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February 13, 2024
Amidst ongoing digital transformation, vendors and channel partners more than ever need to ensure they're aligned to foster a fruitful partnership on both sides. Traditionally anchored in stability, these collaborations have hinged on factors such as understanding customer needs, channel value, pricing, as well as products and programmes.
Lately, however, thanks to technology this has become more complicated. While tech brings many exciting opportunities, it isn't without its challenges. With more innovative solutions being required to address the difficulties facing businesses and consumers, vendors need to be able to keep up, otherwise they risk being left behind by those who adapt and evolve alongside new technology.
As mentioned, while technological disruption can present difficulties, it also presents opportunities to channel partners. Relationships with vendors are one of the pillars of success in channel operations, and advancements in technology give vendors more opportunities to build those important relationships. However, this requires a genuine understanding of the changing technology ecosystem and a higher level of proactivity.
There are three key principles for channel partners to remember when it comes to building strong relationships with vendors:
Adapting to new tech: Channels need to ensure they're investing time and money into training and educating their teams on innovative technology and processes. This assures that they have the knowledge and expertise to help customers to the best of their ability.
Increased flexibility: It is vital that they be as flexible as possible. Demand from clients is always changing and channels need to be able to diversify offerings to include the latest technology.
Carefully selecting vendors: The importance of choosing the right vendors cannot be overstated. Channel partners need to constantly examine possible partners to make sure they can run a consistently stable programme for shared success. Sometimes that will mean you need to build new vendor relationships, but making the right bets and having a clear vision for the future is more important than holding on to perhaps outdated vendor relationships.
I hear you asking, so, what are the new technologies that can revolutionise channel partnerships? Everyone wants to talk about big data, machine learning and — of course — AI-powered technologies as key innovations shaping the modern business world. But we are beginning to see significant impact from a variety of technologies across the entire stack.
A great example of this is software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology. There was a huge initial adoption and success for managed service providers (MSPs) that were able to work around its difficulties. But SD-WAN wasn't future-proof, as it was configured for office-based working models. With hybrid and remote working models established as tangible alternatives for businesses post-pandemic, reliance on SD-WAN brings significant challenges in terms of security and connectivity. With this in mind, MSPs need to be able to move clients to more robust network strategies that can more easily adapt to modern business practices such as hybrid working, which requires stronger visibility, security and connectivity for users both remote and on-site.
This can be a challenge, but also an opportunity. Resellers need to be able to encourage customers to constantly evolve and improve their networks. One example of this is to adopt secure access service edge (SASE) technology over their existing SD-WAN infrastructure to fill the holes in their network security.
This is a mutually beneficial process, as the resellers set themselves up as important partners, and the MSP stands to benefit massively from the increase in visibility and adaptability that SASE introduces in hybrid models. SASE is more user-friendly and allows MSPs to diversify their offering, opening opportunities to move from per-site to per-user pricing, and, finally, allowing for increased innovation when it comes to visibility and security.
Overall, facilitating the move from SD-WAN to SASE enables channel partners to diversify their service offerings, while reinforcing their strategic partnership with vendors.
Succeeding in this rapidly changing market relies on channel partners and vendors building a strong working relationship, one that should have foundations of support and trust.
From a vendor perspective, the channel should be recognised as being of vital importance, which means that vendors, along with benefitting from a proxy salesforce, truly understand and appreciate the value in expertise that channel partners hold across several industry verticals. To hold up their end of the bargain, vendors need to offer strong programmes that drive engagement.
Collaboration is key for a successful vendor-channel partner relationship. By jointly identifying potential clients, both can showcase their partnership strength, positioning themselves for success. This collaborative approach enables both vendors and partners to offer unique solutions, meeting customer requirements and ensuring long-term success.
There are challenges and opportunities for channel partners in today's ecosystem of rapid technological advancement. To best make use of these, channel partners must play the advisory role, and show that they can deliver on the promise shown by the evolving tech landscape.
This requires channel partners to be adaptable, and flexible and to learn continuously. If they can nurture strong partnerships with the vendors leading on innovation and collaboration, then succeeding in this dynamic tech market is guaranteed.
Director of Products and Operations, GCX
Jonathan Wright is director of products and operations at GCX, where he is committed to innovation and client-centric solutions. He previously held sales and leadership positions in telecom and managed IT services. He graduated with a bachelor of laws degree from the University of Manchester.
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