With every major technological shift since the 1980s, distributors have been forced to refigure their roles and evolve their business models with lightning speed.
First it was the dawn of software and subscriptions; then came the disruption of cloud computing in the last decade; and now in 2022, it is everything -- as-a-service.
Admittedly, this trend, along with the continuous growth of cloud, "sounds obvious", but the signs are very clear, according to Tech Data vice president and country manager of Australia and New Zealand Andy Berry.
As a result, Berry said, this means "flexibility, the desire to be not locked in to either a long term technical or commercial arrangement and the pursuit of quick return-on-investment on projects is causing everyone to need to adapt."
Heightened by the unprecedented explosion of remote working, the demand for flexibility has fallen on both businesses and employees alike, putting more need on technology to accommodate.
Now, according to Gartner, 69 per cent of boards of directors say the effects of the pandemic crisis, the economic crisis and the social crisis are accelerating digital business initiatives, with McKinsey Global Survey claiming that digital transformation projects have been accelerated by up to four years.
Speaking to ARN of these trends, Westcon-Comstor managing director Phil Cameron said businesses now cannot be "bound by traditional ideas of space and time when working together."
"Instead, we can shift our assumptions about work and embrace choice and flexibility," he said. "As we all adapt to new hybrid work models, business leaders and employees alike can rethink their operating model for a successful and sustainable shift to hybrid work that works for everyone."
According to Ingram Micro A/NZ chief country executive Tim Ament, this shift has seen the distributor completely redesign its cloud organisation with a focus on partner experience.
"This includes teams in software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a service (IaaS) and in customer success teams to help our customers adopt, retain and expand on the subscriptions that have been purchased," he said.
According to Ingram Micro, 2022 will be further fuelled by rapid data centre transformation, giving partners opportunities in the multi-cloud and hybrid cloud space, especially in the field of IaaS.
Nevertheless, as Cameron points out, today's fleet of as-a-service solutions are "dynamic in nature," meaning partners will need to be on top form in terms of customer service.
"The software development cycle is agile with updates added regularly, extending the useful life of the solution well beyond the initial sale," he explained. "However, this lifecycle now needs to be managed pro-actively to deliver ongoing value.
"While the subscription model guarantees recurring revenue, it also empowers customers to switch or discard solutions quickly if they do not see measurable value. This has prompted the channel to pivot towards delivering the customer’s desired business outcomes by using a solution, not just once, but consistently every day of a solution’s life."
Since long before the COVID-19 pandemic, enterprises with a long history and backlog of technology solutions have increasingly sought to find efficiencies and break down silos in their organisations.
With huge swathes of the global workforce still working remotely or adopting hybrid practices, this need has hit tenfold. This, according to Ingram Micro Australia's director of advanced solutions Brett Armstrong, starts in the hardware itself.
"We will see larger proportions of workloads moving to cloud giving rise to multi-cloud and hybrid cloud opportunities especially in the IaaS space," he explained. "This also means more opportunities in the professional and managed services space. For instance, deploy, manage and optimise the hybrid infrastructure on an ongoing basis. As a distributor, we want to add value by bringing in multi-vendor platforms to develop solutions for the partner community.”
The need for multi-vendor and cross-selling solutions was also echoed by Berry.
"Increasingly there is a need to combine multi-vendor solutions between large established vendor solutions and newer born in the cloud or independent software vendors," he said. "These have to be easy to consume and implement and not require enormous investments in people or certification in the early stages.
"Distributors who can be ahead of the solution curve and speed the partners adoption of incremental solutions will be the most valued."
Meanwhile, for Ingram Micro's Armstrong, enterprise automation will be the next incarnation of operational efficiency that neither partners nor enterprises can ignore. This area has led the distributor to invest heavily in its global partnership with UiPath.
"This partnership will give our channel ecosystem opportunities within enterprise automation," Armstrong explained. "Investments are being made by enterprise organisations because of the immediate and measurable return on investments coupled with improvement to staff and customer experiences.
"It will also assist our partners to generate new service models and create value added services within their customer ecosystems.”
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