Let’s do the time-warp again
My job before joining HEXUS was editor of UK tech channel mag PC Retail. With many of my audience being independent retailers and resellers, I often covered those organisations who claimed to represent them, the largest of which was the PCA.
Many readers would write to me to complain that the PCA did nothing to further their interests despite raking in generous members fees from both themselves and large corporate wanting to be seen to address the ‘long tail' and, to be honest, I found little evidence to reassure them of the contrary.
The infrequent PCA meetings were sparsely attended, and were usually a combination of commercial partners trying to extract yet more from the beleaguered indies and the PCA leadership insisting it was doing a lot, with little substantiation.
Well the PCA seemed to finally realise how utterly irrelevant it had become and decided to merge with the one-man-band Mac Technology Association, and rebrand itself the TCA. Adam Harris - a former tech reseller - was brought in to give the organisation a new direction, but the old guard still remained.
To be honest, within a year of starting HEXUS.channel, I concluded that there was no news from the trade association space. I saw no evidence than any of them were doing anything except arrange the odd social event, which indies were priced out of anyway, and, frankly, none of you seemed to care.
One possible exception seemed to be CompTIA, a multinational IT skills training organisation that was starting to make noises about getting into the trade association game. We met European VP Matthew Poyiadgi back in 2008 and he talked a good game, while making it clear he was aware there was the need for a trade association in the UK that actually does something.
However, two years later we had received little evidence of any progress along these lines from CompTIA. No doubt it continued to make money from its training and certification activities, but the purpose of trade associations is supposed to be to give indies a collective voice to allow them to better further their interests and defend threats. If CompTIA was doing that it was keeping pretty quiet about it.
So, bar a tidy bit of opportunism by the TCA, that was it until today, when we were given the announcement that the two organisations are merging. Cue the usual hyperbole about this being a major step forward for the channel, etc. The theory is laudable; if there's just one point of contact for the likes of Intel and Microsoft to get their stuff out to the channel, everyone should benefit.
The proof of the pudding is in the practice, however. Both Poyiadgi and Harris have struck us as bright, determined individuals, but the history of UK IT trade associations indicates they have a serious challenge on their hands if they want the new organisation to do anything useful to the people it claims to represent.
"As two organisations we recognised that we couldn't give the channel the best possible service," said Poyiagi. "By welcoming TCA members to CompTIA, and providing access to our own expertise and experience, we can create a community which will bring the UK channel together as one to drive the industry forward."
Most of the talk was about creating better links between resellers, distributors and vendors. But in my experience vendors and disties are perfectly capable of developing relationships with the channel if they want to, and many of them have created specific programmes to do precisely that.
The new organisation needs to be a lot more than just a forum for it to demonstrate to both channel and corporate potential members that it's worth the membership fee. I'd like to see evidence of active campaigning on behalf of the channel and hear how it manages the apparent conflict of interest of getting far more in membership fees from corporate members than individual ones.
In short, CompTIA/TCA, you claim to represent the channel and I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, initially. But now comes the hard part - actually doing something. Over to you.