I’ve spent the better part of 2016 traveling the industry and talking with thought leaders and practitioners alike about the future of the channel. Here's what's in store for 2017.
More than six out of 10 solution providers are optimistic about their business prospects, according to CompTIA’s 2016 State of the Channel study. That’s not bad considering the level of political uncertainty, global insecurity and economic volatility that exists today.
The reasons why channel companies remain optimistic number many. Here are the top ones, according to CompTIA:
- Cloud computing is opening new doors
- More tech usage has upped the need for more tech experts
- Solutions complexity outstrips the ability of most customers
- And demand for managed services remains high
With that as a backdrop, Penton’s Channel editors recently turned our focus to growth prospects for 2017. You can see our complete “Special Report: All About Growth” here. Speaking for myself, I’ve spent the better part of 2016 traveling the industry and talking with thought leaders and practitioners alike about the future of the channel. From my interviews and study, I conclude that solution providers can growth their businesses in 2017 by pursuing one or more of these options:
Take Advantage of ICT Democratization: It’s no secret that cloud computing, mobility and software-defined everything have reduced the cost and complexity of digitization. This trend is putting more computing power and applications capability in the hands of customers than ever before. Today, even a small business can leverage a sophisticated ERP solution—technology whose cost and complexity would have made it impossible for a small concern to buy just a mere few years ago. Every week I hear how a once enterprise-only technology has been re-rendered for small business use. Take EventTracker, for example. The company, which combined with Netsurion in October 2016, has created a Security Information Event Management (SIEM) service that almost anyone can use. “Combining EventTracker’s cloud-based SIEM capabilities with Netsurion’s expertise in managed security services will enable SIEM to be delivered to a class of businesses that previously was unable to afford and manage such sophisticated security measures,” says A.N. Ananth, CEO of EventTracker. “Now any sized branch or remote office, franchise, or sole proprietor operation can use Netsurion’s managed network security service or EventTracker’s SIEM services without the costs and complexity of fulltime dedicated resources.”
Embrace the SaaS revolution: All those hotshot SaaS startups that set out to revolutionize the world a mere few years ago? Many are still around and with damn good services to boot. But they are struggling with one aspect of their business: sales. Even successful ones are plowing 100-120 percent of revenue into new customer acquisition—something than only Google’s ad business will benefit from in the long run. In September of this year, I interviewed Daniel Saks, the co-CEO of unicorn startup AppDirect, about this trend. AppDirect makes a platform that helps SaaS companies instantly deploy the technology infrastructure required for building a channel. As such, Saks finds himself at the nexus of the SaaS universe. He fully believes that SaaS companies by the thousands are ready to turn to the channel for help selling innovative services of all kinds. Rarely have channel companies had an opportunity to get in on the ground floor with new innovation that touches vertical markets, niche technology markets and functional departments within customers. You may have shied away from moving up the technology stack before, but put SaaS expansion high atop your agenda for 2017.
Sell IoT Services: Even if you don’t see yourself selling actuators or installing sensors, Io should be in your future. Why? Because a lot of IoT innovation is in your wheelhouse. Think security for starters. Every new device or “thing” added to the net or cloud will require oversight and protection. Once securely added, they will need to be managed, more often than not, remotely. These are VAR and MSP opportunities. Then there are advisory services that you can provide to bewildered customers of all sizes. Don’t forget, IoT innovation is near the peak of its hype cycle. Helping customers understands what is real and what is not is an invaluable service. What is more, most customers do not understand the privacy and regulatory aspects of the IoT. Nor do they have time to study up on it. What they want is a trusted advisor who can put these vital areas of concern into perspective. Boning up on privacy and compliance frameworks, legalities and regulations could open doors to selling new advisory services that clients will pay dearly for.
Put Data to Work: Even customer has data. And everyone can put it to work with some assistance. The first tranche of value that you can provide to customers starts with the devices and systems that you oversee for them. Each of these is throwing off all kinds of information. MSPmentor guest Xpert Jim Lippie, chief advisor at Clarity Channel Advisors and former MSP himself, says only a fraction of customer usage and systems data is being put to use properly. He is so confident that this data can transform how customers use systems and applications that he built an entire company around it. And he’s not the only one. You could easily show your customer which apps their users use most and which they ignore. You can also show them which employees are using technology most, and which never log in. Helping them make better use their tech assets and manage their people? There’s a buck in that for sure. If you can step up and help them put their industry and business data to use, there isn’t just a few dollars to earn, but riches untold.
Blink your eye and 2017 will be upon you. Don’t miss the great opportunities it presents.