Cloud, 5G Highlight 2021 Predictions for the Channel


2021 Predictions Crystal Ball

The new year should usher in a better business climate and new opportunities for the channel, according to 2021 predictions.

Nick Offin is Dynabook’s head of sales, marketing and operations. He said 2021 will be a better year for the channel.

Dynabook's Nick Offin

Dynabook’s Nick Offin

“2021 will be a better year for channel partners who adapt efficiently to the current climate,” he said. “Partners who are currently supporting remote workers and offering services such as mobile devices, cloud computing and security technologies are succeeding as the trend of remote working continues. This is likely to accelerate until next year and will soon be known as the new normal.”

Growth opportunities for the channel will stem from businesses incorporating remote working, Offin said.

“Technologies such as 5G and IoT will play a crucial role in accelerating this process for the channel,” he said.

COVID-19 has presented a number of unforeseen and unpredicted challenges to the channel, Offin said.

Keep up with resources for supporting partners and customers during the COVID-19 crisis.

The use of technologies such as desktops declined in the last six months, he said. And this trend will continue next year opening new opportunities for partners operating in the mobility sector.

More than half of businesses will maintain flexible and work-from-home policies on a permanent basis, said Spiceworks Ziff Davis.

And despite economic uncertainties and stagnating revenues, IT spending will stay strong,  it said. In fact, 80% of businesses anticipate year-over-year tech spending to stay the same or increase in 2021. And COVID-19 is influencing more than a third of budget increases.

Scroll through our gallery below for channel execs’ 2021 predictions.

2121 resiliency

Channel Resilience Through 2021

Channel partners adapted their businesses to the new normal while quickly responding to customers' changing needs. That's according to George Hope, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise's (HPE) worldwide head of partner sales.

"This has instilled resiliency in our partners and we’ve seen many of them quickly expand their expertise, double-down on focus areas and redefine the meaning of partnership with their customers," he said. "Now going into 2021, I expect the channel to take the learnings of 2020 and translate them into further business success."
MSPs' year

The Year of the MSP

In 2021, MSPs will continue to see a unique demand, Hope said. This is especially true as more customers embrace a hybrid cloud model.

"Far beyond what public cloud hyperscalers can provide, service providers offer extensive knowledge of local business and local governance, especially in regions where data sovereignty is a concern," he said. "In many cases, MSPs also provide a heightened and more personalized customer experience."
SMB market

Seizing the SMB Market

The SMB and midmarket segments should be a big focus for channel partners in 2021, Hope said. SMBs globally increasingly want to invest in IT that will accelerate their digital transformations. They also want to gain insights from data and improve the employee experience. This will make them more competitive and help them recover through the pandemic.

"Many SMBs also needed specific technologies and quick fixes for their infrastructure in early 2020," he said. "In 2021, they will be reassessing what solutions are really needed for their infrastructures in the long run, sparking even more technology investment and potential business for partners to capture."

Virtual sales

Partners Master Virtual Sales

Partners will increasingly seek resources to become more savvy in engaging with customers in virtual settings, Hope said. This is especially true as the uncertainty of business continues.

"Vendors like HPE have made a breadth of virtual sales certifications, virtual learning and sales certifications, demo and enablement opportunities available to their channel partners to continue sales momentum remotely and through work-from-home orders," he said.
Preparing networks

COVID-19 Aims the Spotlight on Preparing Networks for the Unknown

Traffic patterns are shifting from mobility towards Wi-Fi and broadband networks. That's according to Sally Bament, Juniper Networks' vice president of cloud and service provider marketing.

"As work continues to shift to the home, the lines between consumers and enterprise users continue to blur," she said. "This implies there will be long-term changes in how service providers architect and manage their networks particularly for enterprise customers, which by extension means to the home. Next year, we will see more focus on ensuring networks are ready for the unknowns. We will see accelerated investments in open, agile network architectures built on cloud principles, elastic on-demand capacities, and automation and security for an assured service experience."
Edge cloud

COVID-19 Accelerates the Value of the Edge

Networks have never been more critical than they are right now, Bament said. Business, education, telemedicine and social all have moved from engaging in person to engaging virtually. And multiparticipant interactive video calls have become fundamental to daily life.

