In-depth: The chance for the channel to exploit bank holidays

When people look back at 2011 and think of April they will no doubt remember the Royal Wedding and the unusual summer like conditions enjoyed by most of the country.

When people look back at 2011 and think of April they will no doubt remember the Royal Wedding and the unusual summer like conditions enjoyed by most of the country. But for businesses in the channel it will be the sheer volume of bank holidays that littered last month and have continued into this, that have had a real impact on business, writes Amro Gebreel.

One reseller went as far as to confide that it was "forgetting April altogether" as a result of the combination of the Royal Wedding and Easter holidays and was hoping it could get back to normal as quickly as possible.

But business didn't grind to a halt and although sitting out so many trading days was frustrating for those at the coalface hoping to keep the solid start to the year going, the break provided a chance for the channel to invest the time wisely.

Differing opinions over the impact of bank holidays range from those frustrated with the disruption to others more prepared to concentrate on using the downtime for constructive development.

Mike Risley, commercial director of Nolan Business Solutions, mused on the disruption caused to trading which is in addition to escalating inflation and near daily hikes in the price of oil.

"The last thing those running UK businesses needed was a series of back to back bank holidays - and the attendant business cost and delay," he said.

The impact of days off don't just mean lost business but delays to making customer payments to failing to respond to a problem with a customer order.

"There were just 17 working days in April, compared to 23 in March. That is a serious reduction in productivity, during a time when most businesses, and to be fair their employees, are working harder than ever to keep operating," added Risley.

Dave Stevinson, sales director at VIP Computers, talks about bank holidays having "an economics of their own".

"While everyone enjoys a day off, they're generally acknowledged to be bad for the economy. Two in a row is particularly bad, since so many people will take the days off inbetween. The Telegraph have totted up that all the work that isn't being done comes to £5bn," he says.

"The channel won't be hit any harder than any other industry. I'm all for a double four-day bank holiday every year, but in economic terms, it's probably a bad idea," he added.

One of the most obvious answers to the bank holiday conundrum is to establish systems that can be accessed remotely to enable those business tasks that have to be carried out to continue to function even when the office is empty.

"Leveraging remote working could be the best answer to reducing business disruption," says Risley.

But in the long-term scheme of things those involved in more detailed projects should find the bank holidays just a minor blip.

"While the bank holidays and reduced working days may have some impact in the channel's ability to close general, run rate business, it's unlikely to affect larger, strategic projects. It's times like this where cloud and managed services, with their recurring revenue models, are very useful for building steady business streams for resellers," said David Ellis, director of new technology and services at Computerlinks.

At a senior buyer level, the CEO and CIO, the impact of a bank holiday is unlikely to have any real effect on plans that will have been set out months in advance.

"If the project managers have planned accordingly, product should already have been ordered and delivered and services provisioned to suit project timeframes," said Scott Tyson, EMEA channel manager at Bradford Networks.

"As a matter of fact, a lot of SI Partners will use these holidays as a way of doing refresh and new IT projects whilst offices, factories and so on are unoccupied, to allow rapid installations," he added.

"Does it impact the buying decisions of CTO/CFO's? No, unless having some time off in the sun puts them in a better frame of mind to spend more!," said Andrew Binding, vice president of Northern Europe region at Magirus.

He believes that the negatives are more than balanced out by the positives of synching holiday time among staff.

"The only downside of all these bank holidays is the delayed collection of outstanding debts which may have a cash flow impact for some businesses. However, on the positive side it has allowed staff to take a lot of leave when everybody else is doing the same.  This is not only good for the staff but will help later in the summer with managing holiday time," he said.

But it's not just developers and IT staff that get the chance to use the downtime effectively with the channel also able to use breaks in business in a positive way.

"Whilst not providing direct revenue or increased sales, bank holidays can provide valuable downtime for the channel. In this quieter time when customers are taking long periods of holiday, the channel is presented with the rare opportunity to consume training, upskill and prepare itself to deliver skilled service over the coming year. In the long term this benefits the channel, since it will help partners and resellers to deliver a better quality of service in the future," said Kevin Bland, Citrix channel director UK, Ireland and South Africa.

Bland also echoes the comments made by Risley around flexible working, pointing out that the edges between time off and working days are already blurring.

"Out of the office no longer means offline or out of touch, as flexible working maintains communication from various locations. Projects no longer need to suffer, as colleagues and bosses can be reached from remote locations during holiday periods and the authorisation chain remains intact," he adds.

But for those resellers that were lucky enough to have an angle on last month's historic events then there was clearly some money to be made.

"The Centre for Retail Research estimates the retail gain from the royal wedding as £527.1m. Which is great for the retail sector," said Stevinson.

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