Laurent - stock.adobe.com
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been the technology of the year, certainly in terms of the number of headlines and conversations about it, but there remains a challenge to turn that talk into revenue for the channel.
As minds turn towards what the year ahead will look like, most industry commentators are highlighting AI as one of the main themes. But there is also an admission that vendors will have to step up to help identify where partners can deliver solutions.
Sharing some thoughts about 2024, Ralf Jordan, vice-president channel EMEA at Lenovo, recognised the role vendors would need to play in supporting partners around AI.
“Channel partners are already keen to ride the wave of AI. Everyone is talking about it, whether they are in the technology business or not. But the challenge for IT vendors over the coming year is to inspire channel partners to understand how they can use AI to solve real business challenges,” he said.
“Technology vendors can give partners the confidence to unlock their imaginations in terms of what AI could bring to customers. Partners need to figure out who to work with, which solutions to use, and what business models to adopt. IT vendors can help channel partners understand the answers to these problems, and in turn help customers start their AI journey,” he added.
There is also a recognition that AI will lead to more of an ecosystem effort, with vendor channel leaders having to work across their partner base.
“IT vendors need to access state-of-the-art AI solutions, allowing customers to deploy AI faster, safely and more efficiently. Key to this is providing access to a partner ecosystem, including AI independent software vendors [ISVs] across various applications and services,” said Jordan.
“Partnerships will be crucial here. One of the major roadblocks to wider AI adoption is the fact that even if companies buy the best software or hardware, there can still be issues harnessing the technology and ensuring employees have the right skills to maximise their AI investments,” he added.
“It is crucial that IT vendors have initiatives in place to combat these challenges. For example, the Lenovo AI Innovators Program works closely with AI software companies, letting partners connect with AI and hardware experts to ensure everything works, helping the channel to take advantage of the opportunities of AI,” he said.
Jordan said ISVs would be the first to reap the AI rewards, but it was a significant wider opportunity, according to Canalys, with generative AI predicted by the analyst firm to offer the channel a $158.6m market by 2028.
Jordan said hybrid cloud and multicloud would be significant areas for growth next year, and edge offered fresh sales opportunities for partners.
“Edge computing offers a new chance for channel partners to deliver specialist solutions to sectors that are hungry to bring the computing to the data, rather than vice-versa. This technology is considered the backbone of modern digital transformation and, as a result, will be an increasing presence in the channel in the coming years,” he said.