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There are already a number of major themes in the market that will remain in place as we move deeper into a fresh year.
The channel and its customers continue to evolve and react to changing demands and market conditions. Given the growing fears about the economic situation, the temptation might be to put progress on the evolution journey on hold, but that also comes with great risks.
The technical debt that some customers found themselves in after the previous recession of 2008 is one that can also impact the channel, and few can afford to slip behind to their competition.
The need to support customer workforces across home, office or other locations has driven opportunities for networking and security infrastructure and data protection sales.
There is also a need for more flexible hardware options to suit emerging work personas, and customers want to consume technology differently – including payment models such as desktop as a service (DaaS).
This trend is not going to diminish, and many customers are still progressing towards solutions that work for their staff. Expectations for 2023 will include more flexibility as some firms adopt the four-day working week, but there could also be further developments of ‘hybrid offices’ where investments in furniture and fittings helps to create zones and an atmosphere that will support and appeal to staff.
The tech used through the pandemic was not always fit for purpose, and the upgrading and strategic investments in solutions that support hybrid working will also continue into 2023.
The channel will continue with its move towards managed services as the demand for flexibility continues to rise. The channel is also looking to take advantage of the approach themselves and expects more automation on rebate and deal quote systems, as well as a greater range of flexible payment options, so customers can pay in the way that suits them.
The drive to cloud shows no sign of slowing down, with various pieces of research recently stating that around 75% of workloads could be in the cloud by 2025. The channel is expected to deliver solutions, pulling on their vendor and distribution relationships, to meet customer needs. This has seen activity around cloud marketplaces, with many keen to establish relationships with AWS, Azure and Google to make sure they have all of their bases covered.
Hybrid cloud remains the most common approach, with customers still showing concerns around security and costs associated with going all in on public platforms.
The channel is under pressure to share its own net-zero progress as well as ensuring it is working with vendors that can also deliver a solid story on the sustainability front.
The channel must show it has a plan to get to net zero, is reducing carbon now and is taking positive action. At the same time, customers also expect channel partners to be in a position to advise them on where they can use IT to reduce carbon.
There is likely to be a lot of talking about Scope 1 and 2 emissions in 2023 as the channel starts to get its own house in order, and as Scope 3 from the larger supply chain will become easier to tackle. Few will have the complete answers but many will be on the journey, and the hope is that best practice will emerge and be shared across the channel.
Beyond protecting hybrid working, ransomware continues to be a serious problem and there is an increasing need for improved security to reduce supply chain vulnerabilities.
Managed service providers (MSPs) are coming under government pressure to prove they have taken steps to protect data and customers want to be reassured they are dealing with experts when it comes to data protection.
In terms of products, multi-factor authentication (MFA) is becoming increasingly popular, with firms upgrading as they work out their needs post-Covid, driving growth in even established product segments such as firewalls. Expect identity and services such as XDR to be popular as the industry continues to do its best to fend off the criminals.
During the pandemic, the channel embraced the enablement tools that were on offer from vendors and have continued to do so at a high rate in a post-pandemic world.
There is a pressure to maintain skills and knowledge, which is increasingly going digital, with videos and bitesize materials that can be consumed by partners.
Most vendor channel programmes have moved from focusing on revenue goals to using certifications around key technologies as a way of driving rewards, which has also kept the need for training high. Many staff want to feel valued and have a sense that their career is progressing, so talent development is a key part of that process.
Fears about the prospects for the economy are already having an impact with projects being paused or broken down into smaller components.
The channel is armed with a variety of flexible payment options and can offer most customers access to finance in the the hope that IT investments will keep flowing.
If there are any lessons to be learnt from previous difficult time,s it is to get close to the customer – customers will be looking to do the same or more with less budget, and trusted advisers will be vital if they are to get through the next few quarters in a position to bounce back strongly.
No one knows exactly what will happen in 2023, but it is going to be difficult to avoid discussing the economy. There is a risk that the channel will end up in a doom loop where spending drops because of worries. However, the channel’s role is to make sure that things do not grind to a halt.
Speaking at the Canalys Channel Forum in October, the CEO of SCC James Rigby warned of a technical debt that customers would fall into if they paused spending. They faced being left behind by competitors and would have to spend big to catch up if they chose not to keep the technological wheels turning.
There is a balance to be found and it is a tough challenge, but that is where the channel needs to make sure it takes the right approach with each and every customer.