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EDGE 2017 - May you live in interesting times

Professor Mohan Sawhney | Aug. 14, 2017
Professor Mohan Sawhney of the Kellogg School of Management pressed pause to outline the future channel opportunities during the opening keynote of EDGE 2017.

Professor Mohan Sawhney of the Kellogg School of Management
Professor Mohan Sawhney of the Kellogg School of Management. Photo via ARN 

As the old Chinese curse goes, may you live in interesting times. And these are interesting times. I've been at the intersection of technology, marketing and innovation for 25 years and I've not seen so much change happen so quickly in my entire career.

During the last five years alone, we've seen a transformation in the way that IT is procured, provisioned, sold, distributed and supported. That is being driven by the changes in consumer behaviour and the emergence of the cloud, which has very dramatic implications for the channel.

We've seen channel disruption in the consumer space with Amazon completely changing the economics and the industry landscape of retail. Oh, and they have also built a very large business on the side, around cloud and data infrastructure!

But what are the lessons that we can draw in the channel? Because you will have to reinvent yourself if you're going to stay relevant.

In fact, one argument could be made as we think about the cloud, and that's who even needs a channel? In the old days, we had boxes that needed to be sold, software that needed to be supported and customers that required assistance.

If you examine the core elements around the value proposition of the channel, whether it is system integration, installation or maintenance - most of these things are now starting to go away.

So, an argument could be made about the channel lacking relevance. But obviously, this is a simplistic argument.

Channels never get destroyed, they get transformed. We just have to find new ways of adding value.

Professor Mohan Sawhney of the Kellogg School of Management delivering the opening keynote address of EDGE 2017
Professor Mohan Sawhney of the Kellogg School of Management delivering the opening keynote address of EDGE 2017. 

If you look at what the cloud does, many of its benefits to customers create challenges for the channel. For example, small businesses now have access to enterprise class infrastructure, provisioning is at the flick of a button and scalability is infinite.

That's an important point because friction equals profits. Wherever there was friction in the installation, maintenance and deployment, that resulted in profits for the channel. So, the elimination of friction causes an impact on profits.

To quote Charles Dickens - "It is the best of times, it is the worst of times".

Because the channel is going to be critical in the faster adoption of cloud computing. Yet at the same time the channel isn't ready, it needs to change.

 

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