The recently released CompTIA IT Industry Outlook report showed that optimism abounds in the channel, with 62% of the firms surveyed saying they were successfully reaching new customers. More than half (53%) also indicated they were increasing wallet share with their existing clients. Many indicated they were seeing positive results from the launch of new business liens and from efficiency improvements with their own internal operations.
The startling number was that only 35% of optimists mentioned advancing their sales and marketing processes, despite their obvious reliance on both to reach new customers and gain more revenue from current clients. That dichotomy was at the heart of many discussions and presentations during the February 23rd CompTIA Canadian IT Business Community meeting in Toronto.
Chris Groot, VP of Business Development for LogicNow kicked off the day on a high note, suggesting the tech industry is alive and well with results of the latest research. As he noted, Canada’s more than $140 billion piece of the $3.8 trillion global market is chugging along quite nicely despite the short-term investment challenges in the oil and gas sector (cutbacks due to reduced revenue from low prices).
CompTIA projects the IT sales to increase another 3-4% in 2016
Industry Outlook is Positive
Why such optimism in the channel? The connection with customers is getting tighter and providers who understand that linkage, from their executives to their sales and marketing staff, are prospering. “It’s all about the software and user experience today,” stressed Tamer Farag, Marketing Director for Microsoft during the kickoff Power Panel session. “There is business for everyone in the IT industry, but disrupting technologies are driving change and we have to do things differently.”
Solution provider Brendan Howe, President and CEO of Techify is “looking at double digit growth this year. The trend with our customers is investing in IT that drives their companies’ growth. They don’t want to add helpdesk and mainstream IT staff, but they do want to put their money into things that give them a competitive advantage.”
The key to driving that type of growth is focus more efforts on sales and marketing, and the research shared earlier shows many providers still aren’t giving those areas enough attention. With the right emphasis and effective procedures, even the smallest of IT firms can reap significant opportunities. “Our number one partner in Canada is a two-person operation,” stressed panelist Danny Deganis from Arcserve. “The owner is a consummate networker and works his rolodex well. They engage with us (one of their vendor partners) as an extension of their sales team, which keeps his overhead. We offer subject matter expertise and help him push the sale.”
Commoditization and poor business practices remain top challenges. Howe suggested that improvements one side of the house might lessen the profitability issue. “The reason we’re driven down in pricing? Customers don’t understand what we’re delivering and the infrastructure we have in place to support their organization, how complicated and costly it is to deliver. The challenge we all have is getting better explaining it properly, helping them appreciate the differences between companies do they will be willing to pay more for quality services and support.”
Channel organizations often have to do the best they can with the resources they have available, at least until they can build out their clientele, their programs and their people. Julian Lee, President of Technoplanet suggested that HR is one of the biggest issues providers face today. “You have to look hard to find talent and then, when you find it, retention becomes an even bigger problem. Of course, you can outsource certain elements of the business. There may be no need to find a talent pool of your own when you can get good rates and quality partners who can help deliver quality services. That’s just one way providers are solving the HR problem.”
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