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4 Trends That Will Define the Channel in 2021


In 2020, years of channel growth materialized in a matter of months as cloud became the go-to technology for socially distanced work, school and social interactions.

Now, vendors and partners alike look toward this new year with an eye to turn channel obstacles into channel opportunities. From post-pandemic software infrastructure to redefined channel roles, here are four trends that are likely to define the channel in the year ahead.

Refining post-pandemic infrastructure

In 2020, channel partners helped companies of all sizes move swiftly to cloud solutions. In the initial rush online, decision-makers preferred the easiest and fastest cloud configurations.

This year, as IDC predicted, most enterprises are expected to accelerate their shift to cloud-centric digital infrastructure and application services twice as fast as before the pandemic began as channel partners opt to build resilience into these “quick-fix” solutions. As a result, businesses are expected to further optimize their XaaS platforms.

Implementing these upgrades presents an opportunity for managed service providers (MSPs) to ensure organizations make the right choices, especially for smaller companies that do not have an internal IT team.

Meanwhile, the most successful resellers will be those who intelligently bundle cloud-based solutions into a single offering. Customers are looking to IT providers to be problem solvers who serve as advisors uniquely capable of piecing together exactly the right multi-vendor cloud solution packages. The IT providers with whom they work must be able to rapidly—even immediately—expand their catalogs to meet the evolving needs of businesses.

The lingering threat of cyberattacks

Optimism for the new year should not blind anyone to the possibility of increased cyberattacks. 2020 saw an influx of attacks with 60% of MSPs reporting that one or more of their clients was hit by ransomware in the first half of the year, while 11% had clients who were struck more than once in a single day. The importance of cybersecurity will undoubtedly remain front and center for partners in 2021 as experts predict ransomware incidents to triple.

As some companies begin to return to the office, MSPs will need to stay vigilant to ensure their customers’ remote and hybrid work environments are fully protected. Automation will be key by allowing IT service providers to add more customers with less impact on staff and, in turn, create a force-multiplier effect by automating prevention, prediction and response processes.

Channel partners, therefore, must be ready to advise their customers on what solutions they need and the dangers they should protect against in 2021.

Reworking channel roles and responsibilities

The speed and flexibility shown by the channel have proved to be key strengths during the pandemic as organizations rapidly sought to change the way they conducted business. For example, marketplaces experienced the equivalent of 10 years of growth in one quarter as companies turned to technology to solve their business problems. This sudden proliferation is reshaping the roles and responsibilities of various players within channel marketplaces.

Additionally, the pandemic reinforced that MSPs are integral strategic partners for their customers and serve as extensions of business continuity teams rather than merely “third-party service providers.” Besides helping customers combat rising security threats and improve their post-pandemic infrastructure, MSPs have also become crucial advisors in facilitating the move to remote work and migrating business processes to the cloud.

While the past 12 months have shifted the perception of their role, MSPs can look to the next 12 months for an opportunity to leverage this growing influence and sustain the digital transformation of their customers.

The power of future-facing ecosystems

The pandemic serves as a reality check for businesses that have focused on day-to-day operations instead of long-term resilience. Therefore, we believe the journey to building and maintaining resilience in the new year and beyond includes adopting an ecosystem strategy that allows vendors to reach a virtually limitless customer base.

Accenture predicts that the businesses thriving in five years’ time will be those that grasp the value of an ecosystem-driven approach today and that already have or are building the next-generation ecosystem.

By effectively orchestrating an ecosystem, partners will unlock distributed innovation and enable new revenue for entire networks. Doing so, however, is no easy task. Businesses face the challenge of connecting publishers and customers to efficiently transact with each other while enabling buyers to easily find what they need within the ecosystem.

The digital acceleration of all businesses

Heading into 2021, expectations are high across the channel. The pandemic has given leaders no choice but to transform and as organizations adjust to the new landscape, the digital acceleration of all businesses will likely continue at a sustained pace.

As postponed projects restart this year with experts predicting enterprise spending to pick up again, organizations want more options and less complexity, choosing solutions that can be ordered and scaled with a few clicks.

The channel will need to continue to adapt to this as-a-service approach to help customers make simpler and faster decisions that support their IT demands and adjust to the new normal. In short, a new landscape will require all channel players to embrace new strategies.

Now is a great time to learn more about CloudBlue Connect, a catalog and channel management platform that supports omni-product distribution to power what’s next for your business.

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