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Vertical Alignment: The Key to Staying Relevant

Relevant

Eddie Franklin

**Editor’s Note: Distributor Report is a recurring column featuring thought leadership from IT and cloud distributors. We’re looking for insights into evolving business models in this new era of distribution, product and technical service offerings, education and training, marketing/branding, credit and a myriad of other services.**

By Eddie Franklin

Understanding trends in a vertical market is the difference between being disrupted and being one who ushers in innovation. We’ve seen our partners make great strides when they decide to drill down and invest in specific verticals. Although fast-changing technology is impacting every industry, the reality is that very few problems are universal, especially when it comes to IT. That means your ability as a technology provider to solve problems for a specific set of customers can make you more relevant, enable you to turn disruptive forces into opportunities, and make you a true collaborator with your customers.

The public sector is ripe with opportunities as technology begins to dominate compliance with rules and regulations. Here is a brief look at some verticals where we’ve found that alignment can not only help sustain business today but can be expected to maintain your growth and relevance into the future.

The federal government can be an evergreen source for business, and now is a good time to tackle that complex system. Continual changes in rules and regulations open new opportunities every year. For example, we tracked a U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) rule that finally went into effect last year, making mentor-protégé programs for small businesses more versatile. It helps the underfunded small business partner – the protégé – leverage the mentor’s financial strength to pursue small business set-asides while the mentor gains access to small business set aside opportunities. These changes in joint venturing can lead to meaningful partnerships that provide best-in-class solutions to federal government agencies.{ad}

The new administration is signaling that we’ll see a leaner government, which means skilled contractors should find opportunities to step in and fill the gaps. Some of these new collaborations will pave the way for small businesses to help develop innovative solutions. When that happens, your project and program management skills are even more relevant. Rather than fearing change, companies aligned within the federal vertical will be aware when contraction periods are coming, and understand the solutions needed right away and down the road.

Expect to see investment growth in public safety and first response. We noticed this trend a few years ago, and launched a public-safety practice in response to this increased funding. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and other intelligence agencies are also receiving funds to ramp up technology. A host of products and solutions are needed from resellers and MSPs like you.

And don’t just think in terms of federal government — state and local opportunities abound as well. Consider 800,000 …

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… uniformed police, 1.3 million firefighters, 860,000 EMS workers, 1 million private security officers and the technology mandates associated with all their jobs. Solutions providers who have already aligned their businesses at this level know that 49 states passed budgets earlier this year that are chock full of technology dependent initiatives. No OEM can cover all of those 13,000 points of light. They need our ecosystem to serve that space, and we’ve seen early adopters among resellers and MSPs reap the rewards.

Education in K-12 has a $12 billion annual IT spend, according to The Center for Digital Education. It’s huge, and it’s more than just laptops. Initiatives driven by STEM and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) are excellent bets in K-12 education going forward. More powerful computing devices are helping students collaborate in the classroom and across the globe. There is also a big play in robotics, and a growth in “maker spaces” that utilize with 3D scanning and printing. Many schools are looking to build collaborative learning areas, even including furniture that charge devices while in use.

There’s even more opportunity in higher education that space won’t allow me to cover here; however, for kindergarten through college, you can enhance your value as a solutions provider by helping educators wrap their arms around major funding sources for the STEM-focused digital content and curriculum. And, you can help them think about meeting needs beyond the classroom, from the call to better measure learning outcomes, to the physical security and access control on campuses that require infrastructure upgrades like door access controls and survey development.

To stay relevant, you must start relevant, which means deeply understanding where your customers are right now. Educators are rightfully excited about all the technology at their fingertips, and the funding available to help them adopt it. At the same time, you want to make sure they are ready to take full advantage. You’ll need to be able to offer a complete solution that includes assessing their networks, or making sure they have the infrastructure to support an influx of devices. If you do need to take a step back and start with infrastructure support, don’t worry — options like E-Rate funding are available for that.{ad}

The same is true with public safety. Local law enforcement agencies are finding that adopting devices like body cameras for increase safety and accountability brings a greater need for infrastructure and data management. Aligning yourself with this crucial and profitable vertical means helping them understand how to build upon their current capabilities in a way that fits their unique organization and community.

Your talents and expertise go farther when you can apply them to a specific industry to solve a problem. Think about your core skills in disciplines like security, data center, mobility and client computing as horizontals. Where those horizontals intersect with industry expertise, together they manifest real solutions. Begin exploring vertical alignment from a point of mastery and problem solving and you’ll be the one they return to again and again as trends and technologies change within their sector. You’ll maintain the kind of long-term relevance most companies only dream about.

Eddie Franklin has served as the Vice President of Sales, Public Sector at SYNNEX Corporation since 2008, focusing on developing the channel for Federal, State/Local, Education and Healthcare vertical markets. Prior to that, Mr. Franklin has served in a variety of sales roles at SYNNEX, such as Associate Vice President of Public Sector Sales, Director of Government Sales, and working in a business development role for Finance.


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