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The coronavirus pandemic has given the channel, long pitched as adding value, the opportunity to underline just how it can support customers.
Over the course of the Covid-19 crisis, the channel has been described in some quarters as “heroic” for the work done, particularly with the NHS, to keep firms running. Others have said that without MSPs there would have been a catastrophe in the SME market, which relies on the channel to keep the lights on.
Now, adding his voice to the growing number that have praised the managed service provider community is Network Group chairman Perry Ashby.
“It is clear to me that the IT channel has demonstrated real strength over this period, being agile and proactively helping customers adapt to the ‘new normal’, proving that they not only provide integral support to their clients, but also an essential service,” said Ashby.
Looking back over 2020, he said the challenges faced by MSPs and their customers were unprecedented.
“MSPs and tech providers played a huge role in the digital transformation efforts that began last spring, not only dealing with the panic buying and preparation for work-from-home – cue huge demand for monitors, keyboards and mobile computing devices – but also a sudden reliance for core IT support, mobilising customers to work remotely and assisting with the rapid adoption of cloud software, collaboration platforms and security systems,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a more challenging time for tech providers, coping not only with increased demand, but also with increased expectation. Workloads trebled overnight and every support ticket raised required high urgency. By doing more, at pace, those MSPs and IT retailers were at the forefront of this transition and proved vital in ensuring many businesses were able to remain open.”
Many MSPs have found the last 10 or 11 months among some of their busiest and there have been opportunities to help customers with digital transformation projects. But for shopfront dealers, the situation has been tough, with a series of lockdowns and enforced closures. Even now many are shuttered or having to operate on a click-and-collect basis.
Ashby warned that there might be longer-term consequences from the pandemic that those shopfront dealers would have to be prepared for.
“Perhaps the longer-term challenge for those in this space will be dealing with the changing psyche of consumers, those who were forced to buy online and now have formed new shopping habits,” he said. “The purchasing journey has undoubtedly changed over the past 10 months and IT retailers will need to be creative to win back business lost to online.”
The Network Group is an industry organisation that represents MSPs and IT retailers and Ashby reminded the channel that there were benefits of being part of a wider community.
“For me, being a member of a community or peer group provides this support, offering an environment where like-minded people can share information in the knowledge that you are not alone,” he said. “In times of adversity, this can be very powerful.”