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Back to Business: Cautious Optimism Prevails in the IT Channel, New Report from CompTIA Finds

Aug 17, 2021

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. – Information technology (IT) channel companies are cautiously optimistic as they refocus on growth opportunities in 2021 and beyond after the unprecedented events of 2020, according to new research from CompTIA, the nonprofit association for the IT industry and workforce.

Nine in 10 executives believe the channel maintains its relevance in the IT universe, CompTIA’s “International State of the Channel 2021” report finds. But they are split when asked about the health of the channel: 46% say it is holding steady in its current form, 44% say it’s rapidly changing.

“This latter attitude is most likely based on the expanding fabric of the channel, with new business models unleased by cloud computing, the ubiquity of consulting-only services and the emergence of non-traditional players as purveyors of technology products and services,” said Carolyn April, senior director for industry analysis at CompTIA.

The channel’s cautious optimism is bolstered to some degree by forecasts for global IT spending of more than $5 trillion this year, based on the feeling that customers will resume their spending on software, devices, hardware infrastructure and IT services.

But channel executives acknowledge that some customers may still be reluctant to buy, including small businesses and industry sectors hit hardest by the pandemic (hospitality and retail, for example). Four in 10 executives express concern about the continuing impact of  COVID-19 on customers’ ability or willingness to invest in new technology solutions.

The report gauges executives’ views on key factors that impact the IT channel, including:

  • What are you selling?

    Respondents predict positive revenue potential over the next two years from a variety of services offerings with cybersecurity topping the list (cited by 69% of respondents). Other services expected to generate solid customer business include cloud services (68%),  data analytics (68%), digital marketing services (66%) and emerging technologies (66%). Examined by region, channel partners have uniquely different views on the services that offer the greatest growth potential: emerging tech in Australia/New Zealand, cybersecurity in Benelux, data in Canada, digital marketing services in the UK and cloud services in the U.S.

  • About those emerging technologies

    Involvement with emerging technologies was yet another disruption that channel firms encountered in the past year. About one-third of companies paused their emerging tech efforts temporarily or indefinitely and 6% pulled the plug entirely. On the positive side, 30% of companies stayed the course on what they were doing with emerging tech (actively selling, using internally or experimenting) and about 25% of firms ramped up their work in areas such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, blockchain, drones and 5G wireless networks. Channel firms in the U.S., Benelux and Australia/New Zealand place 5G at the top of their list of emerging tech offerings, while IoT is the top priority for companies in the UK and Canada.

  • The channel and cybersecurity

    Standard offerings – antivirus, firewall, data backup protection – are the norm for the majority of channel companies (53%) delivering cybersecurity services. But a significant number of firms (36%) say they are just beginning to formulate a cybersecurity strategy and portfolio, are behind schedule or are not involved in cybersecurity at all.

  • Vendor-partner relationships
  • Channel firms’ satisfaction generally with their vendors remains high, though not as high as in the past. A net 79% of respondents report being either satisfied or very satisfied with their vendors in the last two years. That’s lower than in previous years when the percentage charted in the 80th-plus percentile. Asked what they want from their vendor partners, the most sought-after items are business-oriented: sales, marketing and operational training and services. This is forcing vendors to re-evaluate traditional partner program resources and incentives to meet new expectations.


CompTIA’s “International State of the Channel 2021” report is based on a Q2 2021 survey of 880 IT channel professionals in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg), Australia and New Zealand.

About CompTIA
The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is a leading voice and advocate for the $5 trillion global information technology ecosystem; and the estimated 75 million industry and tech professionals who design, implement, manage, and safeguard the technology that powers the world’s economy. Through education, training, certifications, advocacy, philanthropy, and market research, CompTIA is the hub for advancing the tech industry and its workforce. Visit  https://www.comptia.org/.

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