The pandemic has highlighted how the IT channel needs to become both responsive and resilient to survive the current crisis and thrive in 2021.

Change is faster and more unpredictable than ever, and this has a significant impact on every organisation’s competitive situation. The critical importance of businesses being agile enough to scale up or down with fluctuations in demand has been reinforced by the widespread disruption caused by COVID-19.

Cloud and its enabling technologies are backstopping the massive shift to remote work, while digital transformation is becoming a leading strategy as companies position for growth following recovery. Businesses that embedded agility into their IT and operational structures have proved more adaptable and resilient in the face of the current crisis, and are bouncing back better than their competitors. McKinsey’s research on how agile organisations fared during the pandemic showed that 93% of organisations thought their agile business units had performed ‘better’ or ‘significantly better’ than their non-agile business units in both customer satisfaction and operational performance.

Agility reaps rewards

It is not surprising that agile practices have enabled organisations to be more resilient to crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Agile organisations are designed to make fast decisions and to absorb and adapt to challenges. According to McKinsey “fast organisations outperform others by a wide margin on a range of outcomes, including profitability, operational resilience, organisational health and growth.” Those that focus on agility in 2021 will adapt to disruption and extend services to respond to new conditions 50% faster than ones focused on restoring existing business according to IDC.

Agility demands an IT infrastructure that enables you to leverage digital capabilities to maintain business operations, navigate across multiple clouds, capture critical insights and detect and manage security threats. It’s about responding fast: to competitive changes, to customer demands or to unexpected events. IT leaders should design roles and structures around outcomes to increase agility and flexibility and formalise how operations and processes can flex.

“Never before have we faced so much uncertainty and change,” says Willem de Haan, SVP Comstor. “Couple this with evolving end user needs, the new ways of working and the growing adoption of cloud, recurring offers and security, and you can appreciate the significance of what being agile and ‘future ready’ in the channel means: preparing partners to grow in 2021 and beyond.”

Building resilience by design

Business leaders and IT teams also need to understand their exposure, vulnerabilities and potential losses to build better resilience strategies. Gartner found that 55% of organisational redesigns were focused on streamlining roles, supply chains and workflows to increase efficiency. While this captures efficiencies, it also creates fragilities, as systems have no flexibility to respond to disruption.

Many organisations are supported by a patchwork of technologies that are not lean, optimised or connected, which presents an opportunity for partners to have tech refresh and upsell conversations. Even in those that are, the rebalancing of efficiency and resiliency is not always easy. In most cases, increased resilience comes at a cost, but the cost of doing nothing can be much higher.

Automation fuels improvement

Organisations are increasingly turning to automation to make their supply chains more efficient, flexible and resilient, make their finance and accounting more intelligent, ease procurement and bring autonomous processing throughout their enterprises. They want to be more nimble and quick in their operations – and they want their employees to focus on higher-value work – and automation can help free up resources while providing teams with the tools to experiment more, fail fast and measure results quickly and accurately.

In other words, automation can fuel iterative improvement that leads to greater success. “COVID-19, Brexit and trade tensions are shaping supply-chain operations,” says Kevin Brzezinski, Westcon-Comstor’s SVP of Operations, “and automation, agility, transparency, predictability and end-to-end digitisation will deliver the flexibility and integration the supply chain needs to better absorb shocks.”

Become ‘future-ready’

The pandemic has been a wake-up call for organisations that placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience. The role of channel partners must be to help them shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms to mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep businesses running smoothly. Being ‘future ready’ and responding with speed, agility and resilience is key to staying relevant in 2021.

To learn more about the biggest changes affecting the channel in 2021, download our industry trends eBook now.