The CompTIA 7th State of the Channel Report
Rapid change is happening across the IT channel as we know it. These changes are affecting business models, the competitive landscape, customer types and buying patterns. The changes are also impacting how the indirect channel is defined – and to a lesser extent, what it’s called. For many practitioners, the term “channel” is reaching an expiration date; for others, it’s a label they either don’t recognize for their business, or in some cases, a term they have never heard of.
CompTIA recently published their 7th State of the Channel Report. The report, available to download here, reverberates that the business of technology, i.e. a concept that applies to any entity involved in selling, influencing and/or creating IT solutions for their customers, is undergoing a huge transformation. The research highlights a number of dynamics happening across Go-To-Market Strategies, Business Models, Customer Interactions, Human Resources, and Skills Training.
By surveying companies in the business of driving the adoption of technology, the report found a number of primary drivers of change in the tech ecosystem. The report shares findings around vertical industry specialization and explores the extent to which today’s channel firms are incorporating emerging technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), Blockchain, Virtual Reality, and IoT (Internet of Things), into their portfolios.
While still nascent for many channel firms, emerging technologies are nonetheless becoming a growing part of portfolios. Respondents cite them as the No. 1 driver of change across the tech ecosystem. The ability to build a business around artificial intelligence, virtual reality, blockchain, drones, IoT, etc., will take companies into a future growth path, for sure. But getting there will test firms on several fronts; most importantly, in areas of skills and training, and cost of entry.
Customer demand for a technology provider with vertical industry skills and applications knowledge is on the rise. Nearly two thirds of channel firms say they embarked on a vertical specialty to satisfy customer demand and as a competitive differentiator. Embracing a niche specialty in retail, healthcare, or other sectors will deliver a proven competitive advantage. But again, the challenge lies in having the right skills and training. And it’s important to distinguish “real” vertical applications specialization from the more horizontal type of infrastructure sales to customers that just happen to be in the same industry.
The channel ecosystem is expanding, which is either good news or bad news for traditional partners. Mostly it depends on perspective. There are new competitors to face, but also the potential for new partners. The most prevalent new face in the ecosystem belongs to cloud-based ISVs and their SaaS-focused reseller/referral partners. Six in 10 channel firms report encountering this type of company in today’s competitive landscape. The other new competitor/partner types include digital marketing agencies, which 46% of respondents see in the market today. And roughly 2 in 10 channel firms are now competing with non-technology companies altogether, specifically accounting and law firms that influence or resell software pertaining to their respective professions.