The partner of the future

What will the channel partner of the future look like?

That was the question asked last week at Dell Technologies’ Global Partner Summit. In a presentation entitled ‘Opening More Pathways to Growth’, Steve White, IDC’s program VP, channels and alliances examined what partners need to strive for to be successful in the future

In terms of technology, for example, he said the focus has shifted from on-premise to second and third generation technologies today. However, the future will be all about digital products and services. IDC figures show that in Q1, 95 percent of customers are adopting a digital-first strategy, and 67 percent are midway through the process.

“It’s interesting how quickly this term digital is something that customers have taken up. All of our research shows that customers are asking for that as well,” he told partners.

Similarly the ‘partner 2.0’ of the future will focus on digital innovation, as customers want to be more operationally efficient and drive better customer engagement.

“Also who you’re selling to has changed,” said Steve. “Follow the customer. You’re no longer selling just to IT – you’re probably already selling to business.”

He said IDC figures show that 80 percent of the technology budget is now owned or influenced by the line of business. “The need for outcome, the need for solutions, means that IT departments are just much closer to the business these days. That’s been compelled change.”

“From a partnership perspective, partners will evolve from the alliance of today to adopting an ecosystem approach.

“[It’s] effectively saying you can’t do everything,” he explained. “You need some friends and other partners and vendors who can help you with that to complete those solutions. You may have a very specialised AI partner, for example, that can help you in terms of completing those solutions. But there definitely needs to be a mindset around that because that’s what customers are looking for.”

Also, on the sales motions of the future, Steve said every partner has been moving the customer lifecycle more towards subscriptions. “It’s less deal by deal in in terms of the sales that are going on; it’s all about the relationship. Again, what customers are looking for a joint roadmap; they’re looking for the advice to move forward. I love the phrase “every implementation is an interview for the next implementation’ because that’s what’s happened with customers. You can go and prove yourself and then you can move on to the next, and you can help them navigate the roadmap.”

However, the analyst also noted that, partners are not clear of danger yet.

“Today we have the [Covid] vaccine being fully distributed, businesses are reopening, travel’s reconvening. It feels like we’re beginning to get back to some kind of a new normal. But lots of organisations still facing a series of unknowns. Things like the digital skills shortage and changing societal norms.”

In terms of tailwinds, consumer demand for technology is increasing, digital innovation is taking off and there’s a lot of government stimuli available. However, strong headwinds are causing some doubt.

“We’re in a more and more complex world, where more skills are required and we’re already at a loss with this already. There are geopolitical issues…there’s obviously a pretty big one going on in Ukraine right now. Obviously, it’s terrible news for everyone. At IDC we’ve been tracking that – that’s had surprising impact on other geos, the GDP in other regions as well.”

But overall, he said, the channel is seeing enterprise recovery, with new customer demands shifting to a solutions and outcomes focus.

“They want things how they want it,” he said. “They want to consume things how they want to consume things in the digital first world. Definitely you need to reflect your business to address those needs.”

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