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Techaisle Channel Partner Research – Six Key Observations for 2021

Techaisle's Channel partner ecosystem research contains a wealth of information, a great value to partner management teams looking to validate their partner program investments' alignment with real-world conditions, preferences, and requirements. The research contains reliable insight drawn from over 2000 channel partners survey (leveraging network of 225K channel members) with channel decision-makers from firms representing five significant channel types businesses to reflect an outlook shaped by the pandemic and its impact on both the channel and its customers. There are six observations, though, that we believe will help readers to better grasp the implications of many of research findings and where changes are afoot in 2021.

  1. Focus on efficiency and control

  2. Hybrid everywhere

  3. Data and systems of insight

  4. Cloud and the transformation of business

  5. Digital transformation as a key to growth/viability

  6. Relationships defined by ecosystems, not discrete connections

1. Focus on efficiency and control

The first concerns the current channel executive emphasis on efficiency and control, rather than growth/expansion. Though the search for growth is broadly present in survey results, much of it focuses on incremental portfolio changes designed to expand revenue opportunities within the current customer base. Channel executives are acutely aware of the need for fundamental changes in many of their core business practices. However, these executives believe that they need to outlast the pandemic to undertake these changes. In the meantime, they are looking to focus business practices on issues that prioritize near-term viability. The concept of control extends to branding and customer relationships as well.

2. Hybrid everywhere

It is clear at this point that all IT environments will be Hybrid. These systems will be complex to deploy and manage. Compared to past platforms, they pose a different integration challenge: systems integration becomes less focused, while data integration becomes the critical requirement for businesses, processes, and even applications that span multiple locations and systems. Channel partners will need to develop or partner to access skills that enable them to connect, secure, and manage data that races across platforms. Vendors will need to support these partners by ensuring that their products adhere to standards that facilitate these connections and provide the guidance and leadership that the channel needs to meet customer data integration imperatives.

3. Data and systems of insight

The third significant trend also concerns data. The trend towards increased recognition of the value of data and 'systems of insight' standing alongside 'systems of record' and 'systems of engagement' as a significant IT application/business category has implications for all IT community members. To ensure that they maintain the advisory roles that current partners believe they occupy, channel partners will need to understand how to translate these diverse data sources into a competitive advantage. Vendors will need to support this transition by helping partners understand the uses and benefits of the data created through and processed by their solutions and assisting partners in capitalizing on business opportunities that tie to fact-based business imperatives within end-user client organizations.

4. Cloud and the transformation of business

No single development has had as dramatic an impact on the channel as the cloud. To be successful in the cloud, channel partners need to fully grasp the cloud's impact on IT and business economics. They have to respond to a need for change at literally every level of the business: management needs to adopt new metrics, sales need to use different approaches to customer engagement and compensation, marketing's role expands and becomes far more technology-centric and central to success, technical staff move from just-in-case to just-in-time skills acquisition, and finance needs to adapt to entirely new models for cash flow and profitability - vendors whose offerings are based on or attach to cloud need to recognize and respond to these changes. The channel needs help in understanding and articulating the economic logic of the cloud. Vendors can and should align practices, programs, and engagement/enablement models with cloud requirements. In turn, partners will gravitate to suppliers who demonstrate a commitment to supporting them in their cloud businesses.

5. Digital transformation as a key to growth/viability

For the foreseeable future major IT initiatives are likely to be positioned as critical aspects of a corporate digital transformation strategy. Cloud and Hybrid IT will be digital transformation platforms, whereas edge devices will be inputs to digital transformation. Data and analytics will be at the center of digital business transformation. Vendors and suppliers will position all of the other solutions - from business continuity to networking and security and AI to a unified workspace and software-defined and AR/VR - as intrinsic to digital business success. The shift is challenging for both the channel and for suppliers. There is a clear need for business-focused approaches to sales and delivery and business-centric advice, guidance, and road-mapping. Vendors that can get in front of this curve, and help partners benefit from it, will be well-positioned to gain share in a changing channel environment.

6. Relationships defined by ecosystems, not discrete connections

Connecting with partners who bring complementary skills to a customer will help channel partners keep pace with fluid, complex customer requirements. It will also help keep pace with the continuously-expanding range of digital business capabilities that they need to stay current with their customers' needs and with their competitors. Ecosystem poses an almost-existential problem for vendor partner management teams. Practices, programs, and relationships are rooted in relationship patterns that are increasingly out-of-step with evolving requirements. Many partner program innovations inhibit the response to new demands, as they rely on an experience that does not fully predict future priorities. Like the clients served by the channel, partner management will need to adopt an evidence-based approach to future activities.

Techaisle is pleased to supply the facts needed to shape these new directions.

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