By now, channel companies will be well down the path of strategising and planning for 2011. Vendors will be ensuring they are knowledgeable about consumer and business preferences, distributors and retailers will have stocked up shelves for the Christmas rush and resellers will have an eye on what demands customers will make of them next year.
In the previous issue, Brian Dooley canvassed key players about what would impact most heavily on the industry in 2011. And it was the pervasive influence of consumer-led technology in business that featured in several cases.
This isn’t just a trend local firms have in mind – a recent survey by researchers Forrester in the UK showed consumers are bringing their own devices and applications into the workplace, using them without the support of IT departments and have more information at their disposal thanks to mobility and social networks.
At a recent event for its corporate customers, Gen-i said it had observed a movement towards technology populism, with users demanding IT providers enable them to have the same quality of experience in the enterprise as they would when using a device at home.
These users are increasingly sophisticated in their knowledge of technology systems, having begun to support themselves and each other, the integrator says.
In Dooley’s article this view is supported by Microsoft’s David Rayner – the head of the local OEM partner group - who listed consumerisation of technology as second only to cloud computing in his list of the top ten trends resellers need to consider next year. Similarly, Symantec’s SMB director Steve Martin said ‘BYO computing’ was a key trend for 2011.
It is not a new paradigm for the industry and it is one that has developed in line with the glut of information provided by the internet, and a growing array of offerings in the smartphone, portable PC and mobility markets.
But it should now be at the forefront of the channel’s mind, because this more demanding population of business users is the group they will be called on to support as third-party service providers.
The challenge for larger resellers is to make sure they hear about employees’ technology needs at all levels of the business, and that networks are designed and supported to cater for a variety of devices. The challenge for smaller resellers is to stay ahead of the ever-higher level of knowledge of the small business and home user.
Because of this, vendors and distributors should build long-term product roadmaps and future proofing into channel education programmes. Conversely, resellers must be active learners and trainees in the systems and equipment they are offering. They should also proactively map future strategies with customers, so they know which applications and devices users need support for, even if only a few are beginning to creep into business use.
The other part of the equation is to strive for new heights in service standards, because savvy customers will demand this more and more.
The channel shouldn’t see a more empowered customer base as a threat, rather an opportunity to keep their own performance up to standard.