A little help, please?

Having done a shed-load of research for the training and certification feature in this month’s issue, I’ve been left wondering one thing: Why aren’t vendors providing more free training courses to the channel? 

Everyone acknowledges than proper training and certification is a must in the IT sphere. Indeed, most vendors go out of their way to ensure that customers are properly trained. For example, when I was at Infor’s customer conference in Orlando, Florida, last month, a whole keynote session was dedicated to how much emphasis the vendor was putting on training its customers on the use of its products.

But – and here’s the thing – I’ve been told that most vendors leave it to distributors and partners to sort out their own training. Of course, the vendors will set the courses and provide the training material, but the cost comes down to the channel. And I’m not sure that’s the best way of doing things.

If we take, as a given, that resellers, on some level, represent the vendors behind the products they’re selling, then isn’t it in the interests of the vendors to ensure their partners are properly trained? Pre-sales support, after-sales maintenance and general know-how are becoming so important for the channel, so why aren’t the vendors helping out?

I’ll admit, some do take on the responsibility. For example, a Cisco representative said that it was on Cisco to ensure its partners had the right skills. And, though I didn’t find out exactly how, the head of Infor’s Partner Network also told me that enablement was a top priority, particularly given the firm has so many new products coming out.

As Mario M. Veljovic, Operations and Services Director, Aptec, told me when I was researching the training feature, if a partner can’t provide the right support on a product he’s sold, it’s going to reflect badly not just on the partner, but also on the vendor behind the product.

Veljovic said that if a product went wrong, and the proper training hadn’t been given to either the end-user or the reseller, “the IT guy would actually defend himself. He’d say, ‘Oh, it’s a lousy product.’”

The channel knows all too well how important a decent skill set is in the IT sphere – after all, it makes up such a large part of the value-added service. Unfortunately, the majority of vendors seem complacent on simply cashing in on the products, as well as charging for training, too. It seems pretty unfair when the channel is already chasing wafer-thin margins as it is.

What’s more, many vendors play the training card to block access to the highest levels of partnerships. Sure, sales come into it, but vendors, such as Brocade, base top-tier partnership on certification. And distributors support this way of doing things.

What’s really saddening, though, is I don’t see an alternative to the current situation. After all, vendors will offer specific bids to their best-qualified partners, and so it’s in the partners’ interests to skill up – even if that means forking out some extra cash to do so.

That said, Veljovic told me that plenty of vendors are now offering discount-level training for exactly the reasons highlighted here – they need to enable their channel.

“If you’re gold, platinum, silver, pearl, coral, or whatever level, that will even determine what will be the discount level you would be receiving, which obviously puts you into a much better position to recover the investment you have done, so it’s an incentive,” he said.

It may not be free training, but it’s certainly a start, and the channel will take it.

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