How strong channel partnerships can help ease supply chain fears

The AV supply chain has been affected by a series of adverse incidents over the past few years. The global pandemic shut down manufacturing hotspots in China, Japan, and Taiwan, just as the work from home revolution ramped up the demand for AV supply. We also suffered the global chip shortage, worsened by the concurrent rollout of 5G infrastructure and clamor for hybrid technology.

As the AV world continues to blend into the IT ecosystem, every aspect of AV is being affected by limited supply and high demand, and no industry is immune. While the grip these challenges had on the global supply chains is slowly loosening at last, we might not be entirely out of the woods.

We will never be able to comprehensively predict or have full control over external events and when they occur, but what we can do is prepare for them in advance. And one way to do so is through strong channel partnerships. As the famous proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But to go far, you need to go together”. So, let’s explore the key factors to keep in mind when starting your partnership journey—and how they can help to ease supply chain fears long into the future.

What is a channel partner?

According to Gartner, a channel partner is “a company, such as a reseller, service provider, vendor, retailer or agent, that partners with another organisation to market or sell their services, products or technologies”. They range from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), to wholesalers, to distributors, to resellers. However, in this case, we’re going to focus on technology partners.

A technology partner can help provide you with the solutions—both hardware and software—and services to help your business become more productive and efficient. They’re likely to review your workplace, analyse your working practices, and then recommend the latest trends and technologies to improve your organisation. Tech partners are becoming increasingly common in today’s competitive landscape—but there are a handful of key attributes you should look out for before ultimately selecting your partner/s.

Marc Issan

Vice President of Worldwide Sales at Kramer.

What makes an effective partnership?

Firstly, a good partnership is one that maximizes value and flexibility for both sets of customers. It should also help to open up markets of new customers for both parties by transcending their respective areas of expertise. To achieve this, genuine collaboration and honesty are key. Complementary strengths must intertwine, with proprietary technologies and ideas shared to ensure long-term trust and progress.

Companies can improve relationships with both partners and customers by striving to adopt an ‘open ecosystem’ approach. This philosophy, where all products are interoperable with whatever technology people choose to use, allows customers the scalability and flexibility to meet their ever-changing needs and protect their technology investment. Open standards and platform-agnostic solutions also help to avoid the ‘rip-and-replace’ mindset that is costly both financially and environmentally.

Thirdly, look at their track record. How long have they been in business? Are they known for quality or quantity? How many of their customers make repeat purchases? You’ll also need to speak directly with the decision-makers of the departments that your own company will be collaborating with. A business is often simply an extension of its leaders, so make sure you get on well personally as well as in a business sense to ensure the relationship will be fruitful and long-lasting.

Which partners and technologies can help navigate supply fears?

The AV technology that organizations buy is often designed to have a longer shelf life due to the scale of investment. And by nature, the audio-visual industry is largely dependent on a select group of specialized, proprietary hardware, so it’s no wonder that it particularly struggles during a supply chain shortage. Even so, AV operations no longer need to slow down. Increased capacities of network and video processors means that many audio-visual activities can now be delivered over the network, rather than through hardware. In other words, AV-over-IP.

Today, AVoIP can handle all types of applications, from video walls, to unified communication meeting rooms, to mission-critical command and control centers. In fact, many software-defined AVoIP product manufacturers are now growing faster than their hardware counterparts, as their production has largely been able to bypass the supply struggles suffered by so many others. With the AV industry now pivoting to a software-based model, other manufacturers are likely to join the cause, while corporate AV customers may want to prioritize AVoIP solutions to future-proof their communications and boost resilience against any material disruptions to come.

Even better is a manufacturer that builds AVoIP on open technology. If restricted by proprietary solutions, it’s even tougher to find available, cost-effective hardware, particularly in a crisis. Open software enables businesses to pick and choose what they install based on availability, cost, efficacy, and more—with no restrictions on compatibility.

What’s next?

Though supply chain squeezes seem to be slowly easing, it’s impossible to forecast industry events to come. And while channel partnerships are an almost guaranteed win-win development, it’s important to perpetually heed the value of diligence before starting any partnership deal, place honesty at the cornerstone of every good collaboration, and provide customers with flexibility in an open ecosystem. This way, we can be best prepared to safely navigate whatever the world may throw at us next.

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Marc Issan

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