ChannelTrends: Separating Hype from Opportunity with Emerging Technologies

Emerging technologiesThe future is today for tech firms. While many MSPs and IT services providers remain focused on the “here and now” of systems management, ensuring their customers’ systems are up and running, their progressive peers are pivoting ahead. Not to 2018, but to 2020 and beyond.

The reason is simple: their customers want and need their technology specialists looking that far ahead. Whether those business leaders view these advances as differentiators or drivers of needed efficiencies or providing some other competitive advantage; they recognize an opportunity and want to proceed.

Companies like Amazon and Dominos are putting serious money into drone development to help expand and speed up their delivery services. Meanwhile, FedEx, UPS and even the United States Post Office are taking a more conservative approach with more traditional automation projects. Both strategies depend heavily on emerging technologies, including AI and Big Data.

As always, consumers will decide which approach makes the most sense. Either way, technologists win.

Not Ready for SMB?  
The biggest knock against emerging technologies is the risk-averse nature of small business and the channel that supports that community. The ROI for future tech is questionable and some companies prefer to let others blaze a trail on the "bleeding edge" to work through the kinks and concerns. 

At least that was the old perception. The traditional “wait and see” attitude that always existed in this segment is fading as those from the computer generation take the reins. Not only the Millennials, but the Gen Xers who understand the upside of technological innovation ‒ and the downside of not embracing it in their businesses. You can't afford to wait today. Life and technological advances move too fast.    

That shift is affecting the SMB and the channel that serves much of that segment. Over the past few years, early adopters have pushed the technology advancement bell curve ahead a bit. The need for quicker innovation and more advanced support services if forcing the channel out of its conservative comfort zone into new, more progressive thinking.

That doesn’t mean MSPs will suddenly start offering drone support. But they need to be mindful of what their customers expect not just today, but two to five years in the future. Whether they know it or not, their engineering clients may already be checking out AI solutions. Retailers could be investigating Big Data or business intelligence options.

The SMB, like any business segment, is focusing more attention on outcomes. If their industry is adopting new technologies, they had better be in the mix, or at least not far behind. Most will need help.    

The good news is that channel firms appear to be stepping up to that challenge. According to the 2017 CompTIA IT Industry Outlook, 61% of IT companies expect emerging technologies to have a moderate to significant impact on their bottom line.  

Emerging Technologies as a Service?
While ETaaS may not catch on as the latest hot channel term, the acronym does serve a purpose. As is the trend in technology, support services are where the money’s at for channel firms. Most businesses have few, if any inhouse experts who can assess their project requirements and the available solutions; and then procure, implement, and maintain it all.

They need experts to assess the performance and security needs of existing infrastructure. And qualified specialists who can work through issues with suppliers and integrate it all with their current technology investments.

In other words, the more complicated it becomes, the more support they will need. That expertise brings a premium that augments the lower margins received from providing more traditional channel offerings.

Where to Start
The list of emerging technologies gets longer each year ‒ that’s where the “emerging part” comes in ‒ with several getting much of the channel press. In other words, the business case is clarifying for the SMB.

Those options include:

·       IOT (the Internet of Things)

·       Drones and robotics

·       AI (Artificial Intelligence) 

·       VR (Virtual Reality)

·       3-D printing

Security is a major consideration for the first three emerging topics on the list ‒ and some may say all four.  From network assessments to password protection and training, channel firms can supply many of the key services their customers will need to ensure their latest investments remain operational.

Regulatory compliance is another opportunity. Wil your retail clients understand the implications of introducing untested and potentially unsecured emerging technologies into their network? What vulnerabilities could they create? An experienced channel tech professional should know.   

Emerging technologies should not be considered simply as hardware, software or solutions. To the channel, they spell opportunity. The SMB segment needs well-prepared security experts and network design consultants to ensure their future ideas come to fruition.

Are you ready to accept that challenge? Move beyond the hype and build a business plan for the emerging technologies your clients are going to need in the future.

Brian Sherman is president of Tech Success Communications, a channel-related content and social media development firm. He served previously as the chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com