Glass half full or glass half empty? Which are you?
If you’re in today’s IT channel you have likely adopted the rosier outlook, optimistic about the future even in the face of tremendous industry change. In fact, six in 10 channel firms expressed good vibes for the days and years ahead, according to CompTIA’s 5th Annual State of the Channel research project. That’s a far cry from five years ago when nervous VARs, solution providers and every other channel type huddled in conference rooms pondering possible extinction at the hands of cloud computing.
Irony of ironies, cloud computing has been cited as the chief reason to be optimistic about the channel’s future, according to study respondents. It’s opening doors, they say. Whether or not there is reason to be this hopeful remains to be seen. But increasingly the channel is viewing cloud as less of a threat. For one, channel companies are discovering that cloud isn’t a single business model, and as such the channel has the chance to plug in at various points: Selling SaaS, integrating cloud with on-premises solutions, brokering and aggregating cloud options, application development, managed services and so on.
And yet, not everyone’s cheering cloud on. For a subset of respondents cloud remains a source of pessimism, particularly among those firms that sell into very small end customers. To this customer demographic, cloud solutions offer a no-brainer alternative to on-premises hardware and software, the traditional bread and butter of small VARs’ portfolios. A third of channel firms cited the wider availability of purchase options along with customer self sufficiency as a source of concern for the channel’s future. This is forcing many of the smallest channel companies—firms with fewer than 10 employees—to rethink their value proposition. Case in point: 26 percent of them now report pure consulting services as their main source of revenue. If their end customers are going to go all cloud, these small VARs are going to carve out a role helping guide those decisions—or so the thinking goes.
And while cloud may be simplifying life for some customers, others are struggling with a growing IT complexity across an even broader spectrum of new technologies today. And that’s good news for the channel. Think mobility, big data, and even social media. Complexity around each of these tech areas is something the channel is counting on to keep their businesses relevant. Consider the following three reasons why study respondents are feeling lucky about the channel’s future:
- Broader use of tech by all types of customers ups need for IT experts
- Complexity of today’s solutions and services
- Demand for vertical industry expertise
All three of these market realities provide the channel a reason to be and a role to fill—if they take the appropriate steps. That means addressing skills gaps issues within their ranks so they can focus on emerging and more sophisticated technologies. Training also extends to the business side of the house, including the need to revamp sales and marketing strategies to address different types of customers and fully embrace an “as-a-service” way of life.
There’s plenty to be optimistic about as the channel moves into the next several years. And the majority of firms are most definitely in a better headspace than five years ago. The question is "will it continue?"