Accelerated technology innovation, shifting customer demands, evolving business models and a volatile macro- economic environment are combining to create a complex and rapidly changing landscape.
At Infinigate Catalyst 2023, we invited Stuart Wilson, Senior Research Director at IDC, to join our panel of experts and share his insights and latest channel research. In this blog, we outline 9 key takeaways from Wilson’s ‘Sparking Channel Growth’, presentation, to help partners navigate this period of accelerated transformation – and turn challenges into opportunities.
1. Customers are prioritising resilience and flexibility
More customers are looking to leverage technology platforms to build a more resilient business. “As a partner, you must be ready to help your customers navigate through these turbulent times. And you do that by helping them build a greater focus on resiliency within their operation, and often this translates into security as well,” advises Wilson.
According to IDC’s European IT Security Survey 2022, security, risk and compliance are most immune to budget cuts, which is positive news for security-focused partners.
2. Security remains mission-critical
The key drivers of security spending remain strong, according to IDC’s European IT Security Survey 2022. Over half of organisations surveyed see cyber-resilience as a top priority. As a result, 1 in 2 are increasing their IT security operations budget.
“The rise in cyber-attacks is driving end-users to talk to partners to understand what they can do to proactively mitigate the changing threat environment,” outlines Wilson.
3. Trust in public cloud is growing fast
IDC report that the need for enhanced security is also moving alongside increased cloud adoption. “Perceptions have changed rapidly, and trust in public cloud is growing fast, with the vast majority (70%) of end-users view public cloud to be more secure than on-prem,” comments Wilson.
To spark growth, it is vital for partners to understand how different trends align and create tailored, customer-led value propositions to seize the opportunity.
4. Partners need to position themselves from a security perspective
As the market and customer needs evolve rapidly, it is increasingly important for partners to position themselves from a security perspective. In its European IT Security Survey 2022, IDC identified that customers truly value flexibility and understanding when selecting an MSSP. Offering ways to purchase and consume that work for the customer, such as marketplaces, was also cited as important.
5. Partner-to-Partner collaboration in ecosystem models can unlock more opportunities
IDC are now seeing that multiple partners are playing different roles to serve the same customer at different points in their journey. Partners need to understand what their role is and what they are good at – and what other partners are good at – and put these various skills together.
“Customers are becoming more comfortable with this approach,” explains Wilson. “They want that ‘best-of-breed’ approach from different partners working together to build the solution. When we are thinking about the ecosystem, and the roles of vendors and distributors, it is all about the maximum utilisation of the resources available. If partners don’t have a certain skill, they can access that resource in a strong ecosystem model.”
6. Security services are becoming more important
According to IDC’s EMEA Partner Survey 2022, security services are becoming much more important in terms of the activity mix of many partners. “We are now in a situation where 50% of all partners are offering their own security services,” outlines Wilson.
Because specific security skills are in high demand and customers can’t fill roles in their own organisations, customers are increasingly turning to partners for expertise. “Distribution has a key role to play here in terms of giving partners the expertise to take into the end-user environment. It’s that ecosystem model,” advises Wilson.
7. Partners can boost retention by focusing on relationships and delivering value
IDC believes partners can stay relevant by focusing on delivering true business value to customers and building deeper relationships. Wilson explains: “Your engagement with the customer moves from short-term to a long-term continuous engagement, where you become a trusted partner. That is how you remain highly relevant to the customer.”
8. Partners need to provide strategic guidance to customers
As security needs become more complex, end-customers are looking for partners they can trust to take them in the right direction to create a secure environment. “We have been talking to a lot of end-users – including CIOs, CTOSs and IT Managers – and the one thing they are saying to us about security is that they’re looking for partners that can reduce the complexity for them – and they are prepared to pay for that,” comments Wilson.
“End-users are looking for partners and vendors they can have confidence in to create an environment where the CTO and CIO feel secure in the security infrastructure they have built,” he adds.
9. Distribution can help you to accelerate innovation
IDC believes that the role of distribution is to bring efficiency to models and reduce complexity. “For partners leaning on distribution, taking advantage of that scale and expertise enables you to accelerate your own innovation and remain more relevant to your customers,” advises Wilson.
Wilson explains that IDC sees the future of distribution as ecosystem centric, platform-led, and data-driven. Distributors have huge amounts of data across multiple partners and vendors that can help partners evolve and provide ecosystem visibility: “More distributors are now taking their data and feeding it to partners to help unlock up-selling and cross-selling opportunities and show them where to go,” he comments.
“The shift from channels to ecosystems involves increased complexity, but we are now moving to a situation where distributors can put this all together in a way that makes sense for partners,” he adds.
Today’s complex landscape and pace of transformation is creating real challenges for partners. But is also presents real growth opportunities for those who can reduce complexity for customers, optimise their skills and resources and evolve their business to meet changing customer expectations in new and innovative ways.
As Wilson concludes: “The most important point to remember is not to stand still – evolve constantly because the market and customer needs are changing.”
To find out more about key customer trends and the impact on partner transformation, watch Stuart Wilson’s presentation, as well as our full ‘Sparking Channel Growth’ expert panel discussion with Juniper and Cybereason.
Stuart Wilson is Senior Research Director, EMEA Partnering Ecosystems, at IDC. He has over 20 years’ experience in partnering, ecosystems and routes-to-market.