Technology Newsmaker Q&A: Chris Gardner

Jan. 1, 2020
Chris Gardner is the executive director of the MEMA Technology Council.

In October, the MEMA Technology Council (MTC) held its annual Fall Conference, the longest running technology event in the industry. Executive Director Chris Gardner shared his thoughts on the meeting, along with general e-commerce progress in the industry.

What would you consider the most important takeaways/messages coming out of the recent fall conference?

I would say that a lot of the discussion was centered on data management and how critical it is to doing business with channel partners. Our theme this year was on deploying customer-facing technologies. A lot of the presentations, the topics, and the discussion, were focused on that. One of the highlights of the conference were the customer roundtables, and during those roundtables, we have the technology executives from the channel partners will meet with supplier technology executives. A lot of those roundtables wound up focusing on data.

Based on what you heard from members at the conference, what are some of the biggest technological challenges the industry faces right now?

The challenges haven't really changed much for the last several years. From a supplier perspective, it's a challenge to have to manage and prepare and deliver data in numerous formats, and then deliver the data to numerous locations. There isn't any "create it once, send it once, to one location" type system. That doesn't exist. From a supplier perspective, there are redundant efforts.

What seem to be the most important technology related initiatives/projects within the industry right now?

There's no doubt that the emergence of OptiCat as an industry data repository and delivery mechanism is the most important initiative right now. There has been confusion in the industry about it and what it proposes to do, so a lot of what was discussed at the conference involved answering questions about OptiCat. It's a single place to put data that will deliver the data to the channel partners, based on the rules the suppliers and the channel partners set up between them.

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You mentioned action items—what are the MEMA Technology Council's top priorities heading into 2011?

We have four main priorities. First, we held a half-day session at the conference for suppliers only, and they agreed that, corporately, they wanted to provide technology guidance to OptiCat from a supplier's perspective.

Second, to enhance and continue promoting the MTC Customer Matrix, which is a free, online tool for tracking technologies and standards required by channel partners. Third, we want to enhance the online member networking application, which is a simple tool for members of the Council to find other members with similar technology platforms.

And then the fourth thing is to enhance and promote the MTC's eCommerce Directory, which is a brand new tool. The director lists channel partner's special ordering, EDI, and e-commerce initiatives.

From a technology perspective, what sorts of positive trends/accomplishments have you seen in the industry over the past year?

I don't think there's any doubt that the fact that OptiCat is now a majority owned by the supplier community is the biggest thing that's happened. It makes sense that the suppliers would control the engine that helps them distribute their data. Almost every major customer we've talked to has agreed that he supplier should control the data and the engine it takes to get it to them.

Collaboration between associations in the technology area is really coming to the forefront this year, too. We're working with SEMA and AAIA on some specific technology areas, and that's a very positive accomplishment.

In October, the MEMA Technology Council (MTC) held its annual Fall Conference, the longest running technology event in the industry. Executive Director Chris Gardner shared his thoughts on the meeting, along with general e-commerce progress in the industry.

What would you consider the most important takeaways/messages coming out of the recent fall conference?

I would say that a lot of the discussion was centered on data management and how critical it is to doing business with channel partners. Our theme this year was on deploying customer-facing technologies. A lot of the presentations, the topics, and the discussion, were focused on that. One of the highlights of the conference were the customer roundtables, and during those roundtables, we have the technology executives from the channel partners will meet with supplier technology executives. A lot of those roundtables wound up focusing on data.

Based on what you heard from members at the conference, what are some of the biggest technological challenges the industry faces right now?

The challenges haven't really changed much for the last several years. From a supplier perspective, it's a challenge to have to manage and prepare and deliver data in numerous formats, and then deliver the data to numerous locations. There isn't any "create it once, send it once, to one location" type system. That doesn't exist. From a supplier perspective, there are redundant efforts.

What seem to be the most important technology related initiatives/projects within the industry right now?

There's no doubt that the emergence of OptiCat as an industry data repository and delivery mechanism is the most important initiative right now. There has been confusion in the industry about it and what it proposes to do, so a lot of what was discussed at the conference involved answering questions about OptiCat. It's a single place to put data that will deliver the data to the channel partners, based on the rules the suppliers and the channel partners set up between them.

PAGE 2

You mentioned action items—what are the MEMA Technology Council's top priorities heading into 2011?

We have four main priorities. First, we held a half-day session at the conference for suppliers only, and they agreed that, corporately, they wanted to provide technology guidance to OptiCat from a supplier's perspective.

Second, to enhance and continue promoting the MTC Customer Matrix, which is a free, online tool for tracking technologies and standards required by channel partners. Third, we want to enhance the online member networking application, which is a simple tool for members of the Council to find other members with similar technology platforms.

And then the fourth thing is to enhance and promote the MTC's eCommerce Directory, which is a brand new tool. The director lists channel partner's special ordering, EDI, and e-commerce initiatives.

From a technology perspective, what sorts of positive trends/accomplishments have you seen in the industry over the past year?

I don't think there's any doubt that the fact that OptiCat is now a majority owned by the supplier community is the biggest thing that's happened. It makes sense that the suppliers would control the engine that helps them distribute their data. Almost every major customer we've talked to has agreed that he supplier should control the data and the engine it takes to get it to them.

Collaboration between associations in the technology area is really coming to the forefront this year, too. We're working with SEMA and AAIA on some specific technology areas, and that's a very positive accomplishment.

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