Distribution’s Edge May Actually Begin with You

It’s time that developers get closer to the broader channels and ecosystems that distributors enable – and vice versa.


If you develop software, technology distributors may be the last thing on your mind.

However, what you create may ultimately end up in products sold through leading distributors across the world. Members of the Global Technology Distribution Council drive an estimated $150 billion in IT/ICT business. Their offerings include products and services from today’s most recognizable companies as well as up-and-comers continuously entering the channels they serve.

Technology distributors are centrally positioned, giving solution providers, MSPs and integrators what they need to enable their customers in SMB, midsize and large enterprises – as well as retailers, e-tailers and other digital marketers. The role of distributors has always made sound business sense, although many casual industry observers have historically (and incorrectly) perceived such companies predominantly as box movers.

That’s changed dramatically in the past couple of decades.

From cloud marketplaces and vertical market business units to strategic education and training services, distributors now resemble their business partners as innovators. What’s different relates to who they serve and how they do it; no two distributors are alike, and that reality is truer today than it’s ever been.

A quick review of distributors over the years shows a clear trend. Incredibly efficient variable cost structures that enable technology vendor partners to not only get their products and solutions anywhere in the world – an inherent distribution advantage – but to bring value much further. Tens of thousands of distribution industry resources propel growth on an exponential scale.

Distribution is a bellwether. Products, solutions and services that make their way to this axis for channel business are typically on the cutting edge, proven, vetted and on an accelerated track.

Inside the Economics

Another aspect of distribution that hasn’t gained much attention pertains to the economic factors involved. Our organization, the GTDC, has continuously studied IT / ICT distribution partnerships and channel business evolution over the past 20 years. This month, we released Distribution’s Edge, an economic analysis of routes to market that validates efficiencies not achievable any other way.

By checking out this new report, you’ll learn more about how distributors have charted their destinies well beyond their pick/pack/ship heritages. They’ve transformed in sync with technological innovation and established deep technical expertise across a diverse spectrum of tech segments, industries and vertical markets.

The move from shrink-wrapped software to electronic licensing and cloud today attests to the transformation distribution has led over the past 20 years. Instead of losing momentum to the internet’s rise, distributors became e-commerce leaders and the engine for online business models on a global scale. Devices, physical equipment and infrastructure aren’t going away; these “hard goods” are transforming too, at times even outpacing the software brains, functionality and interdependencies.

Where Innovation Thrives: Education & Training

Education and training services are among distributor strengths. It’s a natural fit as they provide vital configuration and support in both pre- and post-sales capacities. Channel account services and product management, marketing and delivery all come together through distribution – on a massive scale.

As the Distribution’s Edge report affirms, these and other functions complement what distributors do to solve business problems in conjunction with solution providers for end customers. The bonds are crucial on both the vendor and solution provider sides of the equation, including programs that fuel mutual success.

Where the digital rubber meets the tangible road really does come down to problem-solving – and transforming how enterprises operate, with sights squarely on improving efficiency and customer service. Whether helping small businesses on Main Street make ends meet or midsize enterprises reach new heights, channel companies and connections transcend the odds.

Channels are not going out of vogue. They’re perpetually changing and innovating. Distributors are a constant in this reality, regardless of how technology trends, regenerates, morphs or breaks extraordinary new ground.

Distribution is now undeniably – and quantifiably – bringing tangible new value to IT developers and channel businesses serving private and public sectors. They are the feet and expertise on the street. Technologists of all stripes and disciplines should keep in mind how vendor-distributor-channel ecosystems ultimately connect to the needs and opportunities they collectively foster.

Taking time to understand the changing ecosystem dynamics occurring now can make what you do going forward more rewarding as well as more informed. The broader trends and perspectives that distributors experience, nurture and drive are no longer linear or one-dimensional. Inventory turns still matter, but the top distributors today are turning the industry’s gears where innovation deserves to go.

Everywhere. Any time.

Distributors have re-engineered for the digital era…a marketplace where on-demand and on time have become synonymous. Competency in logistics and delivery are no longer what differentiates distributors. How they are innovating correlates with the transformations taking shape in their product offerings and platforms.

These are not usual times. All aspects of the industry must grow together in altogether new ways, yet with reliable partnerships and fast-shifting end-customer needs squarely in focus.

It’s time that developers get closer to the broader channels and ecosystems that distributors enable – and vice versa. Knowledge sharing has no boundaries. When developers, distributors and channel routes to market gain more intricate awareness of one another, only good things will come of it.

Step out of the box. The Distribution’s Edge report can give you a deeper appreciation of where and how $150 billion in IT / ICT products and services help uplift U.S. and European economies. What you develop today can reach destinations and prosperity that’s not possible any other way. Distributors are vibrant ecosystems themselves and a constant source of industry ingenuity.

Explore the possibilities!


Frank Vitagliano has served as the GTDC’s chief executive officer since April 2019. His focus is on strengthening partnerships between members and vendors by addressing industry-wide issues and opportunities related to the integral role of distribution in the IT channel.