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This is my first post in a series I’m doing for the GetVoIP blog on the Channel Partners conference here in Las Vegas. I’ve never been to this conference before, but the look and feel is very familiar given all the other events I attend on a regular basis. I wanted to share my first take thoughts while things are fresh, and they’re based on the morning session which was a series of presentations, pitches and roundtables. There will be more of the same this afternoon, followed by the show floor opening at 4pm.

Disruption is a common theme in my core areas of analyst coverage, namely UC, collaboration and contact center. Much of my focus is on the end user along with the business case for IT decision makers, and what’s great about being here is to hear how the channel community is dealing with the same challenges. The audience heard from a lot of speakers this morning, and I want to distill this into two main takeaways.

Takeaway #1 – Promising growth opportunities

As much as the cloud is decimating legacy business models and technologies, there’s lots of opportunity for channels to reinvent themeselves, especially if they’re ready to embrace change. Support for the conference itself reflects a strong interest to learn how to do that. The theme for this year’s show is “Let’s Go Big”, and this reflects the optimism of big opportunities ahead for those willing and able to sell in today’s market. Rick Reed of Channel Partners said that 40% of attendees this year are new. Overall, there are 5,000 participants here, up 20% from 2015, so the show is definitely growing.

The story is the same for exhibitors, with over 200 here, 50 of which are new. All this new blood tells me the channel market is in transition, with new offerings for what end buyers need now, and hopefully new people coming in who have the right background and mindset for 2016. In response to all this change, Rick also noted a 50% increase in education tracks this year, so that’s a good sign that the conference knows there’s a need for channels to get the right knowledge to move into these new opportunities. This doesn’t sound like a conference that is holding on to a dying business model and knows its role in the ecosystem to help channels survive and prosper as this disruption continues.

Takeaway #2 – New value propositions

I like this one a lot, and heard a lot of different things from the speakers that show a clear understanding of how the market is changing. The most basic message around reinvention is making the strategic shift from being a technology partner to that of a trusted business advisor. That’s a familiar message in my circles, and it’s one that this channel audience was happy to hear. They know the hardware business is being replaced by cloud and software, and it was good to hear speakers talk about the need for channels to have different conversations with customers. Rather than talk about the underlying technologies – mobility, cloud, security, etc. – talk instead about how to make marketing programs more effective and employees more productive. I couldn’t agree more.

Another angle I liked hearing about was showing channels how to leverage new technologies – like IoT – to help customers get more value from their technology spend. Not just to leverage technology, but also to properly support it so the customer doesn’t feel on their own to do all these things. On a panel of partners and providers, Granite talked how they work very closely to support their partners – not just virtually, but in person. They also noticed how commissions rose by 30%, and that told them this approach was paying off, as it meant their partners were selling more effectively. Four providers – AT&T, Verizon, Comcast Business and Vonage – how often have you heard those in the same sentence? – all talked about the great success they’re having by investing in their channels, especially as they expand their broadband capacity and footprint do drive growth.

All told, there’s a lot of opportunity here, and for channels that can move on from traditional voice and hardware, the upside is promising. Of course, that means embracing the cloud and emerging areas like IoT and analytics, but it sure seems that those driving these changes are ready to support anyone who is ready to follow.

More to come as the day goes on, so check back soon.