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Information 2.0: opportunities for the channel

01 Jun 11

In the Web 2.0 world that is today, consumers, government, councils and agencies are facing a bewildering challenge; in the left corner, there’s the intensely fast move towards transparency, efficiency and collaboration. Yet, there, in the right corner, lurk significant challenges such a data breaches, productivity, and fraud.
How do business leaders and government officials walk the fine line and stay on top of the latest legislation, threats, tools and technology to get it right?
This is where the role of the reseller is pivotal, and the opportunities are considerable.
The first piece of advice resellers can provide to end-users is that there is simply no merit in a black and white, stop and block approach to ‘managing’ online challenges as they continue to evolve and throw a curve ball in our path. Imagine if we had banned motor vehicles to avoid accidents, or discouraged air travel in the event the plane never made it into the air.
Instead, it is clear that as technology for sharing information becomes more sophisticated and embedded in our lives, it becomes more important for those with access to data to understand the consequences of their activities online, and of what is permitted and safe, in comparison to which activities may be putting data security and indeed, elements of their personal life or business reputation, at risk.
Lines Blurring
This has become particularly pertinent over the last five years as our online work and personal behaviour and habits have become interchangeable. No longer do users furtively check personal emails or carry a separate work/personal mobile phone. Nowadays, employees openly access and engage with sites like Facebook, or Twitter during the course of the working day. This has led to a blurring of lines in the responsibility for company information, opinion and data going in and out of a business.
Many IT managers and C-level managers are so involved in the day-to-day commercial operations they don’t have the time or resources to consider addressing wider issues at play, such as the integration of social media and Web 2.0 technologies in a safe and productive manner.
And it’s become an administrative nightmare for the IT department, to whom the responsibility for a solution usually falls.
If a trusted reseller partner were to set this conversation in progress, the outcomes could be highly beneficial. Resellers sometimes face a challenge in being seen as more than a software or hardware fulfilment partner to user organisations. Often resellers are only consulted at the point of sale rather than at the development of strategy.
Cue the reseller, as it’s here I believe that they can really demonstrate their worth as a consultant. Resellers I know are constantly talking to end users about their daily challenges, and to vendors about forthcoming product developments. Beyond the sale, they are absorbing information on a consistent basis. If you’re able to identify the triggers of when your client is overwhelmed and provide more than a box sale solution, then this is where relationship deepens and the trust begins.
Recent research  into attitudes towards collaborative web technologies in the workplace showed more than half of business managers believe web collaboration technology is now ‘critical’ to the future success of their business. Furthermore, it’s not just talking the talk: compared to 2007 when just 11% of businesses were making use of Web 2.0 technologies, over two-thirds of companies now allow use of web collaboration or social media tools in the workplace.
However, as we stand right in the thick of this online wave, it does seem that not a month goes by without some embarrassing, costly or compromising security breach or inappropriate online post occurring online – sometimes witting, sometimes unwitting. Indeed, around the world, there have been a number of high-profile incidents recently which have involved consumer data breaches and unauthorised posting of materials.
These provide a multitude of opportunities for resellers to open up a discussion on the importance of security breaches, policy enforcement and well-communicated expectations and consequences.
Here, it’s critical for resellers to educate around efficient policy and user behaviour. By operating within a range of vertical sectors, from small to large organisations, resellers have access to many different styles of policy and requirements. If they process and integrate this into their sales process (pre, during and post) via casual conversation, formalised strategic advice, public seminars, or as part of the tender process, the chances are that the client will acknowledge the strategic partnership approach the reseller is offering.
While many security software products provide good technology support, it’s important to go beyond ‘good enough’. Helping educate end-users and shape appropriate behaviour will reduce the administrative burden for the IT department. Security software alone will never prove the most effective approach, or at least it will never enable organisations to realise the full value. To be really effective, organisations need to demonstrate a shift-change in the way IT security is approached throughout their operations.
It’s time for resellers to help organisations to make policy a living, breathing part of their operations, something that is relevant to everyday working life and not just a tick in the box when it comes to an employee’s induction period (a third of those we surveyed recently had not received any training on IT security since joining their firm).
All too often, a policy is simply a document that is referred to only when a breach occurs – almost proof that someone ‘should have known better’. There is little or no point in having an IT security policy in place unless staff across the business are fully aware of it and, more importantly, understand the reasons why the rules are in place. Education and the explanation of web and email policies means employees across the business can actively take on board the risks and adapt their behaviour in the long term. 
Resellers can also counsel that policy should be determined holistically, taking an organisational view about new web services. Organisations need to consult with key stakeholders, not only the IT or HR departments, to establish the organisational benefits, understand the risks and evolve the company’s usage policy accordingly.
I believe that social media and security challenges provide a tremendous opportunity for resellers to engage with clients and prospects at a deeper level to improve their client relationships. By proactively advising users on Web 2.0, resellers can leverage their centralised role in the user-vendor-partner triangle to great success and competitive advantage. 

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