Shaping the future of the channel means thinking about what's next and how it affects customers.

March 15, 2018

6 Min Read
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Bryan Reynolds

By Bryan Reynolds, senior manager of post sales for TBI, and Channel Next member  

Do industry trends drive technology, or does technology drive industry trends? When pondering this “chicken or egg” question, I can’t help but look back at the past couple of decades and see how far we’ve advanced technologically as a society.

As an example, Facebook revolutionized the social connection world, giving rise to Twitter and Instagram. Hundreds upon thousands upon millions of users started to use social-media services, and, to stay relevant, these companies then started to push the boundaries of their offerings for their users. That brought about the need for better processors and cameras, which allowed every software/platform company to push the boundaries even further. This never-ending cycle brought us (among other things) applications and hardware that can recognize our faces and turn us into any number of mythical characters in real time.

Don’t get me wrong, this is all a lot of fun. I enjoy turning myself into a cartoon character and sending ridiculous pictures off to my friends from time to time. But face-recognition technology has much more serious implications for our future. A great example of this is how a police force in a province in China is rolling out the use of smart glasses that can recognize and track people in real time. Just imagine: You have an unpaid parking ticket and get on public transit, only to be stopped by a police officer and questioned about your outstanding ticket. Scary, right? Yes! Why would you want to live in a surveillance state? I’m not even going to get into the legal implications of such a system, but you can imagine that it raises a lot of questions and concerns.

Not all tech advances are full-on dystopian doom and gloom. As you might have heard, Amazon is rolling out stores that don’t have checkouts, with other retailers looking to do the same. You simply walk in, put what you need in your basket, then walk out. This gives a whole new meaning to the word “convenience” and is certainly a trend that partners with retail customers need to track. These stores work by employing hundreds of cameras that read labels, using machine learning, and track the shopper’s movements. The cameras work in tandem with sensors in the store’s shelves, all the while gathering data about your preferences.

Pretty convenient, right? Sure, but let’s think about the type of data that is being collected. Not only are your preferences stored for predictive selling, but also your body type, shape and movement style. Now a “digital you” is hanging out on a server somewhere.

This is a touchy subject with people of all ages. Because of the extent of data about you that can be “mined,” my own mother won’t use her credit card to buy things online. Having your credit-card information stolen is a huge inconvenience; having a cybercriminal able to capture the “digital you” is …

… downright scary. I’d love to think that all of the companies gathering big data are employing the absolute best-of-breed security measures, but they surely aren’t (and can’t) all of the time.

This begs the question: What about the mom-and-pop companies that we as partners and consumers interact with every day? If I pick up my dry cleaning and pay with my credit card, is that data safe?

Well, we know that SMBs are prime targets, so probably not. There are many things asked of businesses, but there are actually not that many specific requirements when it comes to the “digital you.” The regulators, however, are coming. In a recent white paper, credit reporting agency Experian states that 73 percent of retailers consider managing big data either “important” or “business-critical” to their operations. Quite a large group, but why isn’t that number higher? The company that I’m with isn’t in retail, but we 100-percent believe that big data is critical and think that 100 percent of businesses should believe that too. The number of connected devices is relentlessly increasing, and that will only lead to more vulnerabilities and access points, which will lead to a need for new regulations. Before we know it, “digital you” will be living on any number of devices meant to make life easier: coffee machines, locks, wearables, refrigerators. The IoT equals convenience, and as more things become convenient, more security will be needed.

The kicker is that security itself needs to stay convenient, too, or users will bypass it. That’s especially true of millennials, who have no time for complicated password rules.

I would venture to say that one of the reasons that 73 percent number discussed earlier isn’t higher is because businesses haven’t jumped into their data to really understand it and the immense responsibility they have to it. It’s intimidating; almost threatening. But you, as their trusted adviser, must find ways to make it easy for them to digest. There are many solutions offered by providers through the channel to ensure that data is stored, transported and protected conveniently, and being a part of one of the largest master agents out there, I could point you to at least fiveYou just have to start the conversation and make sure that whatever security your customer goes with is convenient and not scary.

I’m not saying It’s easy. Security is a moving target, but next-generation, wildly successful service providers are those who stay ahead of the curve and keep themselves informed as much as possible on the advances of security, customer trends and all the various types of threats out there. Then they take time to educate their customers — no matter the size.  Let’s face it, 100 percent of retailers (or any company) should think managing big data is …

… business-critical, and we, as an industry, can affect that. Regardless or the size of the company, taking measures to ensure their data is safe while being conveniently accessed is far less expensive than being successfully breached. Just ask Chipotle, VeriFone, Equifax, Target, Home Depot and plenty of others.

As senior manager of post sales for TBI, Bryan Reynolds works with a team of project coordinators, certified project managers and program managers to assist partners with contracting, order submission and management/fulfillment of small- to large-scale orders and projects. His main focus is to constantly push the boundaries of service by identifying areas where TBI’s post-sales team can add value for their partners. In his three years with the master agent, Reynolds has filled roles such as agent recruiter, partner experience manager and manager of sales operations. He is also a member of Channel Next and the Channel Partners Editorial Advisory Board.

Channel Next is a group of forward-thinking channel professionals getting together to share ideas and opportunities. This community within the channel community is dedicated to developing and encouraging the next generation of channel leadership. Find out more here, join us on LinkedIn, drop the co-founder a line or attend our first meetup. Already a member and want to share your thoughts with the larger community? Drop the editor in chief a line.

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