Something special

Specialisation is fast becoming a topic that the Middle East channel can’t afford to ignore

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  December 13, 2009

This time of the year usually generates plenty of conversations about the sort of topics likely to dominate the channel agenda in 2010.

And it's fair to say that the nature of such discussions doesn't change too dramatically from one year to the next. The over-riding aims and ambitions of the channel community are built on a few core pillars and as a result the subjects most on the minds of resellers tend to retain a certain air of familiarity.

Whether it's margin enhancement, services investment, lead generation activities or another common channel theme, there are some topics that have governed the intricate relationships between vendors and partners in the past and will continue do so in the future.

One area making a daring bid to become a permanent fixture on that list is ‘specialisation'.

Without any shadow of doubt, more vendors have been speaking about the necessity for specialisation than ever before and it is shaping up to play a major factor in the channel decisions that are made in the coming year.

Judging by the numerous conferences and reseller functions I've attended that have put this topic first on the schedule, the term specialisation can largely be taken as vendor-speak for channel partners capable of going deeper into a technology area, a market area or a services area.

This isn't to say to that specialisation hasn't been occurring in the Middle East anyway - of course it has - but the emphasis now being directed towards it by manufacturers indicates that a sweeping change is taking place.

This shift can be detected in the language and channel development behaviour of vendors in the region. Whether it's simply a sign of market maturity or a multitude of smaller variable factors, the days of vendors trying to sign everybody to sell everything appear to have reached an end for all but the most mainstream of volume products.

Instead there is a realisation that a much more scientific approach is necessary; an approach that affords far greater prominence to market segmentation and market focus in an attempt to ensure a higher degree of end-customer satisfaction than is presently the case.

Equally, this can only be achieved by creating an environment that is more attractive for the partner to play in than before and which recognises any significant investments that are made on the partner's behalf.

Until now there has been an awful lot of talk about the need for breadth and depth, but this is not something that vendors can simply just preach about in the faint hope that partners will pick up the ball and do the rest.

They have to drive it themselves through programmes and initiatives that are specifically developed for this region. Without the right incentives, there is no reason for the pattern of behaviour among the channel to change.

As the channel turns its attentions to 2010, I am sure vendors will be asking partners what role they want to play in their channel model going forward, with specialisation firmly at the front of their thinking. It would be a foolish vendor who poses that question without a clear and compelling channel roadmap in place.

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