Meet the Judges

Meet the Judges

Since Comms Business Magazine started running the Comms Channel Awards in partnership with VNU Exhibitions we have maintained a process of having the eventual winners of the awards decided by a panel of judges.

The only exception to this rule being the Distributor of the Year Award which remains a reader vote. You can vote for your favourite distributor from now until just before the awards take place on 10th May next year by going to

We have two new judges for 2006 following Frank Brown’s decision to rule himself out by undertaking a round the world sailing voyage and John Birbeck taking up a day job as Chairman of CTI Group in the US.

Stepping up to the bench this year are Keith Humphreys and Maren Bennette.


Keith Humphreys

I met Keith at the start of 2005 in Berlin at the Nortel Partner Conference when he was undertaking a briefing for journalists on the state of the market.We all gave him a hard time but he stuck to his guns – perfect for a Comms Channel Awards judge.

Keith has been active in Local Area Networks distribution channels since their inception in Europe after initial experience gained in South Africa. Sales channel management roles in Europe and for US based companies add to his experience in mid-range computing and connectivity issues.

As a consultant with euroLAN, based in the UK, he has worked with several major networking vendors in streamlining their European channels and in analysing their markets and competitors. He holds a degree in Engineering from the University of Westminster. “I am looking for entries that first of all fulfil the criteria laid down for each

category, i.e. a complete entry. Secondly the entry needs to be backed up by customer references and finally the entry should have a degree of bleeding edge. A recent set of UK awards I judged incredibly had three entries based on Avaya kit which has been end of lifed!”

Maren Bennette

With over 30 years in the networking industry, Maren has a wealth of sales & marketing experience. For many people with a PBX background Maren first came in to focus when he worked with Cisco Systems evangelising IP Telephony. Maren was at Cisco for over 10 years in a variety of roles including IP Communications business development, sales management and country management for Ireland. He is widely considered to have been one of the driving forces behind the success of the company’s CallManager IP telephony products in the UK.

Prior to Cisco Maren held sales and channel management roles for companies including General DataComm and Motorola, and has worked in the UK, Ireland, Belgium and Canada. He now lives and works from his office in Cornwall and writes a regular column for the magazine.

Maren believes that IP communications and also the convergence of wireless and wire-line networking offer unprecedented opportunities for all involved in the development and

deployment of these fascinating technologies. “In the reseller categories I will be looking for the most innovative use of applications in a converged network. In the service provider categories it will be the triple play of voice, video and data services that catches my eye. From the training operators I will want to see solid sales training programmes that include ‘what IP Comms does for the average business’. Last but not least, in the channel development categories I will watch for those programmes that make it easy for the resellers to do profitable communications deals, day in, day out.”


Stephanie Watson

The Frank Lampard of the judging panel is Stephanie Watson who has not missed a judgement day since Comms Business Magazine became involved with the awards.

Stephanie is general manager for UK communications analysts MZA and has for many years had her finger firmly on the pulse of what is happening in the channel. Since 1993, Stephanie has worked within MZA’s consulting team and from 1997 held overall responsibility for MZA’s complete portfolio of multi-client study reports and related project work. Stephanie’s work focused on the areas of PBXs/Convergence, Applications and Cordless Telephony, although her responsibility extends across all consumer and professional areas. She has been responsible for development of the core multi-client study reports and expansion of MZA’s client base. Recently, Stephanie’s research work has focused on the areas of converged solutions, notably PBXs/IP PBXs and applications.

“First and foremost my advice for companies entering the Comms Channel Awards 2006 is to make sure they read the criteria for the award they are entering. If you have any questions then ring Ian Hunter at the magazine and he will clarify any points you may have. Secondly, use the entry forms which you can download from the web site. For me a successful entry needs to be able to demonstrate return on investment and tangible benefits for the end user. We need a customer reference as one year we had a ‘tie’ for an award which was only decided after we called the end user. I also like to see some leading edge technology being deployed.”
More information: To download entry forms go to or email Ian Hunter,
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