So, is this acceleration of the channel’s ongoing evolution and the forces driving it set to leave some partners behind?
Not quite, according to Baez, but it does mean that some partners need to pivot or augment their services offering.
“There are always people thriving in every category, but what we’re hearing, what we’re seeing, is that an MSP today has to quickly become an MSSP [managed security service provider], and have that security expertise and knowledge,” he said.
The market pressure for MSPs to build out a security offering is being driven by more than just an elevated awareness of breaches or cyber threats thanks to media coverage of major incidents, especially in the COVID era, it is also being pushed by customers that need to implement and maintain a secure environment without disrupting employee experience.
“That’s a big challenge,” Baez noted. “To what level does the MSP become an MSSP? Do they build skills internally or do they partner?”
Positioning partners for the future
While MSPs might find themselves needing to look more seriously at security, more traditional resellers don’t necessarily need to change their models to stay in business, but the earnings available from the market they have access to may, over time, become somewhat diminished.
“Some resellers have been around for decades and are relevant in a particular part of the market, but they miss out on a larger profit pool because of where it’s going. But I don’t think they’re left out entirely,” Baez said.
At the same time, however, Baez made the point that it’s becoming increasingly hard to pin a label on many partners, as there are plenty of channel players that wear several hats in their efforts to meet customer needs.
“It’s also hard to label partners a VAR or an ISV [independent software vendor] or an MSP, as many of our partners are building their own software and deploying that to their customers. So, they are an ISV, an MSP, but they’re also a reseller. There isn’t a single cookie cutter version,” Baez said.
For Baez, all of this is putting newfound importance on the role of the distributor which, in the case of Ingram Micro Cloud, equates to augmenting the capabilities of the partners it works with.
“We have thousands of certifications in place that help a very large ecosystem, tens of thousands of partners, to implement solutions and sell solutions faster than ever before,” he said. “Customers are going to need expertise and experience to support them.
"On top of that you’ll need software, a platform that drives significant amounts of automation and managing all these as-a-service subscriptions.
“That’s where we come in with our platform. We see ourselves as the enabler of all the enablers,” he added.
At risk of sounding self-serving, it does appear that the skills and certifications the distributor has built up internally over the years are increasingly becoming an essential ingredient in the toolkit of partners that are finding themselves called on by their customers to provide multi-vendor solutions – this is especially true for smaller or mid-size MSPs.
The skills play has been a top priority for Ingram Micro as a whole, which has invested millions of dollars in software, engineers and products to facilitate partners’ capabilities and capacity in this way.
"The collective amount of people certified we have is in the thousands,” Baez said. “But we also have the right software in place to help everybody thrive in this service economy."
Looking ahead, it appears as though things will continue to change, and probably at the accelerated rate the industry has witnessed over the past two years, with the remote work trend set to stick around, albeit in a potentially more hybrid fashion.
“Based on the research that I’m seeing it does seem that remote work is here to stay, but by how much, and to what degree?” Baez said, pointing to the basic human trait of socialisation as a factor that will mean any long-term remote work trend will be spliced with ample in-person requirements.
“People are social animals, and we do need that collaboration that you really only get from some sort of personal interface, and it’s hard to get that remotely,” he said. “You need a balance of that.”