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Canalys Channels Forum: The reseller of the future

The market demands have changed and the channel has to keep up with the hunger for digital, managed services and speed if it also wants to thrive, says Canalys

The annual Canalys Channel Forum Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) event has kicked off with the analyst house encouraging a greater adoption of managed services, increased awareness of sustainability and increased value as routes to future success.

Sessions on the macroeconomic climate, which covered the ongoing challenges caused by component shortages and the shift post-pandemic to hybrid working, were then followed by the thoughts of Alastair Edwards, chief analyst at Canalys, on what it means for the channel.

The first area covered was around value, with it clear that successful partners would be developing their proposition.

“Channel partners must raise their value to customers to remain relevant in this digital era. As we look forward, the technology industry is facing a new period of customer demand and expectation. Every business is digitised,” said Edwards. “We see the importance and relevance of the technology channel tied directly to its ability to help customers on that digital journey.”

Alongside the need to be a trusted digital partner, there is also the challenge of speed. Customers expect help as soon as they need it, and matching that demand is going to be difficult in a market where skilled staff and digital investment take time to find and implement.

“We’re facing this dilemma in the industry and the channel about how to meet these new demands in terms of speed of access and availability, while lead times and skill shortages are actually getting worse for channel partners. The changing adoption expectation of customers is one of the biggest challenges ahead,” said Edwards.

“Channel partners who digitise their businesses fast enough are going to be the ones that thrive. The past 18 months have been shown partners that embrace digital technologies in their own businesses are those who have leapt ahead of the competition.

“Those who have adopted digital marketing and sales techniques, developed new managed services, and prioritised flexibility and innovation through AI and automation are more successful.”

Data skills were also becoming important, both at a customer and business level, said Edwards, who pointed to the recent changes to the HP Amplify channel programme as evidence of how information was becoming critical across the wider ecosystem to improve results.

“As more of the industry moves to software and subscriptions, this is going to become one of the most important ways to create unique services to enhance customer experiences and deliver value. We already see distributors and large channel partners waking up to this opportunity,” he added.

“We also see data underpinning as-a-service and managed service models in the channel, and the ability to drive higher contracts, customer retention and renewals, automation and observability technologies will underpin this new wave of managed services.”

He pointed to HPE GreenLake and Dell’s Apex offering as examples of the growth of the as-a-service approach, and said that those vendors would be looking to prioritise partners with digital skills.

Another prediction of future growth centred on workplace transformation, which the analyst house is expecting to drive a surge in channel activity around devices, infrastructure and services.

There are also signs that sustainability is having an impact on the channel, with customers looking to work with those that have solid credentials and can show environmental commitments.

“Our research shows that globally, only one in three partners is running some form of ESG [environmental, social and governance] initiatives internally as sustainability, diversity and inclusion become critical priorities for your customers. You’re going to find yourself at a competitive disadvantage if you’re not in that third of the channel investing in those metrics,” warned Edwards.

“Does this mean that traditional resale is dead? The answer, you’ll be glad to hear, is no, but the reseller of the future is going to look very different,” he added.

Future characteristics

Canalys has identified five abilities that a modern channel partner should possess:

  1. A range of buying options.
  2. Monitoring and managing capabilities.
  3. Predictive analytics.
  4. Next-generation e-commerce models.
  5. Sustainability running through every offer.

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