What’s in a Name?

What's in a name?

Focusing too much on labels and not enough on capabilities can have a negative impact on everyone in the technology value chain.

By Diana L. Mirakaj

That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The famous line from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” has nothing whatsoever to do with the 21st century technology market, yet the nomenclature challenges being experienced in today’s IT channel evoke the same question contemplated by Romeo: What’s in a name?

The answer? Sometimes, a lot. Classification matters, and not just to the Montagues and Capulets.

At a recent roundtable discussion, strategic alliance and channel executives discussed the persistent challenges they face in identifying and segmenting how the market perceives them and their partners. Regardless of the trigger, a common thread exists: A lack of understanding by others can lead to a silo environment, which is the opposing goal of any partnering model. It’s a typical scenario within organizations; many colleagues don’t understand each other’s jobs.

But the self-identification conundrum extends beyond an internal battle of corporate politics. Research by The 2112 Group shows that a recurring issue in the channel is what to call “partners.” Since that naming decision also affects a company’s business model and value proposition, there’s more at stake than simply what box to check on a survey form.

Vendors and distributors segment their indirect-sales partners into different categories based on their business models – such as value-added reseller (VAR), systems integrator, managed service provider (MSP), service provider (typically related to the cloud or telecom carriers), consultant, or solution provider, the now ubiquitous general term. The industry even assigns relative value to these designations. Systems integrators, for example, are regarded as larger and more technically savvy than VARs, whose name conjures up images of low-volume box-pushers with limited technical capabilities.

Channel labels are increasingly irrelevant to two groups: solution providers and end customers. Solution providers are less inclined to commit themselves to one particular business model and label over another, as many are changing their self-identifying designations to reflect the diverse needs of their customers. Further, customers don’t think much about what a solution provider is called; many think of resellers and solution providers as different kinds of vendors. To customers, the only thing that matters is whether the provider they select can deliver the needed products, services, and support.

Call me an optimist, but I believe that looking at the capabilities a partner has to offer is far more productive than concentrating on what a partner calls itself – and it’s far more likely to result in more opportunities, higher profits, and repeatable success for everyone involved.

When 2112 is asked to profile partner types most suitable for a vendor’s channel program, we apply our 3C’s Methodology to identify that the capabilities, competencies and capacities needed to be an effective partner already exist, or can be developed. This process supports performance measurement based on realistic versus arbitrary skills, which allows for enhanced tracking of goals and revenue targets. While that may not eliminate the total number of underperforming partners, it will certainly be considerably reduced. By looking past a moniker – choosing instead to focus on composition – the end result will also be improved performance.

That approach certainly would’ve led to a happier ending for Romeo and Juliet.



Diana L. Mirakaj is president and chief operating officer of The 2112 Group. You can follow her on Twitter at @dlenam.