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Enhancing the role of the channel essential for the tech industry

Ben Boswell, Vice President for Europe at World Wide Technology (WWT), discusses how vendors and the channel need to work together to ensure outstanding outcomes for customers

Three quarters of CEOs around the world are convinced of the need to implement a robust strategy for tech change, but many struggle with inflexible technology, lack of skills to implement the technology and the risk of an IT failure.

By the time this year is out, enterprises around the world will have invested $1.3 trillion (USD) into various technologies as part of digital transformation initiatives. As many as 70% of these initiatives will not achieve their stated outcomes, meaning that over $900bn of spend could be missing the mark.

The cost of digital failures is enormous, and decision makers within companies are constantly trying to balance technology investments against rising costs. This can lead to a constant vicious cycle of increasing costs or lagging behind competitors in the industry. The question is whether business customers will continue to hand over such large cheques to the technology industry if this proportion of initiatives fail to deliver the desired outcomes.

To avert this risk, the technology industry, now more than ever, needs an active set of channel players who will act as more than just a point of product procurement. The channel has to bridge the gap between expectations and outcomes for customers when it comes to tech change. Experts within the channel need to be in a position to step back and identify from the outset the tangible business outcomes to be achieved. Working to identify, deliver and integrate the technology companies need in order to achieve the outcomes they seek – in a way that’s fast and doesn’t waste resources – should also be within the scope of these active channel players. 

Traditionally, VARs’ focus has been on selling products with services attached to that product, and then delivering managed services to the outside of it. Typically, there's not a lot of innovation in this sale – they are selling a product to meet a requirement. Now, VARs need to go the extra mile to not only provide a complete ‘turn-key’ solution, but ensure the products companies are procuring are suitable to their requirements and are used effectively to deliver real innovation and business results. This requires the ability to connect the dots between technology functions and business needs, ensuring that ideas are turned into outcomes. Vendors and business customers alike will benefit from channel partners who can do this.

Business customers need channel players to help them create a roadmap which recognises their needs and the strategic outcomes they are aiming to achieve. Once this has been mapped out, channel providers can not only ensure the right technology is procured from vendors. They can also test the technology for proof of concept within a virtualised replica of the company’s environment, and then tailor the integration process for the technology investment to reach its full potential. The success seen with this approach offers a striking lesson about digital transformation: the approach to technology adoption, rather than simply the technology you adopt, is the differentiator. Customers and vendors both need partners with a sophisticated approach towards adoption, who can demonstrate, integrate and deploy innovative technology products and solutions to achieve business outcomes.

Vendors have a part in creating this state of affairs by training channel partners and assuring customers of the partner’s capability. One way of doing this is by identifying and accrediting the channel partners who actually fulfil this promise. Many firms provide a framework for partners, helping them build the skills required to deliver solutions to end customers, and regularly audit partners against it.

These certifications, such as the Cisco Gold Certification which WWT recently achieved in the UK, validate important factors such as the skills, support capabilities, and business practices of channel companies as well as the satisfaction of their customers.

Given the growing role that channel partners can now play in digital success, it is critical that customers are confident of these factors when choosing a trusted partner. Cisco’s Gold Certification programme, which requires the broadest range of expertise across multiple technologies, is an example of the rigorous standards which vendors should ask of their channel partners.

The time is now for the channel to shift from simple value added reselling towards end-to-end business consulting and technology integration. The renewed focus on supply chains, in a time of uncertainty for travel and border regulations amidst the ongoing Brexit negotiations, is an opportunity for channel players to seize the moment and expand their strategic position as drivers of industrial growth. To ensure the fulfilment of the long-heralded promise of digital transformation, the industry needs a more active channel with an enhanced role in technology adoption.  


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