2020: The same, just harder

Tighter margins and shrinking budgets are pushing the channel to reinvent itself.

For the local channel, 2019 was undoubtedly a challenging year. The game has changed significantly over the last decade. The days of boxdropping are over. Tighter margins, shrinking budgets and digitisation across all industries are challenging channel players to reinvent themselves to stay relevant in this new information economy.

I chatted to some of SA’s key channel players about what the biggest trends will be in 2020. For Tim Humphreys-Davies, CEO of Pinnacle, calling 2019 challenging is a gross understatement. Between contractions in the market, the trade war with China and loadshedding, he believes that most people are excited for 2020. “I envisage a new burst of energy and motivation within distribution and channel alike,” he says.

He thinks the resilience of the market is going to surprise us all (I have my doubts). He says there will still be growth and it will be attributed to the dedication and drive of individuals within our industry and their goal of fulfilling the needs of the consumer, which are still plentiful. He also sees an opportunity specifically in the enterprise and cloud space, and while this isn’t new, it will be a trend for the new decade, particularly within the channel. He says resellers are upskilling their teams to service the need for infrastructure and cloud services. Another bugbear, load-shedding, seems to be here to stay, but Humphreys-Davies sees potential revenues around this plague, such as batteries and UPSes.

For Craig Brunsden, CEO of Axiz, the channel will face much of the same in 2020, but it will be harder than in 2019, which isn’t terribly encouraging. He says it’s already clear that the economy is in trouble; we have no short-term solution to the power crises, and hence there’s no short-term improvement to the status quo. SITA is in flux, the public sector and retail spending is under pressure, and the channel faces all the digital transformation challenges and opportunities the rest of the world is facing. Brunsden believes these trends are set to take hold further this year as the impact of the hyperscale cloud providers land and expand locally. “It will be a year for value-added distributors, resellers and service providers to refine their models and maximise the many opportunities out there in among the chaos,” he adds.

Rakesh Parbhoo, CEO at Westcon-Comstor Sub-Saharan Africa, believes that vendors will need to start looking beyond what they deliver themselves and start working more closely with other vendors to create meaningful business solutions. A start was made on this in the last decade, but it will need to accelerate with the growing adoption of platform-based technologies. Parbhoo says that as businesses are gaining more of an understanding as to where various clouds fit, we will start to see local companies turn to their channel to assist in helping to make the cloud a part of their infrastructure. This will see channel players having to place emphasis on developing their cloud competencies and fine-tune their cloud GTM offerings.

On sustainability, Parbhoo says the last year was a watershed moment for climate change. IT has long been hailed as a means to reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint and it will have to work across engineering disciplines, including electricity generation, to assist in creating solutions that reduce emissions. The channel will play a core role in this and players that add sustainability to their 2020 agenda will start having an impact. 

A final thought from Parbhoo is that the mundane work that goes into the back-end of the supply chain and business operations will become increasingly automated using digital tools and experiences to automate manual tasks such as quoting and ordering. Channel players, however, will have to bring more of a human element to more complex areas. Clients simply don’t want all their interactions on digital channels – they will want the human element weaved in by technically competent people who can offer trusted counsel and technical insights.  

Kirsten Doyle is a consulting editor at ITWeb with a special interest in cyber security. Follow her on Twitter on @KirstenDoyle

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