ChannelTrends: A Look at the Past, Present, and Future of the Channel

FinaleTimes change. Especially in the tech industry where innovation and business transformation are the rule rather than the exception. Over the past 16 years, I’ve been lucky enough to attend hundreds of new product, service, and partner program introductions; and heard just as many firsthand accounts from channel movers and shakers.

The most humbling thing about those experiences is realizing how many of the companies are no longer in operation or ended up getting absorbed into other organizations. A similar thing happened to the product and services offerings introduced more than a decade ago. Relatively few are still available in their original form ̶ or anything comparable.

That’s a common story in the tech community. Every channel professional has surely experienced some level of transformation, and the speed of change should only increase in the coming years.  

CompTIA understands the challenges that presents its members and the entire tech community.  Over the past two decades, the association has lead the way in channel business transformation, helping providers, vendors, distributors and other channel firms improve their operations and increase profitability. It’s a core part of CompTIA’s mission.  

The Current Situation
The ghosts of our industry’s past laid the foundation for today’s opportunities. Managed and cloud services didn’t happen overnight. Over the past two decades, thousands of engineers, inventors and tech professionals built and refined the web-based delivery systems that now support millions of businesses across the world.

Though still in their proverbial infancy, connected technologies and artificial intelligence are already impacting organizations and their long-term plans. Many see IoT and machine learning as a means of differentiation, driving greater efficiencies and improving customer service and deliverables. While many scoffed at Amazon and Dominos when they publicly proposed building drone networks to augment their delivery fleets, it didn’t take long for their competitors to follow suit.

The channel is at a crossroads today, not stuck between the past and future as some experts suggest, but on the verge of total business technology transformation. While organizations grow increasingly reliant on those who maintain and expand their networks ‒including MSPs and their partners ‒ there is an urgent need for more visionaries. They need skilled professionals to plan and build out their next generation business technologies and the infrastructure to support it.

That presents a major opportunity for channel companies. Not just five or ten years from now as they reach critical mass, but today. 2018 should be a banner year for those looking to expand their portfolios and business competencies. Their customers depend on that support.      

2018 and Beyond
The channel’s future won’t solely depend on IoT, cybersecurity and advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning. Core technology competencies such as remote monitoring and remediation, backup and disaster recovery, cloud management, and desktop/ mobility device support will be needed more than ever. Those with robust business technology consulting expertise should continue to prosper.   

After all, what good are advanced technologies when businesses’ critical infrastructure falls apart? The opportunities for progressive channel professionals ‒ those who monitor key trends and continually evaluate the needs of their customers, and then build the appropriate support programs to support them should multiply ‒ will escalate exponentially in the future.

Those projections don’t guarantee channel growth and individual success. Economies of scale and increased competition will likely force more industry consolidation, where only the leanest and most innovative survive. Everyone, from providers and vendors to distributors and other channel experts, needs to focus on continual improvement and reinvention.

For example, MSPs in highly competitive markets might consider going vertical. Specializations allow channel professionals to focus their messaging and hone their support. That transition typically leads to improved customer retention and higher margins, allowing firms to boost their cash flow and increase investments in future technologies.

Current and future channel transitions are focal points for CompTIA. In 2018, the association will enhance its industry-leading resources with a host of new business tools, educational sessions, and other materials. Expect more in-depth discussions around the latest technologies next year as well, including SaaS/Apps, drones, and robotics ‒ each with its own implications for the channel.

CompTIA is not only investing in the future but doubling down on the things its members need today to prepare for tomorrow’s opportunities. For 2018, that will include the addition of three advisory councils and a new peer group meeting, the CompTIA Community Forum, March 20th and 21st in Chicago.

CompTIA not only provides the forum where vital industry conversations happen, but delivers the education, best practices, and business improvement resources that channel professionals need to compete in the future.   

The opportunities will be plentiful for channel professionals who are looking forward and actively engaging in industry-enhancing discussions.With 2018 just a few days away, there’s no better time to get involved. Sign up and become a CompTIA member today.                 

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