are more educated than the channel that serves them".

"They must remain relevant to the customer's world," he warned. "Customers don't buy like they used to."

If they know as much as we do then the sales approach obviously needs refreshing, and French took the view - not a new one, incidentally - that distributors will have a huge role to play in the future converged network sale, becoming themselves more like resellers.

"Say you are a voice specialist with no storage. It's unlikely a small reseller can invest in storage, but through distribution he can become a virtually accredited partner," he said.

Denise Bryant of Magirus was using the show to pitch vBundles, its own SMB-sized unified data centre package that wraps together kit from Cisco, EMC and VMware and means resellers don't need to fork out on every accreditation under the sun.

"There are partners with different skill sets, some good at UC but not at data centres," said Bryant. "We are increasingly partner matching, too, and putting together different specialists."

Magirus' message is definitely filtering through, according to Bryant, who said that although some resellers were still staunch traditionalists, it was "thankfully rare".

This was first published in October 2010

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