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The cyber security channel – what’s in store for 2021?

Ben Richardson, head of channel EMEA at Forcepoint, shares his thoughts about what cyber security could look like in the year ahead

The channel business has always been a people-first business. One of the things I have missed the most this year is the ability to gather in person with my partners and colleagues to just catch up.

We’ve really missed out on those “water cooler moments” – the ability to benefit from chance encounters and random conversations. If we could be congregating in our offices and coffee shops right now, it feels highly likely that we’d all be discussing one topic – what will next year look like for cyber security?

A consolidated market

The next 12 months are set to bring consolidation within the cyber security channel. There will be a wave of mergers and acquisitions (M&A), in some cases driven by companies that are anxious about cash flow, seeing 2021 as an ideal moment to sell up and move on.

A consolidated market will mean simplicity for customers – and it’s about time. The cyber security challenge has been overburdened by complexity for years. Customers will be eased from the temptation to layer too many different products within their IT infrastructure and thereby reap the benefits of managing converged platforms.

For those that choose to stay active in this consolidated market, there will be huge opportunities. Recent research from Accenture highlighted that damage related to cyber crime is projected to hit $6tn annually by 2021, and that 68% of business leaders feel their cyber security risks are increasing.

There has never been a greater need for customers to invest in cyber security tools that can help keep both their businesses and their people safe.

Two-pronged approach

Forcepoint will be sure to seize these opportunities, with a focus on a frictionless partner ecosystem with a more highlighted approach to investment with key partners.

2020 has seen Forcepoint invest heavily in its global systems integrators and large enterprise partners, as it builds deeper participation in its services ecosystem and encourage its partners to become more strategic consultants to customers. Services-led provision of advanced certification and training processes have been continually pushed with this in mind.

Forcepoint will also be evolving its approach to mid-market companies. In this area, it’s building its enhanced support for both its distribution partners and those channel partners in this growing market. The goal here is to provide predictable and profitable opportunities to the mid-market, while continuing to deliver top-quality training and support.

Democratisation of insider threat

One major area of growth we’ll see next year for the mid-market is the demand for services that might have previously felt out of reach for companies looking to better their cyber security posture.

In years gone by, behavioural analytics and insider threat solutions might have seemed like a step too far – too resource-heavy and too complex for companies typically prioritising traditional infrastructure-centric security solutions.

But now, cyber security vendors and partners responsible for selling these tools find themselves facing an unusual moment of serendipity. Customers aren’t just mindful of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance, they’re also conscious that they’ve spent the past nine months working through accelerated digital transformation brought on by the technical demands of secure remote working.

The result? Companies are now much more cloud-centric than they might have first anticipated two years ago, and are now ready much earlier to adopt advanced cyber security capabilities.

With the perimeter essentially dissolved, more companies of all sizes are now in a position where they can really see the benefit of tools that give them meaningful visibility and immediate action into risky user behaviour.

This significantly reduces their risk exposure by bringing forward both detection and response to the earliest points in the chain. For the cyber security channel, this means plenty of opportunity to sell solutions that would have previously been kept on the shelf for their largest customers.

Greater responsibility

This year will also be the year of greater responsibility. We’ll start to see channel partners take on more responsibility for their customers’ data, with many opting to sign up to joint risk sharing agreements with end users.

A consolidated market will bring greater simplicity for customers, but the cyber security challenge will still feel exhausting for chief information security officers (CISOs) and IT managers to keep ahead of – especially as they adapt to cyber security solutions new to their IT infrastructure.

Customers will therefore need to rely on partners that can step up and become an extension of their team. Not only will this include greater responsibility for where data is housed, touched and shared, it will also include the overall management of cyber security and data protection programmes. Especially as they continue to evolve during such intense periods of digital transformation, both during and after the pandemic.

The road ahead

The previous year might not have given us as much time for what we might have previously thought of as ‘small talk’, but it has given us plenty of time to consider what our business relationships will look like for the road ahead.

For our partners and customers, we’ve been glad to continue developing ways for everyone at every level to grow next year. We’re excited to see them take advantage of what could be a fascinating period for the cyber security industry as the market starts to shift.

We’re also looking forward to seeing our entire ecosystem thrive as more users simplify their IT infrastructure and better their cyber security posture, especially now that the world seems ready to embrace permanent hybrid working models.

Most importantly, we’ll be keen to spend more time with people face-to-face when lockdown restrictions lift. Remote working certainly has its benefits (I don’t imagine anyone’s really missing their commute!), but there’s still something to be said for checking in with your network personally. I’m sure after such an eventful year, we’ll have plenty to catch up on.

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