This content is part of the Essential Guide: IT career survey 2013: Employee satisfaction, executive compensation
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IT channel salary survey results

Our first-ever channel salary survey reveals average compensation, broken down by job role, tenure, company type and size, and job satisfaction.

IT channel industry workers in a variety of job roles are, by and large, satisfied with their salaries and careers. They're a highly compensated group, making on average more than three times the U.S. per-capita average and 21% more than the average IT manager at their IT organization customers. That's according to the findings of the first TechTarget Channel Salary Survey.

In 2013, of the 260 qualified U.S. respondents to the channel survey, the overall average base salary reported was $104,000, while the overall average total compensation (base salary plus bonuses and commissions) was $126,000. Those averages give only a partial picture, though. To learn more about channel industry salaries, we filtered responses in a number of ways, including industry tenure, company type, job role, company size and job satisfaction. (See survey methodology below.)

Job role. Our salary survey results revealed a big disparity between the lowest-paid and the highest-paid channel professionals. Customer and IT support staff and managers reported an average salary of $81,000. Sales engineers, sales and marketing staff, and sales and marketing managers, meanwhile, reported an average salary of $96,000. Technical and engineering staff and managers, including chief technology officers (CTOs), reported an average salary of about $100,000. Project managers reported an average salary of $110,000. Consulting staff and consulting practice managers reported an average salary of $117,000. And senior executives (executive manager, corporate manager, chief information officer (CIO), founder, business partner, owner or CEO) reported an average salary of $136,000.

Senior executives reported a full $60,000 in bonuses and commissions, for a total compensation of $196,000.

When bonuses and commissions are added into the equation, the salary survey results shift just a little for some job titles and a whole lot for others. Customer and IT support staff and managers' total compensation increased by just $4,000 over base salary, to $85,000. Project managers reported an average of $7,000 in bonuses and commissions. Technical and engineering staff and managers, meanwhile, pulled in $9,000 in bonuses and commissions. Consulting staff and practice managers added $15,000 to their base salaries. Sales and marketing staff and managers, many of whom rely on commissions for a large chunk of their yearly income, received an average of $42,000 in bonuses and commissions, for an average total compensation of $138,000. And senior executives, finally, reported a full $60,000 in bonuses and commissions, for a total compensation of $196,000 -- almost 20% more than the senior executives at their IT organization customers.

Industry tenure. Experience had a big impact on respondents' earnings, as you might expect. Respondents with less than 10 years of experience in the field of IT reselling, services, consulting or integration reported making an average of $88,000 in 2013, compared with $112,000 cited by those with more than 10 years of channel industry experience. The total compensation spread is more dramatic: $103,000 for those with less than 10 years of channel industry experience vs. $137,000 for those with more than 10 years of experience.

Company type. Our salary survey results also show that respondents' pay varied considerably depending on the type of company they worked for. The base salary of respondents who said their employer primarily identified itself as a VAR or solution provider was about $100,000. That compares with only $77,000 in base salary for respondents who said their employer primarily identified itself as a reseller. Employees of managed service providers reported a base salary of about $101,000, while respondents whose employers primarily defined themselves as cloud services providers reported an average base salary of about $109,000, systems integrator employees reported an average base salary of $110,000 and IT consultant employees reported an average base salary of about $119,000.

Cloud services providers appear to be bulking up on bonuses and commissions, with respondents reporting an average of $152,000 in overall compensation, the highest of any company type. The average total compensation of respondents from VARs and solution providers was $131,000, followed by consultant respondents at $136,000, systems integrators at $121,000, MSPs at $112,000 and resellers at $102,000.

Cloud services providers appear to be bulking up on bonuses and commissions, with respondents reporting an average of $152,000 in overall compensation, the highest of any company type.

