The pandemic has changed the very nature of our world, including how businesses – including IT channel resellers, service providers and VARs – deliver goods and services to their customers. Forced to suddenly and significantly revamp processes, the channel ecosystem has stepped up to help clients transition dozens, hundreds or even thousands of employees to work from home (WFH). This extraordinary effort by channel companies to respond to a rapidly changing world and closely partner with their customers has created positive synergies and goodwill, strengthening the client/partner relationship.
Now that the initial “all-hands-on-deck” distribution of IT equipment and applications to employees now working remotely has passed, partner organizations are planning for the next phase – much of which remains unknown. Many of channel customers are still figuring out what comes next, including how to gradually return personnel to an office setting or whether to have workers toggle back and forth between home and traditional offices. Some businesses may choose to follow the lead of some of the world’s largest companies — including Google, Viacom and Sony Music — and commit to permanent WFH policies, at least until 2021. In fact, according to Gartner, 48% of employees will likely work remotely (at least part of the time) after the pandemic, compared to 30% pre-COVID-19.
Despite the unknowns, one thing is certain: We’ll be navigating this pandemic for some time to come, perhaps well into 2021, and channel partners will need to be more agile than ever, continually adapting in order to survive and, more importantly, even thrive.
Meet Challenges with Solutions
With this year’s seismic shift in business operations, different segments of the channel ecosystem face very different challenges, including how partners can best advise their customers about solutions that will allow for working flexibility while ensuring best data security practices. More than ever, partners must fully understand the current state of the IT channel if they are to take advantage of the business opportunities that have emerged.
Below are challenges facing four segments of the channel, and ways these companies can adapt to the current business environment:
Challenge 1: Smaller MSPs were harder hit by lockdowns, as many cater to small and mid-sized customers in the services sector, such as restaurants and hospitality businesses. This is an ideal time for these service providers to obtain new certifications and gain new skill sets that will enable them to offer more remote services to their clientele, for example, low code application development which can bolster collaboration capabilities. Also, because smaller MSP organizations are more nimble, there may be opportunities to partner with other MSPs which will help these companies expand their portfolios and their reach into new markets as well.
Challenge 2: Larger MSPs must identify the best ways to manage IT operations for their clients, with remote management playing an important role right now. MSPs with expertise in network and endpoint data security, IT infrastructure management and unified communications will be key to the success of their customers’ ongoing digital transformation projects. The ability to help their clients to manage the digital workplace, and all that entails, including reliance on SaaS and the cloud, makes larger MSP organizations the ideal partner for companies struggling to achieve business continuity and data security during the pandemic, and beyond.
Challenge 3: As the move from on-prem to the cloud accelerated due to the pandemic, global system integrators (GSIs), which have extensive expertise in helping companies decommission on-prem data centers and migrate this functionality to the cloud, have stepped up to assist their customers with large, enterprise-wide projects. The expertise and efforts of global integrators have not gone unnoticed by their customers and partners during this tumultuous time. This will undoubtedly lead to an increase in sales opportunities, especially in the sphere of remote deployments and secure data erasure, both of which are critical to making sure no residual data remains on data center servers and equipment during and after the migration is complete.
Challenge 4: As COVID-19 spread across the U.S., forcing businesses to implement WFH policies, VARs provided immediate support to their customers by providing the IT assets they needed to equip their employees for success. Now that the initial shock and crisis has passed, this is the ideal time for VARs to extend their offerings by learning new services and solutions that can help maintain the security integrity on those remote assets and expand to new markets, healthcare for example. Frost & Sullivan predicts the telehealth market will experience seven-fold growth by 2025, with a year-over-year increase of 64.3% expected in 2020. VARs that are able to break into this rapidly growing market can help equip healthcare providers with the equipment they need to securely serve patients, which will be a challenge for smaller clinics and doctor’s offices.
As the COVID-19 pandemic increasingly appears to be a long-term rather than a short-term crisis, decision-makers across the globe – including those in the channel – must understand that business as we know it may never go back to pre-pandemic operations. The channel companies that are able to refocus and adapt by serving their customers’ changing needs, adding new services, and creating efficiencies and flexibility in their processes, will be in a better position to survive this current crisis today and far more prepared for those yet to come.