What’s the current state of partnering? Channel partners and vendors alike got an up close perspective at the recent Channel Directions Live 2016 event hosted by Penton in Scottsdale, Ariz., Sept. 12-14.

At the event, more than 200 attendees joined together to identify and share best practices on everything from hiring strategies to onboarding new technologies to embracing new business models. The event, sponsored by Arrow, Avnet, Datto, Insight and others, also showcased several thought leaders who debuted new thinking and business insights.

Former Cisco Senior Vice President and New York Times best-selling author Inder Sidhu dazzled attendees with his presentation on digitization, which is the subject of his latest book, The Digital Revolution. (Full disclosure, yours truly teamed with Sidhu to help produce the book, which was published earlier this by Pearson Press.) Sidhu spoke on the power of multiple digital technologies that, when used in different combinations, can have a transformative impact on every industry, company and career.

“When you take on digital technology and add it to another, you can change the lives of millions as was the case when technologists married VisiCalc to the IBM PC. That changed the careers of millions of accountants and financial professionals,” he said. “Today, innovators are combining social media, mobility, Big Data, The Cloud, The Internet of Things and more to transform not just billions of lives but trillions of processes and interactions. The cumulative effect will be unlike anything we have every seen before.”

To help practitioners, Sidhu walked his audience through several of the many opportunities and concerns that practitioners will face. These include business disruption, privacy and security that solution providers must help their customers overcome in order to be successful.

“Partners will absolutely play a key role in digitization—in delivering, managing and putting customer data to work. One great place to start is by helping customers develop roadmaps and ensuring that their infrastructures are ready both from a capability standpoint and a security one,” said Sidhu.

In addition to Sidhu, Channel Directions Live also hosted additional keynotes, including the debut of CompTIA’s State of the Channel for 2016. During their exclusive presentation for Penton, CompTIA’s Senior Directors of Research Carolyn April and Seth Robinson showcased their latest study findings. Among the most interesting: enthusiasm for cloud computing among solution providers has tempered in the last year as the promise of great returns on investment and increased customer stickiness have proven difficult to attain.

“Cloud continues to both attract and repel the channel today, with nearly even factions citing the model as a reason for optimism or a reason for pessimism,” said April, CompTIA’s senior director of industry analysis. “Today’s complex, cloud-based IT environment is like a finely made suit customized by savvy channel partners playing the role of tailor.

During the two-and on-half days of the CDL event, partners and vendors alike participated in workshops where they debated and discussed best practices for embracing technology in use today, tomorrow and in the future. Afterwards they did the same for business models that focused on the same time horizons.

In addition, partners were also treated to some business insights from fellow practitioners including Jeff McDermott, CEO of President of ProcureIT, and James Lippie, a former MSP and now the Chief Advisor at Clarity Channel Advisors. McDermott walked his peers through his company’s own business transformation, which spans the gamut from product sales to managed services to cloud services, while Lippie, a Penton Xpert who partnered with MSPmentor on the MSP 501, explained why solution providers with a higher percent of sales derived from recurring revenue result in higher valuations in today’s market.

Lippie has created a unique, custom algorithm, which he calls the Total Service Provider Index (TSP), that assess revenue quality for channel partners, MSPs especially. While he believes cloud computing will inevitably open the door to more professional consulting opportunities, his experience working with MSPs reveals to him that those with the highest percentage of quality recurring revenue become the most profitable, valuable and highest profile in their markets.

“Whether you ever dream of selling your company or buying another, increasing your valuation helps your organization in a multitude of ways. This includes attracting new employees, borrowing money at better rates, winning customers over and distinguishing yourself with key vendors,” said Lippie. “The key to all of this is a high percentage of quality recurring revenue.”

At Channel Directions Live, the Penton Technology Channels Group, which includes The VAR Guy, MSPmentor, Talkin’ Cloud and The WHIR, also debuted the Channel Directions Think Tank, which is an exclusive, invite-only board of influential thought leaders from the industry who have come together to tackle three key challenges including preparing the next generation of workers to enter the channel workforce, embracing new business models and demystifying the new partner ecosystems that have sprouted around key cloud computing platforms.

Inaugural Think Tank members include:

  • Craig Schlagbaum, Vice President, Indirect Channels, Comcast
  • Sal Patalano, Chief Revenue Officer, Lenovo Software
  • Andrew Pryfogle, Senior Vice President, Cloud Transformation, Intelisys/ScanSource
  • Sandra Glaser Cheek, Vice President, Global Channel Sales and Marketing, Brocade/Ruckus
  • Christopher Rajiah, Vice President Worldwide Channel Sales & Alliances, Equinix
  • Greg Dixon, CTO, ScanSource
  • Dawn (Evans) Lindsey, Vice President, Partner Marketing and Programs, Bigcommerce
  • Mike Valentine, SVP of Worldwide Sales, Sophos

Watch for more news on the Think Tank and individual members over the coming weeks. We will have much to share in terms of interviews, thought leadership, research, advocacy and more.

And speaking of looking ahead, watch next week for a profile of the 2016 Penton Channel Directions Live Vanguard Award Winner, SWK Technologies. On hand with the Penton Channels Group in Scottsdale to collect the Vanguard Award were SWK CIO Richard Schatzberg and Operations Vice President John McPoyle. The editors at Penton couldn’t have been more pleased to bestow this year’s Vanguard Award to such an outstanding company.