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The skills equation in the channel is perceived as following this simple pattern: the customer cannot handle the technology themselves, so they turn to a partner that has the expertise.
The channel is cast as the knight in shining armour, the provider of 24/7 support and the home of the answers that users need.
But getting skilled staff on board and maintaining that position of expertise takes effort and, according to research from Sage, is one of the top concerns for partners.
When the vendor surveyed partners on both sides of the Atlantic, it found that cloud computing expertise and cyber security skills were most demanded from new talent in the UK, with a sizeable portion also looking for evidence of coding skills.
There were clear signs that partners have been investing in skills, with many upskilling the workforce with a focus on technical and e-commerce areas.
Looking ahead, the expectation across the channel is that the pressure to invest in skills will not ease off. Areas that will continue to see activity include cyber security service provision, software-as-a-service (SaaS) application management and public cloud consumption, as the channel makes sure it can meet customer needs.
When predicting areas of investment for their customers over the coming months, almost half (49%) believed customers would look to grow their datacentre management revenue, while 40% said there would be a sharp focus on generating revenues from data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) software enablement.
Efficiency, intelligence and automation
Almost one-third (30%) of the 1,000 resellers questioned also felt that users would be looking for help with efficiency, intelligence and automation of their business processes or operations.
Sage also found that skilled staff were not only sought to help the channel support customers, but there was also pressure to find talented staff who could help partners run their own businesses.
“Customers are looking to their channel partners to help make digitisation a reality as they embrace new revenue streams and invest with an eye on the future,” said Aziz Benmalek, president of Sage North America and executive vice-president of its global partner organisation.
“They are being asked to provide expertise in the most complex technological areas – from protection against the latest cyber threats to the enablement of AI and ML [machine learning].”
“This requires the channel workforce to shift. At Sage, we are prioritising providing our channel partners with the tools and technology tools needed to thrive,” he added.
As well as using its partner conference as a forum to share the research, Sage announced a number of high-profile financial partnerships to underline the strength of its ecosystem.
The firm revealed it had formed partnerships with Lloyds Bank, Satago and Automatic Data Processing, which Benmalek said would benefit partners.
“The partnerships we have announced ... offer our resellers the opportunity to put enterprise-grade solutions into the hands of SMB customers,” he said. “What the past two years have taught us is that there is no turning back on digitisation.”