Evolution has meant that species, including humans, have been able to adapt to changing surroundings and survive. The channel will need to pay close attention to this process in the coming 18 to 24 months in order to continue to grow and prosper.
While I wouldn't describe the market as buoyant at the moment, it certainly feels more positive than two or three years ago. But we shouldn't let this upward turn distract us from seeing how tech purchasing decisions are changing. Technologies from tablets to cloud computing have pervaded everyday life and overhauled how enterprises do business. Everything from their processes and operations through to sales are totally different to what they were five years ago – and it's all thanks to innovative technologies.
These innovations are going to bring about a new paradigm, which the channel needs to ensure it is ready for. There has been background chatter for a number of years that developments such as cloud will democratise how technology is purchased and consumed by enterprises, and that chatter is quickly becoming a reality. IDC predicted last year that by the end of 2015 the CMO would 'own' 10 per cent of the IT budget. Other lines of business are also being apportioned a larger slice of the IT pie. Now, a decision about an enterprise collaboration tool, the RFP and selection processes is just as likely to be led by HR, marketing or finance (for example) as it is IT. In fact, increasingly decisions pertaining to IT no longer involve the department at all.
This presents a challenge and a great opportunity for the channel. The channel is comfortable with IT speak and IT people, but it now needs to know where it stands, which buttons it needs to press, key concerns and how to mitigate them – despite probably having no such inner knowledge of the workings of other departments. The key question is: how can the channel ensure that rather than an HR manager calling a vendor direct, they opt to go through the channel? How do VARs demonstrate their value-add? And most importantly, how do they get to know about – and be involved in – the procurement process?
Establishing relationships outside the IT department is key. The fragmentation of IT purchasing decision-making power demands that a solution to this problem is found – and fast. Resellers and other partners that lose ground now could struggle to catch up in the longer term.
The key is to understand the language of other departments. They are less concerned with SLAs and more concerned with delivering value back into the business. The channel will need to swot up on what keeps a marketing/HR/finance/operations director awake at night. Because if they are to convince this new audience that the channel is where it's at, they'll have to learn to speak their language. Any IT speak will simply create a further barrier. For example, A CMO doesn't care about technical nuts and bolts, but audience engagement and sales generation. They won't work with people who are unable to demonstrate an understanding of the world they occupy.
And the opportunity? That more people are now tech savvy and flexing their buying muscle is a good thing for the channel. You could argue that for too long the eggs have been in one basket; now advances in technology bring with them the opportunity to diversify, build stronger, more varied relationships with customers, and become a strategic partner to whole organisations, not just one department.
To truly capitalise on this coming evolution, the channel must engineer its operations to ensure that it supports and effectively markets to a broader base of potential customers.
A summary of what you get if you subscribe to our premium market intelligence service
Matthew Polly says CrowdStrike is looking to branch out from the UK and into mainland Europe
Southampton-based VAR states that further acquisitions are in the pipeline