When I started my company in the mid 90s one of the big consulting firms wanted to charge me $83,000 to design a process for selecting a PBX/ACD for the call center. They seemed to think it was business as usual, so I guess some companies actually paid them to do things like that. The implication was that the cost to run the selection process would be an even bigger number, but I never learned the details because I was already out the door.
Now I can just go to RingCentral.com and sign up for a free trial and be on my way. No money to the consultants, no million dollar hardware purchase, no multi year maintenance contacts, no waiting six months through an expensive implementation process to see if it will work at all. We have come a long way in 15 years.
It seems that just about everyone is offering a free service as an enticement to check out their stuff. In some cases it is for a limited time and others limited functionality, but getting the technology needed to start a new company or start a new project is cheaper and easier than ever.
So in this new universe, what is that channel partner's (the consultant) role? They probably still get big companies to pay big money to design processes and implement them, but it is clear that they are not as essential to the selling process. The new Freemium model is an interstate highway right past their town. Cars may can get off and buy stuff, but they don't have to slow down.
Companies are finding expense reports showing purchases at amazon.com that are not books. Their employees found the line at the IT department for a new server to be too long, so they just went to AWS and rented one. Where is the channel in that purchase? The cars on that highway didn't even need to stop for gas.