“This will eventually pass and when it does, we need to be prepared for a significant spike in activity,” he acknowledged. “Customers are also trying to survive the pandemic, with the main priority ensuring they have a secure and stable network to cater for the ‘new normal’ of remote working.”
Remote working continues to place high on the boardroom agenda across the entire ecosystem - spanning partners, distributors and vendors - heightening the need to find new ways to stay connected with customers.
“Whether in IT or retail, you have to find a way,” acknowledged Chanter of Thomas Duryea Logicalis. “Customers are our lifeblood and no business can afford to lose any. But we also have to ensure we maintain the fabric of the organisation and especially the culture as people become more dispersed.
“We’ve put in extra effort as a leadership team to ensure teams and individuals feel connected to our purpose and to each other. In the medium-term, we expect customers to focus hard on digital models for doing business whereas in the long-term, ‘how do I adapt to digital selling?’ will be the question.”
In the age of Covid-19 - amid mounting daily challenges - the age-old adage that 'cash is king' has never carried more significance not just for partners, but also customers.
“Customers are prioritising monitoring cash flow and strengthening cash reserves in the short-term, while increasing focus on cost efficiency and improving productivity, agility and customer experience,” outlined Lowe of ASI Solutions. “Businesses need to be dynamic during these times of uncertainty.”
Echoing Lowe’s observations, Padisetti of Digital Armour observed that organisations are continuing to review costs amid plans to “do more with less” during the months ahead. In the medium-term however, plans are in place to enhance efficiency, resiliency and profitability levels in areas such as supply chain, customer service and sales.
“This involves redirecting resources to customer facing roles in order to retain and serve existing customers, while growing their businesses in the new normal,” Padisetti added.
Maintaining the cash flow pressure sentiment, Verma of Oreta assessed that in the wake of Covid-19, challenges related to unpredictable revenue and operational changes will force businesses to embrace innovation, irrespective of circumstance.
“They will have to disrupt themselves to not only stay relevant but to survive,” he cautioned. “The shift to mass remote working has also resulted in increased security vulnerabilities, meaning customers will increasingly leverage managed services to ensure IT security and operations are looked after so they can focus on growing again.”
Likewise in Western Australia, and according to Webb of MSS IT, security and archiving continues to dominate the customer conversation, with a specific focus on backing up in relation to Office 365, alongside threat hunting services.
“Customers are prioritising the deployment of endpoint detection and response, including threat hunting, perimeter mail security and storage,” he said. “These are the hot topics we are currently engaging with customers on at the moment. In response we’re focusing our business on security vendors and architecting private and hybrid cloud solutions, allowing customers to pay via a consumption-based model.”
Customer priorities: technology
In the short-term, customer priorities remain anchored around security - confirmed Padisetti of Digital Armour - enforced further by the continuation of remote working into the second half of the year.
“Interest in compliance, managing risk, disaster recovery and business continuity is increasing,” she outlined. “In the medium-term however, we expect organisations to focus on technologies which involve automation, business process reengineering and analytics to better understand customers. We’re focusing less on the resale of products and more on helping customers succeed at a business level.”
In acknowledging the importance of strengthening cyber capabilities in South Australia, Calvert of Calvert Technologies said such customer focus is counterbalanced by a need to allow employees to return to remote working, should the need arise.
“Some have found non-VoIP phone systems to be a potential problem than first thought with more preference in switching to modern and VoIP capable systems,” he said. “This is alongside a spike in end point replacements due to existing devices not suiting the requirements of a rapid pivot to remote working. It’s almost as if the customer is finally listening to our advice.
“There’s no real change to our strategy - we continue to communicate regularly with our clients, providing advice through a ‘non-sales’ approach to reinforce that we are here to work with them, not just to sell to them.”
Due to the rising number of end-users accessing applications via public or private cloud, Abouhaidar of Secure Agility has reported an “immediate shift” towards SD-WAN, collaboration and security services.
“Therefore our strategy has not changed a great deal,” he added. “We have mainly prioritised cloud and managed services as we have made significant investments in this area. The pandemic has increased our focus further as this is where the customers are heading at an even quicker rate than before.”
The shift to SD-WAN - seemingly at speed and at scale - is motivated by a desire to increase agility, flexibility and visibility at the network level, supported by enhanced bandwidth. That’s according to Verma of Oreta, who documented an increasing need to keep traditional WAN and multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) running while transforming existing infrastructure.
“SD-WAN is becoming a key enabler, ticking all the boxes and addressing these challenges,” he advised. “Customers are seeking an integrated platform that can combine both network and security, especially with the recent influx of employees working from home.
“Customers now require improved visibility into network performance, allowing for immediate remedial action when detecting suspicious behaviour in real-time, without interfering with user experience.”
As a result, a growing trend is emerging in which customers are including SD-WAN on agenda items, allowing the business to respond in real-time to the current threat landscape.
“During the next 6-9 months, we will further position ourselves in the infrastructure-as-a-service [IaaS] market,” Verma added. “We will continue to expand our focus on our networking capabilities, in particular SD-WAN, and highlight our MSP capabilities, through customer standardisation and optimisation.”
Amid the shift to remote working, Chanter of Thomas Duryea Logicalis forecast that the next wave of short- to medium-term adoption will centre around consolidating work practices.
“Customers are making investments to work efficiently and collaborate, while they may have started with an unsophisticated mode of virtual collaboration, most are now realising this may be a longer haul than we originally planned for, so are revisiting strategies,” he assessed.
Providing security requirements are adhered to, Chanter said collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams have combined to accelerate a shift from infrastructure to the cloud, removing barriers to entry around workload migration in the process.
“We’re continuing to invest in our strategic partnerships with Microsoft, Cisco and Dell Technologies among others,” he said. “We pride ourselves on exceptional vendor relationships and have robust go-to-market plans which align to our own objectives. We have secured our Azure Expert MSP certification with Microsoft for example, investing in skills and expertise to ensure we maintain and capitalise on our partnerships.”
For Lowe of ASI Solutions, customers are pushing through digital transformation activities in addition to remote working and security deployments, aligned to the belief that “customer-centricity” is the key.
“Our plans during the coming months will be both internal and customer focused,” he stated. “We will continue to focus on transformational strategies such as digital customer experience, streamlining operations and increased investment in employee training.”
Mirroring the rest of the market, businesses in the Northern Territory are now encountering a heightened awareness of vulnerability, providing opportunity for the channel to “step-up as an industry”.
“Bolstering systems to support the deployment of solutions very rapidly, developing digital tools that work in disrupted environments and supporting continuity is no doubt where most boardroom thinking will focus over the coming months,” Watt of Area9 said. “There’ll definitely be opportunity for adaptation of existing digital solutions and a focus on process automation.”