Here’s wishing you a safe, enjoyable and thought-provoking holiday weekend.

When you have some downtime—and yes, commit to kicking back a little—put down that trashy novel, stop streaming Netflix and catch up on some of the best thinking from channel thought leaders.

Where to begin? Start with our ole friend Larry Walsh of the 2112 Group.

1. Who Is Ready to Evolve?

Walsh recently posted a blog that provides tips on how to assess existing channel partners. The article is entitled, “Futurecasting Channels Starts with Understanding Existing Partners.” Exiting partners, he surmises, are “the foundation and catalyst of vendors’ future channel programs.”

He’s come up with a method for assessing which partners will likely make the transition from product sales to digital services. 2112’s partner assessment framework considers the “3C’s” that distinguishes partners. They are their capabilities, competencies, and capacities. “What makes the 3C’s special is that it clearly defines the total value and commitment of a partner to your channel organization,” says Walsh.

I’d argue that he overlooks a 4th distinguishing feature, which is the quality of an individual partner’s “customers.” But why quibble? It’s a good, thoughtful read.

2. How Vendors See You

Salesforce evangelist and former Gartner analyst Tiffani Bova has a new thought piece entitled, “How to Successfully Choose a Channel Partner.” Again, it’s written from a vendor perspective. But like Walsh’s article, it will help partners understand how vendors measure them. And like Walsh, Bova has her own version of the three “Cs.” They are: “capabilities, culture, and willingness to engage.” (Okay, in my mind, she should have recast the last as “commitment” or “courage” to give the list an alliterative hook, but you get the picture.)

The key takeaway from her story: look beyond the biggest partner is a given market and consider those who provide access to key customers, demonstrate unrivaled technical aptitude or penetrate under-served markets.

“[T]he natural reaction when recruiting new partners is to look for those top partners in healthcare, financial services, retail, banking, or whatever industry you are interested and who have the largest sales force or top-line revenue,” writes Bova. “But don’t get distracted by the size of the company. Make sure you pick the right partner for your business based on capabilities, culture, and willingness to engage. You can develop a  short list of prospective partners by industry, geography, technical capabilities, and other partnerships they may have which compliment your portfolio. Just have a reason besides, ‘They are the largest.’”

3. Get to Know the Real You

CompTIA blogger Brian Sherman has written an interesting piece that comes right and says some partners need “a personality transplant.”

Offended? Don’t be. In “ChannelTrends: Building a Personality for Your IT Services Business,” Sherman says, “An organization’s ‘character’ comes from a combination of traits, from its marketing messaging and sales prospecting interactions to its billing and collections processes. Those exchanges can make or break a managed services business.”

His advice is to zero on three things. (I’m sensing a trend, here, right?) They are:

  1. Create a unique experience
  2. Ramp up and amp up your marketing
  3. Enhance your services portfolio

No. 4: What’s Real When It Comes to the IoT

For more than a year, “experts” have shined a light on the Internet of Tings (IoT). It was supposed to be the next big thing. But if you talk to partners, most will tell you that the IoT accounts for less than 15 percent of their sales.

So what happened? What’s holding the market back?

Channel consultant and partner portal provider Diane Krakora, CEO at PartnerPath, has produced an interesting new video on the subject. It’s called, “The Future Of IoT And Channel Partners.”

In the video, she interviews Stephen DiFranco, a longtime channel chief who has held key channel positions at Cypress Semiconductor, Broadcom, HP, AMD, Maxtor and more. Today, DiFranco serves as the Principal of the IoT Advisory Group in Silicon Valley. In the video, he explains that customers are actually driving the desire for the IoT. They want to better manage assembly lines, energy systems and physical security, among other things, he says. But to do so, they need someone who can help them embrace embedded technologies, which the traditional channel hasn’t historically focused on.

“What I tell partners is [the IoT] is about systems not products. It’s about embedded not just ‘x86.’ It’s going to be about the topology of nodes to gateways to platforms. And it’s probably going to be the most exciting thing you ever do in your partnership [with vendors],” DiFranco says.

And what does he say to vendors who seek his advice? The channel is your best bet for building any traction in the market.

No. 5: The Way Forward

Lastly, I want to promote a new eBook that I wrote in conjunction with the Channels Think Tank. In it, I examine the way forward for the channel, which has lost some influence, endured a wave of consolidation and battled commoditization. It has also struggled to adapt to a new world order in which value is delivered not in a one-time, capital-based transaction, but as long-term, op-ex-based services instead.

Amid this tumult, however, a new and highly capable channel has emerged. It is comprised of traditional companies that have reinvented themselves for a new era, and newcomers that have similarly identified opportunities to deliver greater customer value.

Here is their story, in a downloadable eBook format.

Happy Fourth!