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How to address Covid-19 in the long run and maintain a healthy business

Christian Alvarez, senior vice-president of worldwide channels at Nutanix, shares his advice around adapting to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic

We’ve all experienced huge changes to our working and personal lives over the past year, with one of the biggest being the shift to remote working. And as the new year begins, it looks like remote working is here to stay.

To put this into context, Nutanix’s 2019 Enterprise cloud index survey reported that around 27% of organisations had no full-time remote workers. That number dropped to 7% in 2020 due to Covid-19. By 2022, the survey indicates that there will still be a low level – only 13% – of companies with no full-time remote employees.

Improving IT infrastructure and work-from-home capabilities have therefore become priorities for the next 12 to 18 months. So, what does this mean for the channel in terms of supporting customers and in partners sustaining their own businesses during these seismic shifts?

Maintaining momentum

The good news is that current figures show that the channel is not only surviving the economic downturn, it is thriving. The pandemic highlighted the essential role that technology played in ensuring new remote workforces were rolled out almost overnight, with partners helping their customers navigate the new working environment.

Elsewhere, digital transformation efforts have been accelerated, with the channel playing a central role. As such, the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) IT channel grew 4% in the first three-quarters of this year, according to channel analyst Canalys.

It is essential that the channel maintains that momentum into 2021 and beyond, but how? As a channel organisation, this is your opportunity to go the extra mile for your customers. Now more than ever, you should listen to their challenges – because they are certainly not the same as they were at the start of 2020. There will be new hurdles to overcome, and each organisation will have different needs and priorities. 

This is the perfect time to strengthen your customer relationships and to provide guidance and consultation to help them navigate these uncertain times. Speak with customers about how you can help them to reduce costs, improve productivity or streamline their operations. Currently, many organisations are looking to do more with less, so understand their objectives and work together to accomplish these goals.

Also, don’t be afraid to suggest something that’s “out of the box”. All organisations have been forced to adapt quickly to new working practices this year, often adopting technologies they have never used before. Keep the momentum going by opening your customers up to new ways of thinking and innovative solutions that can help them build on this new-found agility.

For example, the pandemic has shifted organisations’ focus to the cloud, enabling them to quickly stand up their remote workforces. There has been a surge in user computing and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions.

Last year, Gartner predicted that desktop as a service (DaaS) would be the current fastest-growing category of all cloud services. The market was set to grow by 95.4% over the course of 2020, and by 2022 it will be four times as large as it was in 2019.

Additionally, we see automation becoming more important to customers. For example, we’re seeing increased demand for database as a service (DBaaS) as organisations rely more on the cloud to enable their distributed workforces.

Going digital

It’s not just customers that have been forced to accelerate their move to digital – the channel has too. With face-to-face meetings off the table, partners will need to employ digital platforms for marketing and creating sales opportunities. These might range from digital campaigns to social media to webinars.

Many vendors are offering pre-packaged and customisable digital marketing campaigns to help partners, alongside financial incentives, extending certifications or by providing free training during this period. Get to know these tools and learn how they can help you to secure more business moving forward.

And remember, it’s your job to be the trusted adviser to your customers. That means asking the right questions and truly understanding what they are trying to achieve. For example, it may be tempting for them to turn to cookie cutter public cloud offerings based on the relative ease of spinning up new applications. However, vendor lock-in remains an issue, and it might be difficult for the customer to extricate themselves once locked into a proprietary public cloud solution.

It is therefore worth having a conversation about some of the new hybrid cloud solutions on the market. Three-quarters of organisations say their investments in hybrid cloud have increased as a direct result of the pandemic, including public and private clouds. These enable customers to easily move their applications from on-premise to off-premise, from the datacentre to the public cloud, where they effectively benefit from the best of both worlds.

At a time when budgets are being reined in, advise customers on what will deliver them the greatest value for their organisation, and how subscription models can help them achieve their goals faster and with less upfront investment in IT.

Additionally, many organisations’ internal IT teams are currently overstretched as they try to ensure a seamless and secure working environment for employees. Discuss with them how managed services can free up IT’s time and resources so they can focus on other revenue-generating activities.

Ultimately, going the extra mile for your customers now will pay off in the long term – whether that’s offering longer payment terms or just putting greater effort into understanding their challenges and their desired business outcomes. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so advise them on the best solutions that will suit their individual organisation, and you will ensure your own business thrives beyond the current crisis.

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