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'Choice and flexibility': how A/NZ distributors are rethinking their post-pandemic models

'Choice and flexibility': how A/NZ distributors are rethinking their post-pandemic models

Amid a turbulent social and economic climate, three A/NZ distributors weigh in on how evolving flexibility will reshape the distribution and channel models for years to come.

L-R: Andy Berry (Tech Data), Phil Cameron (Westcon-Comstor), Tim Ament (Ingram Micro).

L-R: Andy Berry (Tech Data), Phil Cameron (Westcon-Comstor), Tim Ament (Ingram Micro).

Credit: Supplied

For Cameron, operational efficiencies will be critical for businesses given the current environment of "multiple demand and supply stressors affecting supply chains world-wide". 

These include the global chip shortage, pandemic-driven disruptions to logistical supply chains and a pressure on talent and resourcing, especially in A/NZ. 

"This has led distributors to consider more logical and innovative ways to help future-proof these businesses," Cameron explained. 

Alongside the technology side of automation and digital transformation, these solutions also include a more holistic approach of employee wellbeing, collaboration and sustainability.  

"The digitisation and the use of digital technologies to transform existing business processes and drive customer engagement will be a critical asset of the supply-chain network of the future," he added.

"Today, if your business isn’t designed and optimised for resilience in the face of severe disruptions, natural disasters and pandemics, then you are severely limited in terms of how you can meet the demands and expectations of your customers. You are also restricted when it comes to your ability to scale and grow." 

Security 

Without a doubt, one trend that has fully made its way to the distribution table in recent years is security. 

For Berry, the biggest change is that security is now a part of every conversation, either as a pure play solution or as an integral part of securing any software, hardware or networking design. 

In the past, though, this was far from the case. As Cameron explained, products were previously delivered physically and software ownership was transferred to the end-customer, while product support was reactive at best. 

"These static solutions required wholesale upgrade or replacement at the end of their useful life," he explained. "Failure to do so left end customers at risk of cyber attacks or business interruptions." 

However, in the wake of multiple global cyber attacks, including several to hit Australia and New Zealand, proactive measures are now a must, Cameron argued. At the centre of this is securing a business’ core network and putting threat detection and visibility at the forefront. 

Areas for partners and customers to remain focused on include: 24/7 monitoring of end-point connections; robust security access policies; security orchestration automation and response capabilities, and a zero trust security framework to prevent unauthorised access to critical data. 

Yet given hackers' abilities to squeeze through the smallest of security vulnerabilities, Ingram Micro Australia's head of cyber security, Rod Lazarus, admits that securing customer networks is "increasingly difficult". 

"Security is fast becoming a topic for not only the CISO and CEO but also at the board level," he said. "It will require this level of oversight and governance to effectively build the right security frameworks that are needed to protect a company’s assets. 

"The edge of their networks is now in someone’s living room and not the office building or data centre. There are many products in the security market that each have their own strengths and weaknesses and it is hard to know what to choose. Sometimes, using the latest in the market may not always be the best fit." 

As such, he argued, organisations and partners should be looking at security frameworks such as zero trust, NIST or Australia's Essential Eight to provide protection, visibility and, crucially, ensure employees are full trained on correct protocols. 

Although building out a security practice has recently been touted as a way for managed service providers to gain new sources of revenue, Cameron reiterated that this "certainly isn’t something that can happen overnight". 

"The cyber security market is complex, fragmented and rapidly changing," he explained. "Building a security practice can require significant investment in new technology, processes and a security operations centre (SOC) among other considerations, which may be a risk with the current uncertainty generated by Brexit and the pandemic.  

"It also demands skilled cyber security professionals – while managed security services providers (MSSPs) can help bridge the continued cyber security talent gap within customers’ organisations, the same skills shortage is a major barrier in their attempts to recruit and retain security experts." 

While the MSSP route may not necessarily be the next iteration of the MSP model, that is not to say 2022 will not bring evolution of current partner business models. 

Returning to the as-a-Service question, Berry argued: "There’s a lot of discussion about everything-as-a-service (XaaS) models from mid-sized partners.  Some are investing, most are still figuring out what’s going to work for them." 

For Ingram Micro solutions development consultant Dave Leabeater, cashflow management will become increasingly top of mind for partners due to customers' demand for flexibility and its effect on their technology needs.  

"The flow on effect for both value-added resellers and MSPs is to protect cashflow, risks, upfront revenue, whilst maintaining the ability to move with the customers changing needs'," he said. "What we are seeing in the market is a greater request and increasing understanding of the benefits of a true OPEX model. An example would be how this model reduces risks of over funding in technology obsolesce.” 


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