It has already become a cliché to point out that 2020 was a year of radical change across multiple industries, but there is no denying that the channel has seen enormous changes in end-customer behaviour over the past 12 months, with existing trends accelerating and new ways of working creating new demand.
Fortunately, the channel is also uniquely suited to provide support and advice to end-customers who have seen sudden and unexpected shifts in their ability to do business. Shifts which require not only increased technological solutions, but also large-scale change in the way people interact with those technologies and the way businesses interact with people.
While many technology pundits have positioned these shifts as being inevitable, the complexity of scaling capability in such a short period has rarely – if ever – been encountered before. As we move into 2021, we now exist in an accelerated space where demand for services, security and reliability has increased exponentially.
The shifts of the past twelve months have also already left an indelible mark on the next. To maintain growth, the channel is rapidly reorganising around customer success and solutions-based approaches, while also maintaining and expanding on existing services.
It’s these unparalleled changes that have driven the thinking behind our new eBook: 7 trends set to transform the IT channel in 2021.
We’ve explored the concerns and plans of our partners and vendors, collected key analysis from the world’s leading research agencies, and collaborated with our own leadership team and internal experts to highlight the key technology and cultural trends which we believe will be the most important areas of focus for our partners, and have the most profound effects on the way we all do business in 2021 and beyond.
The business of the future is hybrid by design
We’ve all experienced the joys and tribulations of home working over the past few months, but as the era of COVID-19 draws to an end, the cultural impacts will be felt for a very long time. Beyond simply remote working, end-customers are increasingly looking to scale down their existing office spaces, concentrating on smaller, more flexible spaces which enable collaboration, but do not require acres of floor space or their accompanying rent charges.
“Post-pandemic, the number of remote workers will grow 6X, accounting for 30% of the global workforce”
(Frost & Sullivan: Are you ready to collaborate in the new normal?)
On the surface, this trend is all about people and the way we need and prefer to work, but dig a little deeper and it becomes apparent that this directly connects to much wider technology industry changes, and these have informed our thinking throughout the eBook.
Agility is a superpower for the future of the channel
The key to success for partners is the ability not only to embrace change, but to think beyond it. First-impulse solutions which may have been used to plug initial security gaps or increase cloud distribution are in many cases unsuitable for long-term deployment. Couple this with an increased need for reliability and speed, and the ability to integrate new ways of working by design, rather than by necessity, will be a key differentiator.
Smart businesses are already looking to the channel to provide complex and robust solutions to these changes, with a particular increase in EDGE security budgets highlighting the importance end-customers place on successful transformation. The channel will need to embrace migrations from LAN-based network security to Secure Access Server Edge (SASE) solutions, incorporating Zero Trust Access to secure networks beyond existing VPNs. This migration will be slower and more considered, but no less important.
Of course, secure networks are no use if they do not come with accompanying speed, so we’ve also looked at the ever-growing requirements for private cloud infrastructure, which has itself become more distributed – and more vulnerable – as a focus on minimum viable solutions helped companies migrate quickly to home working during the first wave of coronavirus. The cloud is now the essential model for apps and entire businesses, and global public cloud infrastructures markets are expected to reach $120bn in the next year (Forrester Predictions 2021).
Empowering people is key to success
The new technology required by businesses also needs a new approach to doing business from the channel. New digital infrastructure is far from the static solutions provided in the past. Most businesses now look to SaaS and consumption-based models for their technology. While this represents an enormous change, there is also huge opportunity here for the channel, with repeat business and predictable revenue models become the rule rather than the exception.
Capitalising on this requires the industry to renew its focus on digitalisation and digital transformation. Data partnership and secure utilisation will allow partners to build more effective customer relationships and predict renewals far more accurately. We expect to see a rapid acceleration in the shift to true solutions lifecycle management models within the channel in 2021.
As we’ve developed these trends, it’s interesting to note how interconnected they are. The channel is no longer about providing discrete services or products. Modern customers expect a streamlined, interconnected service which allows them to offer a range of solutions to their customers.
Above all, weathering the abrupt changes of 2020 and capitalising on them in the next 12 months relies on vendors, partners and distributors working to empower their people and build ever-stronger trust and collaboration. Agility and resilience in the face of change will be the meta-skills that propel the industry as we move into the coming year and will drive greater growth and opportunity than ever before.
Is your business ready for what’s next? Read our eBook 7 trends set to transform the IT channel in 2021 for a more in-depth understanding of the key drivers which will shape the channel over the next year and beyond.