Contrary to popular belief, the Internet is less of a threat than a fantastic opportunity for IT resellers and distributors, according to a report from researcher IDC.
Chairing a panel session at IBM's Partnerworld conference this week in San Diego, IDC analyst Janet Waxman told the audience of resellers and independent software vendors that the Internet presented an opportunity for them all.
"If used correctly, the Internet will strengthen vendors' relationships with channel partners and create supply chain efficiencies," said Waxman.
Waxman said end users, particularly enterprise customers, would continue to use indirect channels, especially when a project was mission critical or complex, where time to market was a key issue, when it was a large heterogeneous installation or where a location was particularly remote from head office.
Rick Hamada, president of distributor Hallmark Global Solutions, said the Internet was a great opportunity that had forced his company to improve the efficiency of its operations. But the pace of change had proved challenging, he said.
"It was somewhat analogous to trying to change a tire at 70mph on the motorway," he said.
Bob Monio, partner at systems integrator US Web/CKS, said speed was the key to take advantage of the Internet, but skills shortages were impacting on the ability of all companies to Internet-enable their businesses. Cultural issues hampered some organisations as well, he said, but the Internet did give even the slower bricks and mortar companies the opportunity to catch up.
"Organisations that have risk takers on their management staff will be the ones to succeed," he said.
Jim Lidestri, president of application hosting company Interliant, said the opportunity created by the Internet could also be its downside as it was so easy for organisations to set up a service without any guarantee they could deliver.
"Anyone can set up a website and call themselves an application service provider. It is hard for the customer to discern the meat behind it," he said.
IDC's Waxman said her research, conducted among a number of end users and 20 large channel players, revealed a strong consensus on exactly what opportunities the Internet presented for the channel.
- Elevates their ability to add value
- Levels the playing field by expanding reach to a larger audience
- Reduces cost of entering markets
- Simplifies ordering and order tracking
- Creates cost and labour efficiencies
- Improves customer relationship management
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