Big Idea: Expand Enablement to Everyone

Making training available to everyone will cultivate a strong, capable labor pool while showing empathy to partners and their families.

By Larry Walsh and Anonymous

Introduction by Larry Walsh

At the height of the pandemic, a friend and colleague penned this piece about the value of extending training and enablement resources to everyone. The big idea: Enablement shouldn’t end with employment and vendors can help themselves by providing access to training and learning to former, furloughed, and unemployed staff of partners.

Over the past three months, I’ve heard countless stories from partners and novices who used their social distancing time to take classes – paid and free – to acquire new skills and abilities. Most of the people I’ve talked with intuitively knew that they would not return to the pre-pandemic world or the work expectations of the past. With little guidance, they sought the resources and support of technology vendors, who publish copious volumes of training content.

Providing more direction and focus is the idea behind my friend’s premise. He posits that by making learning and training resources broadly available, vendors will cultivate a skilled labor pool for when the economy recovers. He has a few other great ideas too.

My friend wrote this article at the beginning of the pandemic, so some parts may come across as slightly dated. I’m publishing it because he couldn’t get clearance for its release under his name and company. Such is the way of overly cautious public relations and legal departments during times of crisis.

The following are his words.

Prevasive Training

Many of us in the technology industry tout our ability to adapt and innovate. Our self-perception was put to the test when COVID-19 forced millions of people out of offices. Overnight, tens of millions of people around the world were trying to perform their jobs from their home offices, dining room tables, and parlor sofas.

Based in London and working on a global team, I’m comfortable with videoconference calls. As we all quickly discovered, communicating and collaborating via video is a new concept for many of our colleagues and partners. I, too, got a laugh out of having kids displaced from school interrupting conversations or spouses wandering into the camera frame.

Working from home is one thing. Working from home with a full house is an entirely different proposition.

Watching a partner juggle the complexity of a business discussion and give his child a snack at the same time made me think. The new normal – even if temporary – isn’t normal by any stretch, and we can’t operate as if our audience – our constituents – are the same as they were before the pandemic.

At Ciena, I oversee the training and enablement programs. I’m the person who designs and administers the partner technical and sales training content in our portal. Over the past two years, Ciena has expanded the volume and types of training programs and materials available to partners. And we see results from our investment.

But now, under trying circumstances around social distancing and job displacement, I believe we need to do more. With everyone working from home, we need to consider the needs of our partners and the people around them.

For partners, vendors should consider opening up more training and reference resources to help them respond to the needs of their customers. We need to enable them with more knowledge that helps them solve problems faster and with more effectiveness.

For the employees of our partners that lose their jobs or get furloughed, vendors should look at how to provide them with access to programs for refreshing their skills. We should be thinking about how to make sure displaced staff are ready to rejoin the workforce when the economy recuperates from the pandemic.

Vendors should consult and collaborate with health and social counseling services to develop new resources for our partners and their families to maintain their physical and mental well-being. We can’t overlook the human element and the stress that social distancing places on individuals and families.

For partners’ family members, vendors should look at providing skills training to help them re-enter the workforce with greater value and abilities. We all joke about people not knowing how to turn on their web cameras, and the most commonly uttered phrase during the pandemic is: “You’re on mute.” That should give us all pause to think about the basic digital skills many people lack. Creating these resources won’t take much effort; YouTube is replete with how-to videos on virtually every conceivable application.

Vendors should look into making games and activities available for the children of our partners. We hear it from all parts of our ecosystem that they’re struggling to find things to keep their out-of-class children occupied. Turning on the Disney Plus channel isn’t enough. We could provide fun activities that creatively kill time and build stronger family bonds. It’s a small way that we can contribute to their overall happiness.

Stepping in to provide these training programs and resources will help partners weather the pandemic and come out on the other side in good shape. They’ll also build loyalty to our partners and our brand. Just because we’re all experiencing disruptions doesn’t mean we want to push people away or abandon them. No crisis lasts forever. We need to prepare for what comes next, and this will help our community stay together – now and going forward.

My ideas may come across as silly to people who think it’s not the role of a technology vendor to think beyond their own technical and sales interests. The COVID-19 pandemic is teaching us, though, that much of our conventional wisdom is no longer valid. Doing more than just the obvious feels like the right thing to do as part of our future new normal. When we talk about training and enablement, we should think holistically about who we’re trying to enable and what enablement means in and out of the work context.

If you’d like a confidential introduction to the author, please email me at

Larry 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, Spotify, and other leading podcast sources. You can always e-mail Larry directly at

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