As a VAR or IT service provider, you're often forced to react to technology trends that seemingly come out of nowhere. But if you slow down just a little and really think about the IT channel, you'll find some pred

Sophos Guest Blogger

January 12, 2012

5 Min Read
Five Business Trends That Will Continue in 2012


As a VAR or IT service provider, you’re often forced to react to technology trends that seemingly come out of nowhere. But if you slow down just a little and really think about the IT channel, you’ll find some predictable trends that can potentially bolster your business. Here are five such trends for 2012, and potential ways you can capitalize on them.

The trends include…

1. Expansion of Cloud Infrastructures

In 2011 we saw businesses move more towards cloud services prompting questions regarding the security of data. Due to the cost savings associated with purchasing and using cloud services rather than on premise solutions I predict we will see continued growth in this area. This growth will fuel concerns about securing data across the cloud, creating opportunities for VARs offering both cloud services and cloud security solutions.

Tips to capitalize on this trend:

  1. Ensure the SMB has the right bandwidth provider and package to enable cloud apps to really run effectively. Cloud apps sound great until the business users realize they’ve not invested in the basic bandwidth required to allow the apps to run with the right performance.

  2. Be sure that security is built into the solution upfront. Customer’s backoffice data running into cloud infrastructure and applications is not a trivial matter. Solutions for encrypting data and solutions for protecting all endpoint devices including tablets and mobile devices should be architected into the solution upfront..

2. Resurgence of Partner led selling models

In 2011 we began to see the resurgence of the partner led selling model and a reliance of channel expertise by vendors. This shift will continue into 2012 prompting vendors to reassess their channel strategies and create stronger partnerships.

Tips to capitalize on this trend: Partner with vendors who not only offer superior products, but who also understand the partner led selling model and have a strong channel focus. Ask your vendor, if you want sales and services capacity from my organization how are you compensating me for it? Does the vendor’s margin model support transactional sales expertise as well as services and technical implementation expertise required for the customer solutions? How are you investing in my technical competency?

3. Mixing Business with Pleasure

In the past, the business had complete control over what devices had access to their networks. The distributed hardware like laptops and smartphones to employees on an as needed  basis. Because these  devices were always connected to the network and only used for business purposes, IT administrators could be fairly certain all patches were up-to-date and that the devices were not accessing malicious sites. This is no longer true. It has become common place for individuals to use personal devices such as smartphones and tablets for business use or to bring company issued devices home and connect to the Internet using their private networks. Additionally, IT admins will be tasked with making personal devices work on the business network.

Tip to capitalize on this trend: The mixing of personal devices in business environments creates new challenges for IT departments. In addition to opening up the network to security threats, the consumerization of business technology means increasing IT departments’ workloads and risk.

Companies will be looking for products that mitigate the vulnerabilities the consumerization of technology will create. Among these types of solutions are products that simplify securing and managing devices regardless of location. The reality is that Facebook (mobile), personal email, images, personal phone calls all are getting mixed into IT environments. Policies alone are not enough to protect companies from the vulnerabilities and risks associated to the mixing of personal use and business with mobile devices. Get the right tools to secure and manage your mobile environment.

4. Growth of Pay for Performance Programs

The tough economy has caused vendors to put a larger emphasis on specific sales productivity targets spurring the growth of pay-for-performance rebate programs.  These programs can motivate channel partners to reach certain goals, ultimately helping the partner and the vendor reach their sales targets together. The challenge comes when the vendor’s sales targets don’t align to the channel partner’s solution sales goals.  I foresee a growth in these programs in 2012 but partners need to be clear with vendors what kind of pay for performance programs work and which ones don’t.

Tips to capitalize on this trend:  Work with your vendor to craft pay for performance rebate targets and goals that make sense for your customers solutions and your solution offerings. It’s always attractive to sign up for the rebate goals but if they don’t align to your solution offerings then these rebate goals and pay for performance funds don’t do anyone any good.

5. Selling Integrated Solutions

The complexity of networks and business technology will force small and medium sized businesses to find ways to simplify their IT infrastructure. As a result organizations will look for ways to consolidate solutions and look to purchase systems and solutions from a vendor that can meet as many needs as possible.  This will simplify technology management, improve technology performance and increase customers’ return-on-investment.

Tips to capitalize on this trend: Look to offer complete solutions from a single vendor rather than products from multiple vendors that will need to be managed separately. There are many point solutions that appear to be best of breed but in today’s commoditized world vendors are more often offering integrated or at least bundled solutions that provide more and more functionality. It’s a value based market and offering integrated complete security solutions is easier and more cost effective for your customers. Make sure you are examining all of the functionality that comes in your vendor solutions so you don’t ‘oversell’ technology to your customers.

What trends do you see emerging this year? How can VARs take advantage of these opportunities to grow their businesses?

Steve Hale is VP of global channels at Sophos, the security software company. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of The VAR Guy’s annual platinum sponsorship.

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