There are a few good years left of selling hardware-based IT to an ever-dwindling proportion of the addressable market. By the time all customers find out what many of them already know, a whole fleet of gravy trains will be rusting in the sidings.
Individuals acquire less music and video than in years past, choosing to consume instead by using services such as Spotify and Netflix. Businesses choose not to waste capex on IT when it makes more sense to rent a utility-compute service from Amazon Web Services, or storage from DropBox, or telephony from a growing band of international cloud services providers.
To stay relevant in this world, IT resellers mustn't simply recognise the massive transition from products to services, in what analysts describe as the subscription economy – they must capitalise on it.
The subscription model lowers the bar in terms of the technical skills required to add value to the customer.
Telephony was left to experts when it was a non-IT network, a non-IT protocol and involved big lumps of non-IT kit. But today voice is just another application, so no IT reseller has any reason to ignore telephony.
More resellers are now overcoming their mental block, realising that voice really is part of IT, though many remain defiant non-believers.
Let me make it plain: turning away from the voice opportunity means not only refusing revenue, but seeing your status as an IT expert diminish in the eyes of the customer.
Yet with the subscription model, customers will continue to value consultancy and other services from a true IT partner.
Embracing voice does mean diversifying your go-to-market business offering, however, and that's always a high-stakes strategy.
Ordinarily, your hard-won reputation, skills and experience could be blown to smithereens on a dodgy decision to offer extra value in areas in which you're unqualified.
Tata Steel certainly compromised its standing when it embarked on a bizarre sideline in shrimp farming, and who could forget Coca-Cola's ill-advised foray into selling tap water to the masses?
But blindly ploughing the same furrow won't work either – never pushing yourself or your people; failing to capitalise on customer demand in adjacent areas. You may become irrelevant and obsolete; Kodak and BlackBerry are good examples, though there are many others.
Specialist technical skills must of course evolve to address new technology. In telecoms products there are more smart features included as standard with every new release.
Wireless networking used to be the exclusive domain of resellers that understood RF planning, antenna attenuation and signal gain. Even five years ago these skills would still have differentiated you in the market.
Today the systems are sufficiently intelligent to let you simply nail it all to the wall and it works. It's the same story with telephony, except that you don't even need to sell the infrastructure – just the device to speak into and listen.
Particularly with cloud, IT resellers can start picking up the opportunities they've been missing out on for years.
IT resellers need to get over their long-standing mental block to look to voice, and see how straightforward the opportunities can be.
Rami Houbby is UK managing director of Nconnect
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