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The Channel Games 2017- Battle of the Disruptors

Overall, it looks like 2016 was a good year for about 40% of IT Channel Partners and an amazing year for about 15%. It was a challenging time for the remaining 45%. It’s expected to be more of the same in 2017 as the transition and consolidation of the channel continues.

In order to compete with the various types of new partners entering and disrupting the traditional IT channel, VARs and MSPs will have to embrace a wider and deeper view of the technology needs of their clients. Most channel partners already have a good sense of what it will take for them to remain relevant in the future. The key driver seems to revolve around offering a widening variety of managed business services. However, there is still a huge amount of traditional transaction business for hardware, networking and break-fix.

While it is true that many people have become more tech-savvy and probably know more about what they want, the vast majority is still relying on the advice of their IT solutions provider. With complex problems like data security, compliance issues and Cloud strategy, I do not see the self-serve trend growing much faster. Most business owners are also very busy transitioning their businesses to meet the evolving needs of their customers while battling other “disruptors” in their space. Business transformation is not just happening in the IT Channel! It’s happening everywhere!

“If channel partners were to fully embrace the digital transformation in their business, then they will be in a much better position to leverage their newfound knowledge and experience to help their end-users with their digital transformation. There is a digital play in just about every corner of business.”

I am not going to offer any specific predictions for 2017 except for my usual 12 channel trends that I continue to update every year. It is highly probable that if you were to exploit these 12 trends, you will most likely be on the right path to sustainable success in the channel. If you have not yet seen this presentation, you should attend our next Channel Manager Summit to see it live as well as get a full dose of the best channel insights and technology predictions of 2017.

Every year, I see thousands of VARs and MSPs reinvent their business models but the fundamental value still remains – to help their customers leverage technology to improve their business. It really does not matter if it’s a product, solution, advice or service. Many have even figured out how to offer hardware as a service. Smart channel partners will continue to push the boundaries to include a wider range of business services as they look to be a more comprehensive IT service provider to their end-users. Smart channel partners are definitely seeking a bigger piece of the technology consumption pie of their end-users including specialty sectors such as VoIP, Document Management, Managed Print, Interactive Presentations, Digital Signage, IoT, Big Data, CRM, WEB and App Development etc. If IT is involved, they want a piece of it. If they leave it on the table, then some other company will grab it and eventually become a competitor.

It’s also worth noting again that as more channel partners continue to develop their Intellectual Property based around solutions, they are becoming more like vendors and are seeking channel partners to grow their business. The vendor space is growing rapidly… At the 2017 CES, about 30% of the exhibitors did not exist three years ago! The number of vendors entering the Cloud space is already so large that we simply cannot keep up.

Channel marketing also continues to evolve as vendors switch from selling to helping their partners succeed. The big winners will be those who are able to best align their business goals with those of the channel partners and nurture the partnerships for mutual success. Helping channel partners to become bigger, better and stronger is the sweet spot as they are definitely looking for a higher level of business engagement with their vendors. If vendors can figure out an effective way to re-energize the bottom 90% of their current channel partners, then they will grow.

Believe it or not, the road to more successful channel partners begins with a best business practice assessment so they can know their actual strengths and weaknesses. If you keep doing the same things over and over, we all know what happens. If you know what you need to fix, then change could happen.

Ready to energize your 2017 plans? Here is my list of 10 things that VARs, MSPs and Vendors should do in 2017:

  1. Ten things that VARs and MSPs should do in 2017.
  2. Ten things that Vendors should do in 2017.

Don’t want to rely only on surveys, polls, research and opinions to build your 2017 plans? Get the real-time facts directly from the people and companies actually doing business in the channel by attending the Channel Manager Summit, the Reseller Choice Awards and the Best Managed IT Companies Awards on Feb 2, 2017 in Toronto.

Julian Lee

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