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Tech is at the forefront of customer needs

The channel has had a good year so far and there are reasons to be optimistic about that continuing into 2021

At a time of great global uncertainty, the channel finds itself operating in an industry that has come to the fore.

Numerous CEOs and industry commentators have shared their views at virtual events in recent weeks that IT is proving to be one of the most important industries and has withstood much of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Steve Brazier, president and CEO of Canalys, spoke at the analyst house’s recent Channel Forums event about this being the best time for the channel.

“Technology has won, the channel has won, distributors have won – it’s actually turned into a very good year and we couldn’t have predicted that,” he said. “The channel in Europe will also have the most profitable year ever.”

Brazier added: “In the first three quarters of this year, the channel grew 4% in revenue terms, which, under the economic circumstances, was a phenomenal result. We predict that next year it is very reasonable [to expect] the channel will grow by 5% to 10%, and some will outgrow that as well. The opportunities are enormous.”

Speaking on the release of Softcat’s full-year numbers, CEO Graeme Watt also agreed that the channel had shown resilience and had many reasons to feel positive about the future.

“We are pretty sure that IT spending will bounce back in full because IT is at the heart of what business and public sector entities need to be competitive and agile to do the things they are setting out to do,” he said. “Technology isn’t discretionary any more, it’s part of the fabric of companies – they need it to compete and deliver outcomes.”

Watt added that the reasons for investment remained in place and firms would have to resume investments soon.

“These companies need to spend on technology,” he said. “They need to be mobile-ready and we are seeing that in many companies already, and they need to be cloud-ready and they need all of their technologies to be secure, so it’s just a question of time.

“I think it is as good as ever and we are very excited about the opportunity.”

Watt added that 5G, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine learning and edge computing were just some of the areas that were driving demand.

With the shift to home working and questions remaining about future working patterns, there has also been a greater focus on productivity and Brother has shared research that indicates customer spending is also increasing in that area.

The firm found that many customers have increased their focus on productivity and 84% have increased their efforts to boost productivity since the coronavirus hit in March. Many are increasing investment in technologies to support that ambition, with IT budgets set to rise in this area by an average of 13% in the next 12 months.

Money is being spent on a range of products and services, including printers, collaboration software and remote working tools.

Andy Johnson, head of product and solutions management at Brother UK, said increasing productivity is an ambition for many businesses.

“While it’s positive news that businesses are prepared to make investments that will boost the efficiency of their operations, we know productivity is often seen as a real puzzle,” he said. “Resellers are in a unique position to support businesses by offering simple, time-saving and cost-effective measures that can be implemented to streamline IT operations and processes to deliver tangible value.

“Productivity is all about working smarter, and together, these smaller investments can deliver a big gain for businesses.”

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