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The U.K. channel is buoyed by customers’ renewed focus on digital transformation, shows a BT and Cisco survey.
January 27, 2021
New research shows the UK channel is going into 2021 feeling optimistic, despite the current climate.
The survey by BT and Cisco shows 96% of partners believe customers are now taking a more strategic approach to digital investments.
Additionally, 91% of UK channel respondents believe businesses are prioritizing digital transformation plans for the foreseeable future.
This optimism is leading to a greater emphasis on the role of technology moving forward, according to the report. For example, the survey shows partners perceive the biggest opportunities as helping businesses increase agility and flexibility, enhancing the customer experience and driving efficiencies.
Gavin Jones, channel sales director, BT’s Wholesale Unit, says the rapid digital acceleration from the outset of the pandemic has started to settle. However, the consistently evolving environment means businesses must continue to evaluate how best to progress.
BT’s Gavin Jones
“We’re seeing a shift in the way channel partners and their customers are considering a long-term strategic approach to digital investments,” he said. This includes “permanent changes in working practices for distributed teams of people.”
The research indicates a desire to handle complex technology via third parties. Jones says this “presents a huge opportunity for channel growth and … bodes well for the technology sector in Britain.
However, the positivity that businesses feel is balanced by caution, driven by the ongoing uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic. Most UK channel partners agree that managing costs is an immediate priority for most organisations. But the research also indicates a focus on changing customer needs. More than two-thirds of respondents have seen increased demand for network bandwidth from customers, and 62% for collaboration tools. One-third of customers are demanding shorter procurement times as they adopt tools faster, in response to the changing situation.
Chintan Patel, CTO, Cisco UK, said partners and customers are looking to transform their emergency digital responses long term.
Cisco’s Chintan Patel
“Partners highlighted cost savings through automation, enhanced agility, flexibility and increased security as key strategic benefits. The returns on these investments can be viewed as a dividend, giving UK businesses a return over the years to follow.”
Partners see this demand for new technologies as rooted in customers’ changing work patterns. Eighty-four percent anticipate that the pandemic experience will transform company cultures for the long term.
UK channel partners themselves experienced the benefits of remote working. Ninety percent report that their productivity is the same or higher than in the office.
Nearly half (49%) believe a new hybrid working model will prevail for customers, while 15% predict a predominantly virtual working model.
Justin Coombes, marketing director, Gamma, said the firm would like to get to “a blend of old world and new world.”
“Taking the best of both situations into the future,” he said. “New benefits such as expanded talent pools and more flexible working conditions leading to higher productivity are just some of the advantages. So, all businesses need to engage with the positive outcomes of hybrid working this year and beyond.”
The research also reveals concerns over increased cybersecurity issues which are emerging because of widespread remote working. Given the immediacy of this threat, 70% of partners are looking for external support to help their customers combat cybersecurity threats. UK channel partners are increasingly looking to MSPs to help with this. Nearly half (44%) are prioritizing relationships with suppliers that have strong cybersecurity ecosystems.
Contributing Editor, Channel Futures
Christine Horton writes about all kinds of technology from a business perspective. Specializing in the IT sales channel, she is a former editor and now regular contributor to leading channel and business publications. She has a particular focus on EMEA for Channel Futures.
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