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The top 10 channel themes of 2023

What were the main areas of interest in the past 12 months? This handy list of the top 10 should jog memories, stir debate and garner some agreement across the channel

At this time of year, the mind turns to the task of trying to summarise the main themes of the past 12 months. What are the top 10 things that have dominated channel discussions? What will 2023 be remembered for? In an attempt to answer those questions, here is a list of the topics that have garnered the most coverage and generated the most debate in the industry. 

1. Sustainability

The channel has shown great determination in moving towards net zero. Distributors, vendors and resellers alike have been busy charting their Scope 1 and 2 emissions and starting to tackle the thorny Scope 3 challenges. It has become clear that this is an effort that requires participation across the channel, with all tiers working together to crack down on carbon.

Increasingly towards the end of the year the idea of selling sustainability as a service has emerged as managed service providers (MSPs) get to grips with it in-house and look to share that information. Distributors are also increasing their education efforts to give partners more knowledge around the sustainability issue.

2. GenAI

The idea of artificial intelligence (AI) is not a new one, but this was the year when it became mainstream. Almost every channel pitch involved some mention of AI, and there are no signs of that changing anytime soon.

What has started to shift is the idea of trying to move beyond using the technology to automate mundane tasks and to deliver real benefits that can be delivered by partners for the benefit of their customers. Those long-promised data insights should start to be unlocked, with more use cases being established, giving the channel something more concrete to work with.

3. Challenging market

Inflation, cost of living and interest rates all played a part in making 2023 a tough year. Despite that, the listed channel players delivered results that still contained growth and talked of taking more market share.

It might have been harder to work for, but the channel showed great resilience throughout 2023. Hopes are that the second quarter next year will see the emergence of a recovery and a chance to pitch hardware refresh cycles and AI technology upgrades.

4. Marketplaces

Public cloud players use them, distributors have also built their own versions, and for a while there was a sense they could pose a threat to the channel. What has become clear is that Amazon Web Services (AWS) and their ilk understand and appreciate they need partners to deliver a depth of solution that goes beyond the marketplace listing.

Moves to add services as well as products have been a plus for the channel, and the expectation is that customers will continue to seek solutions and partners to deliver them, not just a “click and buy” option.

5. Security

Ransomware continued to plague the world in 2023, and security remained at the top of the list of customer concerns. The emergence of AI, multicloud and edge added to the areas of risk and provided the industry with more opportunities to help customers. That pressure to enable further digital transformation is going to remain a key part of 2024.

6. XaaS

This has been the year when everything as a service (XaaS) took hold. Whether it is Dell’s Apex offering or the numerous other flavours from rival vendors, the emphasis has been on providing a wide range of options for managed service providers.

Added to that has been the growth in the number of vendors taking a platform approach to offer their technology in an easy-to-consume fashion that will also support subscription sales. Combined with AI, the expectation is that options such as desktop as a service (DaaS) will become more powerful and provide customers with the chance to seek further efficiencies.

7. MSP growth

Interest in the managed services model remained high and more revenues were derived from that approach than in the previous year. MSP Day celebrated the contribution the channel makes to helping customers, but also underlined the pressures of competition that many feel.

There has been plenty of consolidation this year, as firm move to either add managed services or bolster their own efforts. Having technology that supports MSPs and channel partner programme tracts dedicated to delivering tailored support are now an essential feature of vendor partner efforts.

8. Distribution

In the past, critics often used the phrase “the channel is dead” to undermine the industry. With it clear the indirect approach is here to stay, the focus of naysayers settled on distribution. However, this year has been another period for disties to demonstrate their ability to help vendors grow.

Market watcher Context recently forecast growth for distribution next year, and that is on the back of the efforts most have made in establishing their own cloud marketplaces, high levels of support and their ability to provide financial assistance to partners.

9. Storage

Security folk have dominated the conversation for the past few years, and while data security remains paramount, the emergence of AI and the promise of data analytics has put storage back in the limelight.

Those able to not only store and protect data, but also enable the use of AI tools to unearth insights and deliver analytics, are very popular. As a result, there is a buzz around the storage world that has not been quite so evident, with the phrase “right place, right time” often being mentioned about the benefits of currently working in the industry.

10. Customer experience

Customer experience (CX) might have been overshadowed by AI and sustainability as the year wore on, but it was a key area for the channel. With customer satisfaction levels increasingly becoming part of the reseller reward structure used by vendors, the pressure to make sure users were happy was a constant.

But CX was more than just doing it for the sake of it, with many recognising the need to deliver high levels of service to protect today’s revenue and establish a relationship that would help sustain business going forward.

More talk of CX as an element of reward and rebate structures is inevitable as we move into 2024.

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