Company size. Company size had a modest impact on salary and total compensation. Among those respondents from companies with fewer than a hundred employees and those with 100 to 1,000 employees, average base salary was essentially equal, at about $98,000, while those at companies with more than 1,000 employees reported an average of $111,000 in salary, which would seem to indicate that those working for large companies are paid a premium. However, when considering total compensation, that advantage for big-company employees drops away. Those at companies with more than 1,000 employees reported an average total compensation of $124,000, the same amount as those working for companies with fewer than 100 employees. Midsize company employees came out on top for this measure, reporting an average total compensation of about $129,000.

Job satisfaction. Almost 43% said they are open to new opportunities, while 30% are satisfied with their current position. While the average base salary of those who reported being satisfied with their current job and company career goals is about $111,000, the average base salary of those actively looking for a new job or starting to look wasn't much lower ($106,000).

The total compensation, including salary, bonuses and commissions, of those who are satisfied with their current job and company career goals is an average of $138,000, compared with an average of $125,000 in total compensation of those who are actively looking for a new job or starting to look.

Looking back and ahead

Considering overall compensation and benefits, almost 59% of survey respondents experienced a positive gain in 2013, while 23% saw no change and 18% experienced a loss. Looking ahead to this year, the numbers look a little better: Sixty-one percent expect an increase, 26% expect no change and 13% expect a loss.

Bryan Ramona, technology advisor at SecurElement Infrastructure Solutions LLC, saw no change in his salary between 2012 and 2013, even with a bonus and commission. He said he is also not terribly optimistic about his salary this year because he was moved to a new position focused more on customer sales support than straight sales.

An outside salesperson was brought in to be "strictly a hunter" for new business, Ramona said, and while he's "not totally thrilled" about his reassignment, he understands it. "We had a rough year and we want to regroup and make sure we're not missing opportunities with our existing customers," he said. Ramona's company has just nine employees.

"I think the customer massaging wasn't being done as I would want to do it, and that can do two things: You won't get the individual upsell business going forward, and if you're not constantly stroking a customer's ego, you're gonna lose them," Ramona said. The mood at his company is very optimistic, he added.

As someone who has been in outside sales for almost 25 years, referencing his job change, Ramona said that part of him thinks, "Damn, I'm losing a little revenue. But part of me is [relieved] I don't have to beat my head against a wall." He said he is satisfied with his job and company and plans to stay there for the foreseeable future.

The majority (59%) of survey respondents have been in their current positions for one to five years, while 15% have held their positions for six to 10 years and another 15% for 11 to 20 years.

Types of projects

When it comes to client work, virtualization is the No. 1 technology area respondents are involved with (cited by 29% of respondents), followed by cloud computing (26%), and networking and storage and backup (24% each).

Cloud computing is one of the top three technology areas Ramona's company is involved in with regard to customer projects, followed by general IT management and networking. He said the company's business focus is primarily on SMBs, and he likes "being able to interact with people who are business owners and who are responsible for the success and failure of the organization. You feel like you can make more of a difference, rather than working with large conglomerates that are just signing off on purchase orders."

Cloud computing is also a big area of focus for the director of managed services at an MSP in the Pacific Northwest with annual revenue of $50 million to $99.9 million, and between 100 and 499 employees.

The mood in the organization is optimistic, the director said, and his company is seeing an upturn in the budgets of a lot of organizations it works with. Clients are not looking to buy a lot of storage and servers any longer, he said, and are instead focused on cloud, cloud integration services and application development.

"It's about how do we get business processes around it, and they're turning to people like us who have knowledge in those integrations," the director said. Storage solutions are being used more for backup or disaster recovery, tied to a solution.

His base salary in 2013 was $110,000, and he received a bonus of $12,000. He expects his salary to increase by 10% in 2014. He considers this to be above average compared with others in the industry. "We're in a higher-risk industry than a corporate environment and we're compensated appropriately for that."

The director has been with the organization for a little more than five years and has 11 people who report to him. Looking ahead, his goal is to grow the practice, which will mean more people to manage; and his hope is to be promoted to vice president and be made a partner with stock options.

