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It's been a year of positive change for the channel

It is that time of year when the channel can look back over the last twelve months and for many the main theme of 2015 has been one of positive change

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: MicroScope: MicroScope: January 2016

With just a few days left before we all don silly humpers, paper hats and do some last minute present shopping it seems like a good time to get the views of the channel of just how 2015 has been.

It was a year that saw the launch of Windows 10, the announcement of the biggest tech deal with Dell looking to acquire EMC and more talk about "business/digital transformation" than you could ever cope with.

When it came to the business side of things the year was not that different from previous ones with the need for the channel to develop relationships with customers as important as it always has been.

Dave Stanley, director of  Aditinet, described 2015 as, "a repeat of previous years in respect of channels needing to get closer to their clients and suppliers".

"However, we are seeing a bigger polarisation around sales process and services capabilities. More sales focussed VARS are partnering with services suppliers to ensure a better experience to their customers. Key players are looking at new ways to strengthen their relationships with customers, in a way where they are not held back by product or push. We see this as part of an ongoing trend from a collaboration perspective," he added.

The channel itself continued to develop this year with the move towards more managed services and higher levels of consultancy a trend that was noticed by a fair few observers.

Ross Baker, sales & channel director for Trend Micro in the UK, put more staff into supporting the channel over the course of the last twelve months and saw changes emerging in the partner base.

"In 2015 in particular we have seen the emergence of technically led partners as opposed to “licensing houses.” Our solutions are deployed in complex environments and the customer expects a full service from partners, not just a cheaper price and a fast response to a quotation request. We have also seen partners emerge in our channel who purely exist to deliver professional services. As a result our customer satisfaction, based on retention is on the increase," he said.

For those resellers that have been able to react to the demand for more flexible IT delivery the rewards have been there with Rupert Collier, senior channel manager UK and Ireland at Paessler AG, pointing out that its top three partners had increased year-on-year revenues by an average of 75%.

"We believe one of the main drivers for growth, alongside the improvement in the economy in general, has been the growing reliance of our customers on the benefits of hosted computing services and the companies that provide them. Start-ups and SMBs no longer want to tie up valuable capital in depreciating IT assets, so the more they can outsource to trustworthy, reliable partners, the simpler life becomes for them," he said.

The channel is constantly evolving and for those that started working with an indirect model in 2015 have also found that the market is bouyant and providing opportunities for fresh entrants.

Christopher Sharp, senior partner manager at cloud software specialist Exact, has enjoyed the first year of selling via resellers.

"This year has been Exact’s first foray into the channel and has gone from strength to strength. By June we were seeing sales coming to fruition across the UK as we have been gaining complete UKI coverage with multi-skilled, top tier partners," he said.

"We have signed up 12 fantastic partners so far this year, which vary in size, location and product focus, but are looking to treble that number in 2016. We’re looking for partners in the South East and South West in particular as still need coverage in these areas,"he added.

Change has not just been isolated to the reseller level with distribution also having a busy time as they expanded cloud capabilities and looked to acquisition to bring on board additional skills and expertise.

One of those that gained from the investment being ploughed into that tier of the channel was Wick Hill, which got backing from Rigby Private Equity.

"In addition to significant continued growth in sales and staff, we also received significant investment from Rigby Private Equity to support and facilitate our EMEA expansion plans, which have moved forward very rapidly," said Ian Kilpatrick, chairman of Wick Hill Group.

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