With the year 2020 done and dusted, the channel is busy laying plans for the future, where ongoing COVID-19 challenges are being navigated while a cautious optimism hopes for normal operations to resume.
While there was plenty of demand for technology last year (both in products and services), resources were strained, budgets were tightened and there were plenty of delays. The industry is now trying to anticipate what challenges will be brought about this year, as well as what lingering 2020 effects we can move past.
CRN spoke to a combination of fast-growing and established Australian channel partners to get their take on what 2021 will bring for the channel.
Data#3’s chief marketing officer Garrett MacDonald said that while the past 12 months had seen a great number of changes, the core purpose of the channel remained the same.
Across many of the elements of what lies ahead, most of the impending changes can be summed up within the frame of full-spectrum technology lifecycle management,” he said.
“We consistently hear from our customers that they need a partner to help them drive the value out of their technology investments from early investment to roll out to ongoing management to retirement.
“Increasingly, lifecycle servicing is becoming an imperative for the entire channel, to assist customers in investment realisation and importantly to help them use the technology to transform their business. Customers, too, are starting to see the value of engaging with partners with these capabilities, and this is beginning to reflect in customer choices surrounding partners and providers.”
Speaking on customers, Connor O’Rourke, co-founder of Adelaide-based MSP and multiple Fast50 finalist Nuago, said buyers would be looking for rapid time to value.
“The pandemic proved that organisations and people alike are a lot more capable of making rapid change to their businesses to stay afloat,” O’Rourke said.
“Now we will look to continue this mindset and apply it to continuous improvement to further improve and enhance their businesses going forward and become a stronger economy as a result.
“The elements of security, mobility and scalability will be critical for our customers to focus on now and into the future post-COVID-19 vaccine rollout. We will also see a consolidation of vendors in the market and those that have remained relevant will grow substantially and those who have not will experience decay.”
Heading to northeastern Australia, Queensland Computers director Geoff Augutis said he was already seeing a trend in 2021 as customers looked for added support.
“2020 was chaos in the sector, ranging from stock shortages almost across the board to huge demand for tech resources to set up and support remote working,” he said.
“Where we are seeing the greatest demand in 2021 so far is the outsourcing of helpdesk services to managed IT providers. We see a huge opportunity for those companies who are now preparing for a ‘work from anywhere’ world."
In Perth, IT specialist and Apple consultant Catalytic IT director Michael Lester reckons there will be a number of partners quickly changing up their customer diversity after taking a hit from lower-performing sectors.
“We anticipate that channel providers who have typically focused their efforts in industries that have been adversely affected by the pandemic will retool and begin to reposition their solutions for those industries that have been less impacted, or positively impacted,” he said.
“An example of this is education – we’ve seen an increase in vendors who’ve traditionally been strong in the hospitality/tourism segments try to gain a foothold in this market.
"We’ve seen some vendors consider how they might leverage their existing technology to assist in fighting the pandemic, such as wi-fi vendors talking about their real-time location solutions for contact tracing, and we’d anticipate there will be a further push in this space, for example, as infrared cameras marketed for temperature testing, and visitor sign-in registers."
Outside of COVID, Lester said Catalytic expected a continued push towards “everything as a service” and anticipated new offerings from the channel to arrive this year. The director also touched on how security within every solution was being careful monitored.
“We’re seeing a substantial increase in spotlight in the security elements of our channel partner offerings, as they emphasise how they’re keeping customer data safe, and improving security for a much more distributed workforce. We think this will continue to be a focal point for the channel, as more and more high-profile security incidents, such as the SolarWinds hack, bring the conversation front of mind for customers.”
Also in WA, Nexion Networks’ chief executive Paul Glass was concerned with the capabilities partners will need to bring to customers struggling to get into, or make the most of, cloud services.
“Digital transformation has caused today’s enterprise networks to become hybrid, complex, and geographically dispersed. Enterprises with legacy data centre architectures are struggling to keep up with the continuous movement of business-critical applications, services, and sensitive data to multiple clouds," he said.
"Difficulties in implementing end-to-end security, SD-WAN, cloud and hybrid applications have emerged as the main roadblock preventing these enterprises from accelerating their on-ramp to the cloud and successfully adopting a multi-cloud environment while maintaining business continuity.
"The business model should be to support companies based in whichever country via a single supplier model.
“Accelerating the on-ramp to the cloud requires a new and innovative approach – security-driven networking; that allows enterprises to architect networks that deliver seamlessly integrated end-to-end security realised by solutions such as secure SD-WAN from branch locations and high-performance secure connectivity through data centres.”
Back in Sydney, Techforce Services’ founder and director Vamsi Krishna had some interesting stats to talk about with respect to the speed of change happening right now in the channel.
“It is expected that by the end of this year, 60 percent of Australia’s GDP will be digitalised and the growth in every industry will be propelled by the use of digitisation in offerings, operations and relationships,” he said.
"The company spend on cloud services and cloud-enabling hardware, software and services is expected to more than double to AUD9.8 billion, taking advantage of the diversified cloud environment. About 85 percent of business organisations are expected to use AI, more than 65 percent of consumers are expected to interact with bots that will act as customer support executives, and more than 60 percent of new industrial robots are expected to take advantage of AI.
“Enterprise apps are also expected to shift towards hyper-agile architectures and 85 percent of application development is expected to be on cloud platforms (PaaS) using microservices and cloud functions.
“About 25 percent of ASX companies are expected to use blockchain services as a platform for digital trust at scale. More than half of the ASX companies are expected to witness an average of 45 percent of their digital services interactions happen through their open API ecosystems, which is expected to expand their digital reach much beyond their own customer interactions.”
If the selected channel partners’ responses are any indication, some pretty interesting changes and opportunities are on their way. With any luck given Australia’s relative ability to bring the coronavirus under some sense of control for the time being, there will be many more opportunities for the channel in the coming year.
If you would like to share your thoughts on what you think 2021 will bring for the channel, or to discuss a big change in your business, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org