What can be done to make the channel ecosystem even stronger?

Sometimes with people who make it to the top of their profession, it’s easy to overlook the long and winding road they had to take to get there. Such is the case with Eaton Industries IT Channel Manager and Canadian Channel Chiefs Council Board Member Jodi Bonham.

Bonham counts among her expert-level specialties cloud, virtualization, VoIP, unified communications, server, data storage, and power management. But early on in her career, her chief specialty was self-improvement.

“I got my start with Southeastern Telecommunications in Kingston,” Bonham recalled. “They sold phone systems and voice mail, and I would go out and train their end users on how to use their new phone system, be it a Mitel or NEC or Nortel system. Back then, with computers being nowhere near as fancy as they are today, and with the internet being in its infancy, phones were the thing.”

Rising through the ranks

From the very start of her career, Bonham was very keen on learning. This quality, among others, had other companies taking notice. She ended up being brought to Toronto by Nitsuko, which would eventually end up being absorbed by NEC. “I was going out training resellers across Canada on how to train their trainers to train end users on the workings of their phone systems and voice mail.”

When she’d learned all she could with NEC, Bonham moved on to another reseller in Richmond Hill, Ont. “I got to really buckle down at that point, and develop my go-to-market strategy out there in field sales,” she said.

Bonham would eventually end up back at NEC as a National Sales Manager. From there, with a distributor in Markham, she got the chance to expand into traditional IT. With this exposure, she could boast experience at the reseller, manufacturer, and distributor levels. The next logical step for Bonham was to become a channel manager.

As IT Channel Manager at Eaton Industries (Canada) Co., Power Quality Division, Bonham is charged with what she calls “profitable revenue with market share gain,” which entails carrying the overall revenue number for Eaton’s IT channel while ensuring healthy margins and market share gains. Bonham is also responsible for strategy and engagement, the end result of which involves “wrapping the dollars with your footprint out in the marketplace.”

“You might know what number you have to hit and what margin is acceptable,” she said, “but the big question is always going to be how you’re going to move your products from the warehouse into the hands of end users, and to do so while best utilizing your distributors and reseller partners. This is all about putting your money where your mouth is, and coming up with the goods, so to speak. Fail at this and the whole thing falls flat.”

Collaboration is key

Today, as an industry leader, Bonham has a clear idea as to what can be done to make the channel ecosystem even stronger.

“It begins and ends with collaboration,” she said. “First-tier manufacturers — your Microsofts and Lenovos and Dells and HPs — are still very focused around only their solutions. If I’m a channel manager for one of these organizations, naturally I’m thinking about how I’m going to get more of my products into the hand of end users. But when it comes to companies that are a bit smaller, the channel really needs to embrace more collaboration between vendors and manufacturers. If I’m representing Eaton as a power management organization, there should be more focus on creating a solution story that end users are going to find compelling.”

“Me going in there in a silo doesn’t work anymore. Now it should and must be a broader approach. I can have a more holistic approach and solution that makes more sense, and makes it easier for resellers to position to customers. So in a nutshell, I think manufacturers and vendors need to collaborate more, and create viable holistic solutions their partners can take to market.”

Words of wisdom

As to advice for anyone who’d like to one day become a channel chief, Bonham extols the virtues of a curious mind. “Continuous self-learning is essential. You have to stay on top of what’s going on in the industry because you might be making one sort of widget today but in three or less years be changing it entirely according to what the market is now demanding.”

“You’ve got to stay close to the ground, stay close to partners and the end user community. Avoid becoming detached, as some become when they rise up high on the food chain, and you will be able to strategize with clarity and act decisively.”

Looking at tomorrow

Bonham has a keen eye directed at what’s trending. “Upgrades to existing data centers, and build-outs of new ones, are driving the need for advanced and integrated solutions such as Eaton’s power management solutions,” she said. “Edge computing is driving the need to augment client infrastructure, to embrace cloud and hybrid cloud solutions, which demands a refresh of power quality products. Just as important is cybersecurity. Building out security solutions also drives the need for power management solutions. After all, it’s no use having a security solution that fails when power is interrupted.”