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Bruce Cummings...The Channel Expert's Expert

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Goodbye, Bruce, We'll miss you.

It's taken me months to be able to write this rememberance of my good friend, Bruce Cummings. I am writing this on his birthday: he would have been 64. By the time I post it, it will be nearly Christmas and I'll miss his usual email of holiday greetings.

Bruce passed away end of July, just days after diagnosis. That's the way he wanted to go if he had to, but the suddenness is hard on the rest of us.

Bruce passed away in the San Francisco Bay area that he called home. He has so many friends in Europe that will grieve for him. And I am writing this with the hope that many of his industry friends in Europe can share his loss by using the link below.

Bruce Cummings obituary

Bruce and I met in 1982 when he was in the first VP Marketing at Softsel (Merisel) and I was the Group Publisher at Gordon Publications, owner of the first computer dealer publication, aptly called COMPUTER DEALER.

We didn't become personal friends then but Bruce placed a lot of business with us. I am pretty sure Bruce brought co-op advertising into the computer industry (and a lot of people would owe him for that). Maybe he got the idea from Kawasaki where he worked before Merisel/Softsel. But no one used it as prolifically as he did. Bruce brought a lot of innovations into marketing in a fledgling industry that had not yet understood technology doesn't sell itself.

We met again-- not quite two decades later-- at the Baptie channel conferences, where Bruce was a lynchpin, helping orchestrate the content and delivering his own well-received presentations. There we became good friends.

I used to joke with Bruce that his speciality was the "black arts" of channel marketing. As Principal at Bruce Cummings Associates, Bruce was considered one of the technology industry’s foremost experts in planning and developing channel coverage and capacity for products, solutions, market and customer segments -- determining how many of what kinds of partners (with what attributes) are required to accomplish goals and how best to recruit and engage them.

And an expert in practical channel performance analytics, forecasting, and measurement. You would often see him scribbling formulas on the whiteboard in front of his audience of experienced channel managers, people shaking their hands saying, "Who would have thought of that?"

Bruce was unusually gifted in making sense of ROI from channel. I pushed him to write a book, even promised my free help in editing it. Years later he told me he had started, but alas, much of his black art will now go dark with him.

I should mention some of his other history in the industry. He was co-founder and served as CEO and chief marketing and sales officer of Portrait Displays Inc. (PDI), a marketer of CRT and LCD pivoting computer monitors and their underlying technology.

He was vice president of corporate marketing for Macromedia; executive vice president of marketing, sales, and business development of Samna Corporation (Atlanta-based word processing software company acquired by Lotus/IBM) and executive vice president of Hercules Computer Technology, at the time the leading computer graphics card company.

Prior to joining the technology industry in 1982, he held senior marketing positions with two major consumer products companies: Vivitar Corporation (he was responsible for end user and channel marketing for 14 product lines including cameras, lenses, and electronic flash) and Kawasaki Motors (manufacturer/marketer of motorcycles, snowmobiles, and personal watercraft).

Bruce's work with his own BCA clients (and often as a team member or in association with leading marketing and sales services companies such as hawkeye, CCI, InfoNOW and others) helped top IT companies such as 3Com, AMD, Avaya, Cisco, Citrix, Computer Associates, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel, Lucent, Microsoft, Motorola (Symbol), Polycom, Seagate, Sharp, Softbank, Sony, Symantec, Wyse Technologies, and others.

If you work for a channel company anywhere in the world, and you represent any of the above companies, chances are likely your channel programmes carry some part of Bruce's legacy...like parts of software code written years ago but that were so good, they've stayed in for today's solutions.

This is an obituary not only for my distinguished colleague, someone we respected, someone we listened to, and someone with whom we shared the podium's limelight.  This is also an obituary for a friend. For someone you looked for in the hotel bar, someone you sat with to relax, someone to share a single Malt with on a rainy night in a Brighton hotel while February wind howled outside.

We'd sip good Scotch, talk about the industry...and inevitably the talk would be about Bille, his wife, his daughter, his brother... Bruce loved you all so much and carried you everywhere.

The rest of us can add our thoughts to his rememberance by using this link below. You might not understand how much Bruce would appreciate this but it gives his beloved family an idea of how important he was to us, to the industry and to his devoted profession. Our stories give him another chance to explain all that time on the road: in the same way that we might light a candle of rememberance, by our stories Bruce shines on.

Like most of us, Bruce had to travel a lot for business. Our families never realize what happens on the road. Guys like Bruce win over audiences & clients but at the end of the day sit at the bar and talk about the loved ones left back home.

Please leave a note for Bruce's family & friends.  I made sure I did.

Go Bruce Cummings Guest Book at The San Jose Mercury News