Diane Krakora

Solution Providers Affirm State of Partnering Study Findings

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By Diane Krakora

In our last webinar, we invited Mont Phelps, CEO of NWN Corporation and Simon Palmer, CEO of STA to share their perspective on our 6th Annual State of Partnering Study findings. Teaming up with MarketStar and PureChannels, this study queried 98 vendors and 250 solution providers on their investments, priorities and challenges for 2012.

So what is the State of Partnering in 2012? Our study points to 2012 as a year of optimism for top-line growth for both IT vendors and solution providers. Solution providers will continue to take a proactive role in helping their customers define their next level of using IT as a competitive business advantage, while IT vendors are still working at reducing complexity, being more accommodating of multiple business and engagement models and recognizing their partners’ value in managing the customer relationship. Our panel of solution providers addressed their perspective, expectations and cautious optimism for growth in 2012.

“In 2012, we are anticipating double-digit growth (15%-20%) – higher in services and lower in products,” said Mont Phelps. “I’m not sure if the economy is getting better, but it is no longer getting worse. We are seeing good activity in commercial markets. And, we are optimistic that telephony, storage, and virtualization will continue to fuel our growth.”

“We feel good about 2012,” said Simon Palmer. “We expect to see a 10% increase in top-line revenue. Our focus is to improve gross margins by changing our product/service mix, upping our attention toward services. We, too, see virtualization as having a significant play and are seeing cloud discussions ramp up. Not cloud business yet, but discussions are definitely ramping up.”

Biggest Challenges: Staffing

The State of Partnering Study identified staffing as the solution providers’ biggest perceived obstacle to growth in 2012. How bad is it out there?

“It’s hard!” said Palmer. “There are a lot of mediocre people looking for jobs. Our good people are constantly getting recruited or competitors and vendors try to poach them. This makes retention and recruitment an ongoing issue.”

“While vendors’ core competency is technology and holding a technical edge, for us, it’s people,” said Phelps. “Last year we hired 184 people. It’s hard to find good people and grow at the same time. Our greatest limiter is when our people get poached by vendors. It’s tough when you grow a resource and see it leave to a vendor.”

Is there anything vendors can do to help with staffing?

“My challenge with vendors offering to help us develop resources is that they tend to be very product-centric. That’s not what we need. More and more we need to be having business-level, vertical expertise-level discussions with our customers and the technology will drop out of the bottom of that discussion as the tool to solve the problem. We need to focus more of our energy on developing sound business-level and vertical expertise-level skills”

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