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Canalys: Channel optimistic despite threat of challenging 2023

Channel Forum event concludes with a sense that although there are clouds on the economic horizon, the fundamentals for the channel are sound and the reasons for customers to keep spending still exist

The channel is bracing for a challenging 2023, but remains optimistic that customers will keep spending on IT and there will be areas of growth.

A panel of channel leaders shared their views around the prospects for next year at the closing session of the Canalys Channels Forum, with it clear that there will be a hit from the macro economic conditions, but cautious optimism remained.

The channel has enjoyed a few strong years and there is a sense that even with rising energy prices, a dip in the PC market and political turmoil, investments in cloud, security and infrastructure will continue.

“I think demand will weaken in some parts, probably through slower decision-making from corporates, but I don’t think it’s going to collapse,” said James Rigby, EMEA chief executive at SCC.

“Those of us who have been around long enough will have seen previous recessions where spending was cut heavily. All that happens then is clients build up big technical debt. So I think clients are wise to that these days. They have to modernise, they have to digitise, so they’re going to be reluctant to build up lots of debt.”

Rigby said that in the short term, cash would be important and those in the channel that had relied on private equity would have to be careful.

But he saw areas of growth, with the ongoing shift to subscription models continuing, providing some brightness amidst the gloom.

“Public cloud is continuing to grow, but I think also the on-prem cloud models will start to resonate this year quite strongly,” he said. “Secondly, any tools that enhance productivity and cost will resonate. Collaboration and unified comms I pick out as a big growth area.”

Rigby added that security remained a significant area of interest for customers and there were also opportunities around data visualisation. “A lot of clients are interested in using data to look at, and improve the performance of, their business,” he said. “I think data visualisation is an area that will resonate with customers.”

Another member of the panel, Martin Mayr, senior vice-president at Cancom, said his firm was holding discussions internally to plan for next year and it was “cautiously optimistic” because it felt the business was in a decent position because of its approach to the market and diverse customer base.

“We are happy to have diversified into different customer sections like the public sector, which is supposed to be very stable, but also the private sector, and then we have different types of offering and we are very into managed services, which are very stable and solid,” he said. “So these won’t be harmed or affected in any way, we think.

“On the security side, we have very steep growth ahead of us. So overall, we are cautiously optimistic and I’m glad we are not into just selling tonnes of notebooks and servers.”

Alastair Edwards, chief analyst at Canalys, said he had been struck by the optimsm from channel partners at the event. “Many of you are still positive about the immediate future,” he said. “Next year is obviously looking more uncertain, but still, many of you have cash, many of you are coming out of the pandemic in a very healthy position.

“I expected more negativity. I think everyone’s generally of the view that there is still a long runway of growth, even with all the challenges ahead.”

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