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Making sense of 2017

We asked the top South African vendors and distributors what issues they see affecting the channel in 2017. Here's what they came back with.

New level of innovation

Stefan Diedericks, the alliance & channel director for Oracle South Africa, said change was the only constant in the ICT Industry.

“The ability to deliver innovative solutions that helps shape industries and change the way the world works and plays has been the motivation for this change,” he said.

Diedericks said he expected 2017 to bring a new level of innovation, requiring the channel to ‘align its approach and organisational structure with the speed of technological advancement and introduce it to customers’.

Asked which technology would prove crucial next year, Diedericks pointed to the Internet of Things and AI, which he said were inextricably linked.

“With the rise in cloud-based technologies being deployed over the past few years, the time has arrived for us to truly step into a world where machine-to-machine communication and interface will assist to leverage IoT. This will allow AI to enrich many lives.”

Diedericks said Oracle had partnered with Clevva to develop machine based AI learning and digital demand generation tools for their more than 800 partners across Africa.

“Over the past 12 months, we have witnessed amazing accuracy of execution and the speed of human behavioural change with the launched pilot programmes.  In 2017 we look forward to seeing Clevva’s AI experience tremendous growth.”

Year of action

Elaine Wang, the Rectron group’s Microsoft business unit manager, said the growth in cloud had accelerated beyond expectations and would drive further network partnerships in the channel.

“It also becomes ever more important for resellers to develop their own in-house skills to be able to deliver services, as we continue to see the shrinkage of margin on tin. Locally, the race for fibre is well on its way, and with this, cloud technologies become a lot more accessible.

Wang said there were also increased concerns around security, and it was important to have enough protection, back-up and disaster recovery plans in place.

She said 2016 had been an interesting year in South African politics, and one which re-affirmed the strength of the country’s democracy. But with downgrades looming, she said it had become increasingly important for the country’s leaders to act ‘with the national interest in mind’.

“2017 needs to be a year of action. The fact that our economy has remained stagnant year-on-year means that organisations will continue to remain prudent with their money. There’s still opportunity and money to be made in the channel – we need to find the right solutions that target the right business pain points,” Wang added.

Customer insights

For Anton Herbst, group strategist at the Tarsus Technology Group, the growth prospects for the South African economy would remain subdued.

“This combined with the rapid change brought on by the exponential growth of technology leads to increased volatility, uncertainty and ambiguity,” he said.
This in turn would put pressure on businesses to become more adaptive, resilient and agile.

“Central to this is the insight into the job our customer wants done. There is no more room for over- or under-servicing our customers,” said Herbst, adding the needs and problems of end-users were driving the need for change in the channel.

“Companies that have built customer insights as a core competence are leading us into a demand driven and customer-centric world. The longer we cling to what used to work, the more irrelevant we become.”

Asked which company to watch next year, Herbst said Microsoft had made the transition from a Capex-heavy infrastructure and perpetual licensing world to a consumption and subscription as-a-service model.

“Microsoft is allowing the channel to participate in this transition unlike other players which have a direct go-to-market model. Better we participate,” he said.

Tough economic environment

Robbie Johnson, retail sales manager at Drive Control Corporation, said the tough economic environment and a depreciating exchange rate were the most critical issues facing the retail distribution business today.

He said this made hi-tech unaffordable to those who were using technology – and specifically mobile – as their main connectivity link.

Johnson said many companies were hoping to gain traction through e-commerce, but this was a very competitive market with large players spending aggressively to capture mind and industry share.

Johnson said users were moving to solid-state drives which had led to improved performance for operating systems, applications and powerful graphics cards. This was good news for gamers and graphic designers and he saw this trend continuing in 2017.

“Windows 10 has also firmly established itself on both business and home machines and will continue to drive the resultant hardware purchases in 2017.”

Johnson said the acquisition of Samsung’s printer division by HP would also give way to further innovation in this space.

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