Have you got 2020 Channel Vision? Early in the history of the original IBM PC, an IBM marketing manager observed that channel partners would have to always be innovating to remain ahead of IBM. The first step in innovating, of course, is being able to forecast what customers will need innovated. This rendered prognostication among the most treasured of all skills in the channel. Crystal balls. Tea Leaves. Divining Rods. All that.
That’s where 2020 channel Vision comes in. There’s a tricky balance one needs to achieve when peering ahead. Every decision must be followed by an investment in preparedness. Any wrong call renders those investments wasted. While failing to make decisions leaves you behind the competition.
As we head into 2020 many channel players are clearly figuring out where they are best positioned in the rapidly changing landscape.
Hardware Manufacturers are recognizing that their fortunes now lay at the lower end of the market, except for those who build networking gear. Customers still need the premises plumbing that enables everyone to connect to the internet. But they’re not standing up as many servers or as much storage as before as they move more and more of their workloads to the cloud.
Software Developers have realized that their best role is as enabler of great new services. Rather than sell licenses to end customers, they are now providing the tools channel partners need to create new services around. These partners are using tools to deliver a new generation of services. MSP portfolios expand as everyone heeds the age-old advice that it’s five times easier to sell more to an existing customer than it is to create a new one.
Integrators, VARs, or whatever classification they may choose, are beginning to realize that they are the primary beneficiaries of all this change, as they learn how to mix, match, and sell all of it. Where hardware and software sales still exist, they are ready to rock. Where everything else is “as-a-Service“, they are selling those services. While hardware, software, and security interoperability was once the secret sauce, today its all about getting clouds to play nicely with each other. In other words, they’re becoming Cloud Service Providers (CSPs).
Alignment will rule the day in 2020 as those closest to the customer choose who their partners will be. Therefore, vendors who figure out how to justify supporting partners’ marketing efforts will be the biggest winners of all. The hint? Partners want to promote themselves and what they can do with your products. Therefore, enable them!
The mass migration of resellers to become managed service providers (MSPs) has resulted in an overabundance of MSPs. Many of whom haven’t done the homework and are MSPs in name only! Therefore, to remain relevant, Service Providers (SPs) will need to focus down and find a discipline they can call their own. Some will focus on unified communications as a service (UCaaS) and become UCSPs. While others will provide interpretation of big data output to turn data into information that develops insight and wisdom that supports superior decision making. Many will grow into Artificial Intelligent Service Providers (AISPs) as they develop new tools, and still others will become IoTSPs. But few will survive by standing still.
It’s been more than forty years since then Novell CEO, Robert Frankenberg, informed us that “work is no longer a destination, it’s an activity.” We stopped going to work and got to work. As more infrastructure moves to the cloud and more technology enables even more workload transition, more people will find themselves working when and where they want to. Not surprisingly, 5G is arriving just in time. But the biggest impact of 5G will not be faster access to mobile services. This zero latency, high velocity connection is necessary to enable low-fault-tolerant applications like driverless vehicles.
As partners align with vendors they’ll need to keep an eye toward merger & acquisition activity to prepare them to adjust to the changing landscape. My 2020 channel vision believes the heavy acquisition activity around distributors raises many questions as to what their continuing role will be. It’s been hard enough to maintain relevance as more business migrated to cloud.
At the same time, the Telecom channel, which is highly sales-focused, continues to court the IT channel whose highest passion is the delivery of services. Seems if you’ve got one group that wants to sell, and the others want to deliver, you’ve got a complete team. All they need to do is iron out the logistics of interoperation and compensation. This convergence has been on the verge for years. Perhaps 2020 is the year it passes the tipping point.
For a long time I’ve been predicting that IT will follow in the footsteps of medicine. General practitioners fade away as more and more specialists emerge commanding far superior fees. Now, if we can just avoid letting vendors follow in pharma’s footsteps.
There is a tipping point coming soon. It is that moment where the preponderance of channel people spend more time at conferences and shows than they do “working.” Somewhere around this point many of their employers will start to feel the pain of how all that T&E affects their bottom line.
The question this raises for me is “what about all those channel people who DON’T come to shows”? How do we as channel managers and journalists assure they are getting the information they need to survive and thrive? With more and more industry publications folding up their tent, who will remain to keep all those partners properly supported? Perhaps the vendors themselves? Players as yet unknown?
In conclusion, we’re an industry whose business is making information move to generate more value. Above all, perhaps this year we’ll find ways to consolidate our efforts and mature our business.