In January of last year, our LinkedIn feeds became flooded with industry experts publishing their predictions for the year that was to come. Somewhat ironically, 2020 quickly became the year that couldn’t be predicted. Of all the channel experts who annually share their predictions, Forrester Analyst Jay McBain has been one in particular that I have keenly followed for his consistently insightful and in-depth trend analysis. This January, he shared what I would genuinely call, one of the most substantial and prescient articles on the future of channel.
Here are my initial thoughts and key takeaways on a handful of McBain’s predictions, along with some actionable pointers for how tech Vendors can weave them into their 2021 success stories.
The 'K-Shaped' Recovery
One of the main takeaways from the article is a prediction of the ‘K shaped’ recovery that we can expect to see from Vendors in the coming year. We’ve seen those Vendors who invested in channel platforms and programmes during the pandemic absolutely flying now and enjoying joint success with their Partners. Conversely, those companies who operate in more traditional sectors are destined for the downbeat of the K.
Why have some flourished while others flounder? A major driver has been the proliferation of shiny new Partners with domineering, complex digital plays entering the channel at pace, causing disruption and challenging Vendors to move away quickly from the old resell model of generic, blanket end-to-end solutions.
Unsurprisingly, the significant ‘catch-up’ challenge has left some Vendors feeling unprepared, out-of-step and vulnerable. The uncomfortable truth though is that traditional channel sales, marketing, management, analytics teams and platforms all need to adjust to accommodate these new types of partners.
Ready, Steady, SaaS
McBain confirms that, despite a shift in our industry to move towards a subscription-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) economy, some of the channel isn’t quite ready yet. Vendors who want to move quickly to these digital models are going to have to find new Partners, or enable their current ones and fast.
Channel evaluation is the vital first step here. Some of the larger, forward-thinking tech companies like Salesforce, Microsoft, Google and IBM went through the channel evaluation process last year and are now reaping the benefits from channel Partner programmes that have been built around automation and scale.
Vendors and Partners should be strategically evaluating their channel in order to best capitalise on opportunities for growth. Only this week, IBM announced a huge investment into their Partner Ecosystem, squarely placing the channel at the heart of their plans for success.
New Buyer Dynamic
The customer landscape certainly is changing. Customers are hungrier than ever for speed and convenience on delivery and quality and are particularly unforgiving when that fails to deliver.
As a result, we are at a huge inflection point for the way that technology gets sold, promoted and serviced across the world. As a Vendor, it is imperative to respond and build the marketplaces necessary to service this new buyer dynamic.
Customers are also changing the tech that they need to provide for their employees. The security of home networks is nothing compared to an enterprise network that you typically find in an office, which is a big issue companies are wanting to resolve fast. And, it's a really golden opportunity for the channel.
Adapt and Thrive
The resounding message I take away from McBain’s analysis and predictions is one of ‘adapt and thrive’. The unforgiving and unpredictable nature of 2020 has unsurprisingly left Vendors and Partners acting cautiously. But, as I outline in this future-forward article we are confidently predicting growth in the channel throughout the next few years.
In the past 12 months, we’ve witnessed many Vendors bravely adapt in the face of relentless change. We spent a lot of that time helping our Vendor clients take a step back to evaluate their channel. Exercises like this then paved the way for innovation in their Partner programmes centred around communications, incentives, co-marketing models and enablement.
It is time for Vendors and Partners alike to kick up a gear and respond to the ‘new normal’ that is 2021. A slower pace was necessary for many in 2020, but 2021 is the time to respond to change and capitalise on the opportunities it presents.
You can read more of Jay McBain’s 2021 predictions here.