Social media crossed the channel, under your radar, says Opus

Channel NewsChannel StrategyIT Trends

The times, they are a changing, socially, so to speak

Chuck away those gold clubs and cancel your membership of that drinking club. The IT channel is still a people business – but it’s for online people, say new reports from Spiceworks and Opus.

First the cloud brought us automated trading. Next it came for the hacks. Who will be next, the IT salesman? And when they do come for you, will there be anyone left to speak up for you?

Don’t laugh, it’s all happening now. Banks already use cloud computing techniques to build virtual machines that can spot and exploiting pricing irregularities in a millisecond. These shape shifting cyber-stock brokers are furiously competitive. These big swinging disks of the city survive on their chips – whoever has the biggest bandwidth and the fastest processors wins the way. Latency is fatal. Any machine that hesitates is dead.

Now, it’s been revealed, Forbes magazine is using Robo journalists from the cloud, built by an ominous sounding company called Narrative Science. Once again, the power of algorithms seems to have fallen into the wrong hands, and now the noble arts of maths and computation are being used to replace a journalist’s decision making skills. Admittedly, they’re only using it to string corporate earning statements, statistics and clichés – “Wall Street is optimistic that” – together to make a story. But that’s how it starts.

We’re already seeing evidence that many technology companies employ automated FemBots to do their public relations work. Automation seems to be spreading to all business processes.
Some argue that modern journalists/bloggers have been stripped of independence and their role is to be cheerleaders for tech stocks. In which case, automation can’t be far away.

Could this be the thin end of the wedge which sees all IT buying decision become automated? Is the IT channel doomed? Should we get a torch bearing mob together and start smashing up these clouds?

Not yet, says Quocirca analyst Clive Longbottom, but we’re already seeing the cloud driving some changes in the channel. “We’re seeing some cloud purchases by passing the channel,” he says. Luckily, the plethora of conflicting standards will keep systems integrators in business for years to come, he assures us.
But social media is changing the way people buy IT. You never meet the salesmen for some cloud outfits. They’re half man, half desk hybrids who sit in front of a screen all day, tying out answers to queries on instant messenger and checking credit card details. Surely the industry is only a couple of algorithms away from making these jobs redundant.
The biggest change to the channel will be in how social media influences buying decisions.

Jay Hallberg, co-founder of Spiceworks – a sort of social network for IT – says companies like EDF Energy will ask post questions on the forum asking what people think of, say, the new router from Juniper Networks.

Spiceworks has announced new figures that show that 25 per cent of the world’s IT professionals use social networks to research IT buying or ask for help fixing problems the vendors don’t tell them about. The problem for vendors is that if they don’t offer support, someone else does and they become the biggest influence on future sales. The cloud and social media won’t change the overall dynamic of the channel, he says. According to Hallberg, the cloud will provide the channel with 20 per cent more business, once systems integration is factored in later.

But social media will bring about a lot of displacement. “The customers won’t buy from the same people who sold them their last bit of kit,” says Hallberg. Not unless they’re a bit more sociable.

Inma Martinez, technology partner at consultant Opus Corporate, says studies have shown that traditional resellers channel companies have given the new social media upstarts a three year head start. “Social media made it into the enterprise market by coming in under their radar,” says Martinez. They could still catch up, if they start using technologies like Glide, to monitor who is saying what to whom. “They can see who is loyal to which company, and who they are talking to.”
And where’s that IT reseller? Is he still on the golf course?

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