Channel Focus Provides Opportunity for Sharing

The annual conference by Baptie & Co. proves once again why it’s the center of collaboration and networking for channel professionals.

By Larry Walsh

If you didn’t attend last week’s Channel Focus, the annual executive education and collaboration event produced by Baptie & Co., you missed out.

At this installment of Channel Focus, now in its 22nd year, nearly 300 people from across the industry gathered in Carlsbad, California, for three days of information sharing and networking. The attendees included both newcomers and veterans, representatives of small and large vendors, emerging start-ups, and mature technology providers. They all had one thing in common: the desire to learn from others.

With all due respect to the myriad of events showing up on our calendars, the channel is in short supply of gatherings where professionals can freely and safely share their experiences, insights, and – most of all – questions about the trends impacting all businesses.

Baptie & Co. packed this year’s agenda with great topics and speakers. Microsoft channel chief Gavriella Schuster set the event’s tone with her tremendous keynote on how vendors should approach and address new market opportunities and channel models. Reinforcing Schuster’s message were keynotes on transitioning and evolving channel strategies, by Alyssa Fitzpatrick, general manager of Microsoft’s worldwide channel sales, and on channel and market trends impacting all vendors, by Sal Patalano, the chief revenue officer at Lenovo Software.

The Channel Focus agenda included tremendous thought leaders and executives as speakers, including:

  • Cindy Herndon, vice president of strategies, programs, and operations at Riverbed Technologies, who spoke on the value of virtual channel P&L statements
  • Michael McCollough, vice president of global channels at Akamai, who spoke on how to maximize the potential of new and emerging partners
  • Corey Pratte, vice president of Americas channel sales at PTC, who spoke on how the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and blockchain will affect the channel
  • Rob Rae, vice president of business development at Datto, who led a panel of managed service providers who gave attendees a look at how partners see the services world
  • Sandra Glaser Cheek, vice president of global partners and alliances at Ciena, who dove into the debate on the value and viability of traditional program structures and incentives
  • Marc Monday, vice president of the North America Ecosystem at SAP, who spoke on the rise of influencers in channel go-to-market strategies and sales
  • Cheryl Cook, senior vice president of global partner marketing at Dell Technologies, who presented on new thinking around creating comprehensive go-to-market channel strategies
  • Balaji Subramanian, vice president at ServiceMax, who provided guidance on how vendors can transition from traditional to service- and subscription-based sales models
  • Jeff McCullough, vice president of Americas partner sales at NetApp, who reviewed both sides of the Amazon “friend or foe” debate
  • Charlie Tomeo, worldwide vice president of business sales at Webroot, who spoke of the decline in technical certifications and the rise of partner sales enablement

Channel Focus, as you can see, was an all-star lineup that also included presentations by event partners and sponsors, including Impartner,, Mindmatrix, E2Open, Vistex, Sirius Decisions, The Spur Group, Channel Maven Consulting, and Perks WW Channel.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to have had two slots on the agenda. I presented 2112’s latest research on the impact of ease of doing business on channel performance. And I had the pleasure of moderating a main-stage panel on channel transformation with four great thought leaders: Microsoft’s Alyssa Fitzpatrick, Poly channel chief Nick Tidd, DocuSign head of channel strategy Darren Bibby, and AT&T assistant vice president of channel sales Chris Jones.

Leading into the event was the Women’s Leadership Council, a gathering of more than 100 female channel leaders and managers who spent a day networking and collaborating on the professional and development issues facing women in the industry. The participants of this pre-event raved at the value of providing women a forum of their own.

Channel Focus also offers one of the few opportunities in the market for channel-management tool and resource providers to exhibit their wares. It was great seeing companies such as Averetek, Channel Mechanics, Channel Impact, CR Worldwide, and Partner Path share their value propositions.

No Channel Focus is complete without the insights of its founder and chief ringmaster, Rod Baptie, who provided attendees with insights from the latest community-based research on channel trends, the rise of influencers and non-traditional partners, and industry best practices.

Above all, Channel Focus provides an opportunity to network and collaborate. Time and again, attendees from different backgrounds and corporate levels expressed their gratitude for the ability to meet new people, gain exposure to industry trends, and see the world through the perspectives of others.

The Baptie & Co. team truly outdid itself with this year’s Channel Focus. Mark this event on your 2020 calendar. You’ll be thankful you did.

Larry Walsh, The 2112 GroupLarry Walsh is the CEO of The 2112 Group, a business strategy and research firm servicing the IT channel community. He’s also the publisher of Channelnomics, the leading source of channel news and trend analysis. Follow Larry on Twitter at @lmwalsh2112 and subscribe to his podcast, Pod2112, on iTunes, Google Play, and other leading podcast sources. You can always e-mail Larry directly at