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The coronavirus has had a massive impact on the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) community and left customers and resellers scrambling to adapt.
Although there have been some losers as a result of the lockdown, there are signs that the long-term outlook for IT spend remains positive as more users start to accelerate their digital transformation plans.
Speaking in a keynote slot at Ingram Micro’s Cloud Summit, Mark Rice, general manager services partners, One Commercial Partner at Microsoft, quoted some research from Morgan Stanley around which technologies were currently winning and losing.
He said that remote working, collaboration, networking management, security and virtualisation had seen a positive impact, but areas negatively impacted were those projects that did not expect to deliver a return for a while, including some artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and machine learning efforts.
Rice said it was working through three phases – respond, recover and reimagine – to get the channel through the coronavirus.
“Different markets and different geographies will see different phases here in terms of the timeline, but we really see this respond, recover and reimagine as a way to really take on this opportunity and really plan,” he said.
Rice said Microsoft had seen the use of Teams double since the pandemic began, with 2.7 billion calling minutes and meetings a day on the platform. Developer productivity remained high on GitHub and Visual Studio and there had been a 3x increase in deployment by users of the virtual desktop.
“Microsoft cannot deliver any of this without our channel and our partners,” he added. “The focus is clearly on the customer and helping the customer move forward during this very difficult time.”
Rice said the expectation was that as customers enter the recover phase, they will be looking to partners to help them reduce the costs of home working and to make sure ROI is delivered quickly on projects that were green-lighted.
A few months down the line, the channel should help customers reimagine the way they work and use technology, he said.
“It still is, for us, all about how your customers are digitally transforming. How are they doing things from a security and virtualisation perspective?
“Even the smallest companies need to do things differently, do things more digital to survive and to become successful in the new world,” he said.
“We do the things that are right for the customer and we are making sure our partner ecosystem is a healthy, vibrant one in supporting those customers.”
Other sessions at the summit underlined the belief that the increase in remote working will be one of the long-lasting legacies of Covid-19.
Tarik Faouzi, vp CloudBlue, Ingram Micro Cloud, used his session at the virtual event to summarise some observations that the channel player has made about the current situation.
The first was that the fear of remote working has become a thing of the past as millions of workers across the globe were shut out of their offices during the lockdown.
“For those fortunate enough to be working these days, many or even most of you may be working remotely or from home,” said Faouzi. “There has been an astronomical adoption of messaging and collaboration applications.”
The surges in usage of Microsoft Teams and Zoom were evidence of the impact of this shift, and Faouzi said he expected those to remain high as remote working becomes the “new normal”.
“We are seeing that remote working is proving to be an efficient alternative to working in the office,” he said, adding that the distributor had run its own study, which had validated that experience and found that employees enjoyed greater flexibility and had increased their productivity.
But the downside of a distributed workforce is expected increases in shadow IT, which will increase the risks customers face if it is not managed, he said.
Faouzi warned resellers: “Right now, as companies are expanding and extending remote work, the chances of employees purchasing their own [SaaS] subscription increases,” he said. “You and your customers need to be ready.”
His second observation was that the adoption of the as-a-service economy has accelerated, with SaaS at the centre of the digital transformation shift. He added that those channel partners that had moved to service those needs were the most likely to weather the storm.
Finally, Faouzi highlighted the fact that agility was now a crucial attribute for successful companies. “We have been preaching about agility for years, but in light of the current crisis, companies’ ability to quickly pivot and shift direction is more important than ever,” he said.