May 28, 2021
By Rachel Rothwell
The pandemic and resulting lockdown has sparked a significant shift in how channel partners and vendors engage with one another.
With people unable to meet in person, we might have expected relationships to suffer, but the opposite seems to be true. Relationships have flourished, as partner and vendor have worked together to respond effectively to the resulting changes in business’ IT demands.
Here are some commonalities we’ve seen.
Rules of Engagement
Conversations have been more open. The move to online-only communications has in many cases meant partners and vendors have been more accessible, probably due to less time spent commuting to meetings. Alongside an increase in productivity, the urgency of the situation has also prompted a more open and honest dialogue, with partners more willing to give valuable feedback, allowing more trusted and fruitful relationships to develop.
Guidance and education has become essential. Since the big switch to home working, there has been an explosion in companies moving to the cloud for their networking and security needs, with what was previously intended as an incremental process instead becoming an overnight shift.
Naturally, there has been an accompanying need for vendors to educate their partners about how to adapt to the “new normal” and help them regain their confidence in the market. This has meant offering advice on remote access and online security, sometimes in the form of webinars and online training programs, and working more closely with them to advise around what their projects need and how they can support their customers remotely, without the ability for on-site visits.
Increased collaboration and trust. Traditionally the dynamic between partner and vendor was strictly transactional, where partners would come to vendors for specific products and would manage the process themselves. Now that dynamic has changed, with the uncertainty of the past year triggering a need for greater support and collaboration.
As the pandemic has reduced cash flows, incurred staff reductions and extended decision-making processes, partners have required greater reassurance they’re selecting the right solutions for their needs. Cost-effective solutions have naturally been a focus point, as budgets have had to tighten, but equally so has the expertise and continued guidance vendors can provide. At Zyxel, our teams have been sharing more responsibility alongside our partners, and we tend to have more regular contact and closer involvement in our partners’ projects than prior to the pandemic.
Vendors have adapted their partner programs. The pandemic shone a light on the fact that, for too many businesses, their remote access was in no way sufficiently secure. Now that the majority of workforces are working from home, some consisting of thousands of employees, the focus has massively shifted to providing solutions that keep connections secure. Many businesses which had short term security fixes in place pre-pandemic suddenly found themselves needing more …
… comprehensive network access and security solutions (beyond a simple firewall). Software like VPNs have become a necessity for businesses to grant remote workers a secure connection that’s attached to the corporate network, providing them with the same level of security as they would have in the office and keeping confidential assets safe from malware attacks.
As such, IT vendors have had to adapt and evolve their offerings by putting all their focus on providing useful, cost-effective products and solutions for their partners that cater to customers’ remote workforces. Many have adapted their programmes to partners’ core needs, which has often come down to prioritising core valuable services with less time and effort spent exploring nonessential options.
The rise of hardware as a service. Hardware-as-a-service (HaaS) offerings from vendors have also become more attractive to MSPs and resellers since the pandemic. The subscription service model, by rolling together the licensing and hardware purchasing process in one pre-agreed monthly payment, provides a more cost-effective and scalable way of doing business and a simpler way for resellers to manage their customers. It also allows resellers to be more competitive and offer higher-specification products to customers on tighter budgets. While the HaaS market has been growing since before the pandemic, we saw a pronounced need for it among traditional resellers over the past year.
A partner program is only as dynamic as the people who manage it, and the pandemic seems to have prompted many partners to realise that, while cost will always be an important consideration, finding a vendor that will help them along the journey by providing a seamless service and continued support is perhaps even more important. And while who’s to say whether we’ll go back to the way we were working before the pandemic (though it seems unlikely), I’m confident that more open and collaborative relationships between partners and vendors is here to stay. That’s a big win for the industry.
Rachel Rothwell is regional director of UK & Western Europe at cloud networking solutions provider Zyxel Networks. She previously was Zyxel’s regional manager for Southern Europe, and has also worked as a product manager and business adviser. She is a graduate of Milton Keynes College. You may follow her on LinkedIn or @ZyxelUK on Twitter.
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