Distributors manage the lion’s share of vendor offerings. Their value-added services are priceless to channel partners looking for more beyond traditional hardware and software sales, and the pick, pack and ship services of yesterday. Earlier this year, we referred to distributor disruption as the new distributor as a service.
Distributors urge partners to look at the myriad of services they offer. One message echoed by all distributors is: There’s no need for partners to go it alone, especially in a rapidly changing industry with digital transformation occurring in all business organizations. Need help? Reach out.
So, with a front-row seat to the industry, and sandwiched between vendors and partners, below you’ll find what distributors see on the radar for 2018.
Cloud and IoT: From Proof of Concept to Production
More organizations will transition from testing cloud and IoT proof of concepts to full-blown production implementations.
Concerns about performance and security that once fueled skepticism toward cloud and IoT adoption will now represent the deepest and widest market opportunities. Whether an end-customer's goal is implementing hybrid cloud to achieve agility and affordability, or leveraging IoT and wireless to reach consumers in new ways, performance and security remain two constant needs for IT to meet critical business initiatives.
— Reyna Thompson, Synnex
Augmented Reality (AR)
This technology will start off as offering a unique perspective to data visualization with the advantages of reducing issues in worker safety to improving quality in areas where it is used. It will grow in the years after to a data visualization platform.
The combination of AR glasses and AR kits from major vendors (e.g., Apple, Google), along with adoption of AR platforms, will provide unique use cases as well as offer opportunities to develop more and more data visualizations. The possibilities are endless. When we released Augmented Reality Ideation Services (ARIS), we were under the impression that we were providing a tech that is next-gen; however, after speaking with our customers, I found that the technology was already a big part of their conversations with their end customers, and was viewed as a great opportunity for some of our resellers to invest in as well.
— Harish Sathisan, Tech Data
Evaluate and Move on
Times are changing. Maybe you’re doing business in an area where you’re being marginalized. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Reassess and focus your efforts. Partner in areas where you need to become more competitive.
Fail fast and move on with a "kill it" mentality if something isn’t working.
— Paul Bay, Ingram Micro
Non-IT Trusted Advisers Are Here
A new breed of channel partner, non-IT trusted advisers who have more expertise in a domain or service, are here. We’ve identified more than 3,000 partners who focus on data analytics and business intelligence. Some are calling this “omni-channel,” but however you refer to this, it’s real and happening now.
Some of these new types of partners include data-analytics experts, data scientists, marketing agencies, strategic advisory firms, accounting firms, workforce management companies, etc.
— Dina Moskowitz, SaaSMAX
Channel Success = Specialization and Services
As the channel continues hammering out cloud marketplaces and operational platforms in 2018, channel success will be directly tied to specialization and services. These areas must be tailored to technologies and business problems.
The good news is that end customers are craving expertise they can trust. Channel partners will need to spend 2018 getting training on how security plays out in specific industry verticals. They’ll also need to be well-versed in how services such as penetration testing and risk consultations, and managed services such as secure wireless or firewall-as-a-service, best serve and protect their customers.
— Reyna Thompson, Synnex
Deliver an Outstanding Customer Experience
There is a growing importance behind delivering an outstanding customer experience. We see this as a growth opportunity for MSPs when it comes to brand differentiation.
Offering ease of business will become critical for MSPs to simplify and streamline how they interact with their customers. We are seeing so many examples of this in consumer services and we don’t expect this trend to slow down.
— Ryan Walsh, Pax8
Cybersecurity will be a main concern for VARs, especially in the SMB market. Hackers are outpacing cybersecurity professionals in that they can quickly shift to new and more disguised methods to penetrate a user’s environment.
Also contributing to the issues is the wide-scale proliferation of devices (IoT) that are connected to the internet, coupled with the pervasive use of cloud-based file share tools. This means security will be paramount to MSP offerings over the next few years.
— Peter DiMarco, D&H Distributing
SaaS Vendors Discover the Channel
As an emerging, and now starting to mature sector, SaaS companies are realizing that channel partners are a viable and economical path to market.
We see evidence of this in the number of SaaS vendors developing partner programs that we hear from looking for help, or ones we meet that already have a channel program in place. Recent research by CompTIA also confirmed this trend.
— Dina Moskowitz, SaaSMax
In 2017, we really saw the software-defined data center gain traction and continue to add new functionality with cloud-like economics. We are seeing greater adoption of object storage due to increased automation. Flash was really hot in 2017 – allowing users to do more with less capacity.
We're likely going to see increased features and automation in software-defined storage. You'll see more focus on the ability to operate in a hybrid cloud model and enhanced features around security, analytics and single-pane-of-glass management. We'll see more around SaaS offerings and programs geared to support the transition of the traditional VARs to more of an MSP-type of model.
Channel partners will need to keep their skills sharpened in order to deliver.
— Cheryl Neal, Tech Data