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December 31, 2018
In the broader channel ecosystem, the relationship between distributors and channel partners is critical to how business gets done. For most channel partner businesses — MSPs, MSSPs, VARs, Sis and CSPs, among others — distribution partners are the front door to the vendor products and solutions they offer their customers. Channel partners turn to their distribution partners for everything from hardware and software to cloud and services, not to mention financing, marketing, training and partner programs. Distributors are also a key source for industry insight and perspective, business development, partner networking, as well as the nurturing of peer-to-peer partner communities.
As the industry closes out the year and looks ahead to the next one, Channel Futures asked familiar players in IT distribution to do some crystal ball gazing and share their vision for 2019. Here are the collective insights from distributors D&H Distributing, Ingram Micro, Pax8, Synnex and Tech Data, plus the Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC).
D&H’s Dan Schwab
Dan Schwab, co-president at D&H — the distributor who has held fast to its focus on the SMB market and the partners who serve it — sees the spotlight for 2019 focused on unified communications (UC) and cybersecurity.
UC serves as a platform for technologies, such as cloud-based collaboration and video conferencing products that are gaining a foothold in the SMB marketplace. As the cybersecurity threats to users and the network continue their upward spiral, with hackers becoming more devious and imperceptible in their methods, D&H sees the continued focus on cybersecurity as vital.
Schwab also sees the upcoming year as one where “everything-as-a-service” will emerge; resellers will deliver hosted services to address all the requirements of users in business environments based on platforms such as Microsoft Office 365, Cisco Webex Teams, and Azure. This trend will encompass functions such as hosted printing, web-based services, collaboration, storage and document management, on through larger capabilities like hosted email Exchange and data center services.
Ingram Micro’s Kirk Robinson
Ingram Micro’s Kirk Robinson, chief country executive, sees 2019 as being all about the customer experience. It’s about “What more can we do and what more can you do to help those we serve be better today and every day?” Business as usual isn’t enough. Distributors and partners must work together to exceed expectations by delivering the experience and results — or the business outcomes – partners and customers want.
Embracing change is a must, as is getting comfortable being uncomfortable.
His advice for 2019 is to take inventory and ensure that you’re collaborating with companies — distributors, vendors, peers, associations — you trust will do right by you and your customers. The teams and the partner ecosystem we develop are vital to our success, as well as the success of our partners and their customers. The right partners, and ultimately the right customers, will help you …
… grow faster, remove costs and expand your services, reach and profit potential.
Pax8’s Ryan Walsh
Pax8 chief channel office, Ryan Walsh, is on board with Ingram Micro when it comes to the customer experience. “Crafting and delivering phenomenal customer experience will only increase as the reason why MSPs will gain or lose customers rather than simply price or even product offerings,” he said.
Partners have been getting advice about focusing a market niche for a few years now, and the message persists. Those who own a definable niche will grow faster and be more profitable than those who don’t. When choosing a niche, go with what you know, your company’s strengths and expertise.
And, when it comes to selling cloud products, the ability to sell and deliver multicloud products into a seamless customer solution will separate the best from the average MSP, said Walsh. Multiple cloud purchasing will increase 50 percent to 100 percent next year alone.
Synnex’s Bob Stegner
Mobility, cloud and IoT will continue to be major forces in 2019, and its advised that partners continue to capitalize on these opportunities.In addition, the rollout of 5G will be huge for networking partners, and the edge of the network will continue to extend and permeate into everything we do in our personal and professional lives, Bob Stegner, senior vice president, marketing North America at Synnex, told Channel Futures.
Expect to see Synnex challenge partners to rethink how they go to market. “The days of pick-pack-and-ship are long gone, and today, we’re deploying large-scale solutions that encompass not just one or two products, but multiple vendor lines across multiple categories,” Stegner said.
The end goal is to solve problems partners’ customers while thinking about the big picture and what’s to come five, even 10 years down the road.
Tech Data’s Cheryl Neal
Savvy partner business leaders will build out next generation business capabilities, and that means bringing in the right resources, skills sets and business tools to build a successful technology practice. These partners will be on the forefront of differentiating themselves from the competition by developing specialization in next-gen technology. Taking specialization a step further, partners are advised to grow their vertical expertise and focus on vertical industry solutions to discover new revenue opportunities and expanded business outcomes, says Cheryl Neal, vice president, data and networking solutions at Tech Data.
Partners should also be ready to answer the call for a continued uptick in the demand for subscription-based solutions, whether they contract with cloud marketplaces or build out their own infrastructure, offers Linda Rendleman, senior vice president, endpoint solutions, Americas at Tech Data.
Global Technology Distribution Council
GTDC’s Tim Curran
The GTDC is a global consortium of large distributors. Soon-to-be-retired CEO Tim Curran, shared a few visions for upcoming year.
The trusted adviser role of channel partner companies will continue to supplant product brands. The ability of partners to provide multivendor solutions is essential.
After a history of starts, stops and adjustments, distributors and their channel partners appear poised to overcome many initial cloud roadblocks. Distributor cloud marketplaces are more established as a result of significant investments.
Education and training initiatives “get real.” Information overload is among the constants in the IT industry, especially today with all the competing messages about innovation and transformation.
In addition to enhancing and strengthening training in long-standing categories such as mobility and security, you can expect to see distributors step up education efforts in IoT, machine learning and other emerging market categories.
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