"Next year, we’ll see service providers double down on investments in edge cloud, moving applications and data closer to users and connected devices to enhance the user and application experience, support new emerging low-latency applications, and make more efficient use of network transit capacity," she said.

Network security

COVID-19 Drives Network Security

Security has often taken a back seat to make way for faster network speeds, Bament said. However, the pandemic has proven that bad actors will take advantage of crises for their own gain.

"Next year, we’ll see service providers take a holistic, end-to-end security approach that combines network, application and end-user security to deliver a secure and assured service experience," she said. "In 2021, we’ll see companies investing more in enterprise-at-home solutions with security at the forefront, ensuring that all endpoints in the networks are secure, wherever they are."
5G opportunities

5G Hype Fades as Monetization Opportunities Skyrocket

The pandemic slowed some 5G rollouts, Bament said. However, service providers have still been heavily investing in and deploying 5G networks. With over 100 commercial networks launched globally and many more expected in 2021, 5G is now real. And it's bringing new monetization opportunities for operators.

"With massive speeds, huge connection densities and ultra-low-latency experiences, we expect to see progress in new consumer applications, 5G for industry verticals, consumer broadband with content bundling, enterprise broadband and cloud-managed services, and fixed wireless access services in 2021," she said.

And opportunities for partners are starting to grow.
Workforce reinvention

Reinvention of the Workplace

Even after the pandemic, the way in which we interact will fundamentally change, said Geeman Yip, BitTitan's founder and CEO.

"This will lead companies to make significant changes to their workplace environments," he said. "With many employees continuing to work from home, offices will feature fewer individual desks. We will see increased use of 'hot desks' and more large conference rooms providing space to spread out. The shift toward more shared open space ... will enable socially distanced collaboration in an office setting. Even companies that already have large communal spaces in their offices will need to actively reshape employee behaviors in these areas so there’s an emphasis on getting work done instead of socializing."
Productivity and costs

Increased Productivity, Decreased Costs

Companies will look to conserve cash and do more with less in response to economic volatility, Yee said. They will make investments in software and tools that enable employees to be as effective and productive as possible.

"Solutions that help IT manage, assess and report on software usage and adoption will help companies increase optimization of technologies purchased," he said. "This will ensure the correct licensing levels are in place and highlight when software licenses can be discontinued. Expected productivity gains will also be realized as these IT solutions identify opportunities to ensure employees are using new technology effectively. These same IT solutions can also help bring about cost savings by automating labor-intensive IT work. Channel partners will not only assist their customers with this important profit-protecting work, but also similarly invest in doing more with less in their own companies."
Cloud expansion

Cloud Expansion, Optimization Continues

Remote operations continue to be essential for business continuity during the pandemic, Yip said. Expanded use of cloud-based services is crucial for this. Companies that were already migrating to the cloud will continue this work in the new year.

"Those that scrambled to the cloud in response to the pandemic will look for ways to optimize their cloud footprint, knowing that this will not be a temporary shift in business operations, but a long-term strategy," he said. "As more workloads move to the cloud, and companies invest in cloud applications, there will be a need to keep technology and data sprawl in check. This is not only for efficiency and cost control, but also to ensure proper data governance, regulatory compliance and monitoring of technology use throughout the company. Channel partners will continue to play a pivotal role in assisting companies with migration, optimization and governance in the cloud."
Social selling

Social Selling Gains Favor

Traditional sales and marketing tactics are likely to become less effective, Yip said. As a result, we'll see more social selling and connecting in 2021.

"In the same way companies have used email marketing and websites as a tool to sell on a one-to-many basis, social selling and connecting enables a more personal one-to-one experience that will be increasingly popular in the coming year," he said.

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