How the Pandemic Will Influence Channel Partner Businesses in 2021

From reshaping workspaces to doing more with less, four trends will dominate operations and sales.

January 19, 2021

4 Min Read
COVID-19 pandemic

By Geeman Yip


Geeman Yip

Businesses around the world are conducting their typical annual planning this year amid atypical circumstances. Impacts from the extraordinary events of 2020 are expected to be long lasting and companies must simply forge ahead despite lingering uncertainty about direction.

Fortunately, we’ve navigated enough road during the pandemic to have some idea about what the next year will be like. Here are four trends I anticipate will influence how channel partners sell their products and services, as well as how they operate their businesses.

Reinvention of the Workplace

Risk of exposure to the coronavirus will continue well into 2021 as we wait for distribution of the new vaccines. Even after this pandemic, the way in which we interact will fundamentally change. This will lead companies to make significant changes to their workplace environments. With many employees continuing to work from home, offices will feature fewer individual desks. We will see increased use of “hot desks” and more large conference rooms providing space to spread out. The shift toward more shared open space, similar to a WeWork scenario, will enable socially-distanced collaboration in an office setting. Even companies that already have large communal spaces in their offices will need to actively reshape employee behaviors in these areas so there’s an emphasis on getting work done instead of socializing.

Increase Productivity, Decrease Costs

Companies will look to conserve cash and do more with less in the coming year as a response to the economic volatility brought on by the pandemic and lingering uncertainty about the future. Investments will still be made in software and tools that enable employees to be as effective and productive as possible, while companies also identify areas for cost savings.

For example, we will continue to see a rise in cloud-based productivity applications, including Microsoft Teams, Slack and Google Workspace. Solutions that help IT manage, assess and report on software usage and adoption will help companies increase optimization of technologies purchased. This will ensure the correct licensing levels are in place and highlight when software licenses can be discontinued.

Expected productivity gains will also be realized as these IT solutions identify opportunities to ensure employees are using new technology effectively. These same IT solutions can also help bring about cost savings by automating labor-intensive IT work. Channel partners will not only assist their customers with this important profit-protecting work, but also similarly invest in doing more with less in their own companies.

Cloud Expansion, Optimization Continues

Remote operations continue to be essential for business continuity during the pandemic, and so, too, will expanded use of cloud-based services. Companies that were already migrating to the cloud when the pandemic began will continue this work in the new year. Those that scrambled to the cloud in response to the pandemic will look for ways to optimize their cloud footprint, knowing that this will not be a temporary shift in business operations, but a long-term strategy.

As more workloads are moved to the cloud, and companies invest in cloud applications, there will be a need to keep technology and data sprawl in check. This is not only for efficiency and cost control, but also to ensure proper data governance, regulatory compliance and monitoring of technology use throughout the company. The adoption of automation will be important as it allows organizations to keep up with the increase in technology without having to increase their workforce at the same pace. Automation will allow organizations to reduce manual work, deliver reports in a timely manner, detect system anomalies in real time and more. Channel partners will continue to play a pivotal role in assisting companies with migration, optimization and governance in the cloud.

Social Selling Gains Favor

Traditional sales and marketing tactics are likely to become less effective, after a year of nonstop digital interaction and the resulting spike in email volume. As people look for ways to have meaningful connections with people they trust, we will see more social selling and connecting in 2021. Individuals with expertise in products, solutions and industry trends will increasingly turn to their social channels to share their expertise. In turn, people with a mutual interest in this information or a need for advice will seek out these experts directly and follow their social feeds. In the same way companies have used email marketing and websites as a tool to sell on a one-to-many basis, social selling and connecting enables a more personal one-to-one experience that will be increasingly popular in the coming year.

Geeman Yip is the founder and CEO of BitTitan, a SaaS-based cloud enablement provider in Bellevue, Wash. He founded BitTitan in 2007 to help IT service providers and businesses assess, deploy and manage technology solutions in a rapidly changing cloud world. Yip previously was a program manager for Microsoft Exchange, working on what would become the foundation for today’s Office 365 suite. He has more than two decades’ worth of experience in the software and IT spaces. Follow him on LinkedIn or @BitTitan on Twitter.

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