Organizations' mood and measures of success

Comparing their overall compensation and benefits in 2013 with what they expect this year, the majority of respondents (60%) are confident they will see a positive gain, compared with 27% who expect no change and 13% who anticipate a loss. One respondent who has two roles -- marketing program manager and channel manager -- at a New York-based systems integrator is one of those hopefuls. Employed for two years at the firm, which has between 500 and 999 employees and less than $999,000 in revenue, she said there was no change in her total compensation in 2013, which was $48,000. She added that her salary is "way under" that of peers in her industry.

Part of her compensation reflects the fact that she is "still figuring out and learning with the company, versus me bringing in a heap of experience," she said.

However, she is more optimistic about her growth and the company's this year because it is working with a new tool and has created some new partnerships, she said. "I like the idea of connecting people and being a gap-bridger,'' she said.

She expects to earn more money in 2014 because the company is doing better financially. "Some of the results I've been able to accomplish from various partnerships and channel events we've done that have led to opportunities may increase the likelihood of that,'' she added.

Overall, salary survey results showed that 51% of respondents expect to earn a raise in 2014, while 43% anticipate a bonus and 22% expect no change.

In terms of the top measures for success in their position, respondents cited gaining customer satisfaction as the No. 1 metric (55%), followed by completing projects on time (44%) and creating new business opportunities (42%).

Among respondents who said the mood in their organization is optimistic, 62% cited the fact that business is picking up, while 49% said there is a strong management team. Respondents who said the mood in their organization is pessimistic attributed it to ineffective management (54%) and limited career advancement (54%).

About the survey

The 2014 TechTarget Channel Salary Survey was fielded in the first quarter of 2014 through direct solicitation of TechTarget members. Two hundred and sixty qualified U.S. respondents serving a range of vertical industries -- with the highest concentrations in finance/banking, IT-related services/consulting and healthcare/biotech -- participated in the survey.

To qualify, respondents had to either be employed by a technology VAR, reseller, systems integrator, managed service provider or consultancy, or be self-employed but work for one of those company types. End user respondents and tech vendor and OEM staff members were disqualified. Respondents were also disqualified if they had not worked the full year in 2013 and if they were not currently employed at the time of the survey.

The highest percentage of respondents (23%) said they work for companies that primarily define themselves as IT consultancies; 17% work for companies that primarily define themselves as IT solution providers; 14% for managed service providers; 13% for VARs; 7% for cloud service providers; 5% for system integrators; and 3% for resellers. The rest fall into a variety of smaller company types, including custom systems builder, hosting provider, independent software vendor and others.

Their job titles include consulting practice manager (5%); consulting staff (10%); customer/IT support manager (5%); customer/IT support staff (4%); executive or corporate manager/CIO (5%); founder/business owner/partner/CEO (5%); project manager (7%); sales and marketing manager (7%); sales and marketing staff (6%); sales engineer (7%); technical/engineering staff (23%); and technical/engineering manager/CTO (10%). The remaining 6% are classified as Other.

Respondents were from organizations of all sizes; 32% were from companies with fewer than 100 employees; 31% were from companies with between 100 and 999 employees; and 37% were from companies with more than 1,000 employees. Annual revenue ranged from $10 billion or more (10%) to $100 million to $499.9 million (13%) and down to less than $999,000 (4%).

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What's your most important factor in job satisfaction?
1- Interesting and satisfying work content in my and related area
2- Compensation
it has to be a balance between compensation, work environment, interesting project/technology.
busy with interesting projects
Hard to mention a single factor. It is usually a combination of factors what gives the sense of satisfaction.

Some of my most important factors (in no special order) are:

1. Opportunity to work with recent technologies and interesting projects.
2. Flexibility and open mindedness. Ability to innovate.
3. Compensation.
Tough choice.
Either a great group of team members and the ability to keep expanding my knowledge.
Creative project, great communications, collaborative team. Probably a few hundred others essentials, but these three seem to be in the forefront.  
There's no single factor, really. Even at the most interesting job there are boring moments, financial needs change, and so on.
Interesting feedback -- seems to be a pattern around interesting projects, ability to innovate, cooperative work environment, compensation. But, clearly, many factors go into job satisfaction and how one ranks those factors may change over time. 



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