​Where IT distribution fits in the future of the channel

By understanding the distributor’s offerings and how they can augment the vendor’s solutions, vendors can gain new customers and sell higher volumes of their products.

Picture: Steve Snodgrass (Flickr).

Picture: Steve Snodgrass (Flickr).

The technology industry is always in flux, and change is usually an unremarkable occurrence. Yet even in this constantly-changing industry, the transformation of technology delivery mechanisms has been noteworthy.

The cloud, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, and managed IT services in general mean that technology vendors and distributors have far fewer physical items to ship than in the past. On the surface, you could be forgiven for thinking this means the end of the road for technology distributors.

Yet distribution partners remain of vital importance for vendors for the value-added services they can provide. It is this enhanced level of service and advice that helps partners develop and maintain strong relationships with customers.

Managing this new technology can be complex, particularly in the high proportion of organisations choosing a hybrid environment that mixes cloud and on-premise infrastructure and applications.

For example, creating a unified billing platform can seem overwhelmingly expensive and complex for a partner to set up. But most distributors would consider this simply business as usual. This is one area where distributors can add significant value.

In other areas, distributors are expert at finding ways to reduce cost, which can be extremely helpful for managed service providers (MSPs). The MSP can offer services like engineering and design, mobile device management, cloud storage and programs, and application engineering, without having to upskill or hire new talent. The distributor is in the background doing the actual work using the ‘as-a-service’ model.

This type of arrangement can dramatically increase the type and quality of services MSPs can offer their customers, without adding significant cost or complexity to the business. It highlights the exceptional value distributors can provide when working in partnership with MSPs.

Vendors can also benefit from enhanced relationships with distributors. By understanding the distributor’s offerings and how they can augment the vendor’s solutions, vendors can gain new customers and sell higher volumes of their products.

For example, the IoT promises to change everything. The opportunities extend to providers who support industry verticals such as hospitals, retailers, transport companies, utilities providers, and much more. However, the complexity of these solutions makes it unlikely that these partners can adequately provision and support IoT solutions to these organisations.

Again, distributors can reduce that complexity by working in the background to aggregate and orchestrate different offerings, letting the partner provide the end user with an easy-to-understand and relatively simple solution.

Distributors can complement and augment providers’ offerings. They act as an extra layer between vendors and partners to help provide services that, in turn, let the partner act as a trusted advisor to their own customer.

Many distributors are working closely with partners across customer-facing projects. This teamwork gives customers peace of mind that their provider has the resources, know-how, and expertise to implement solutions successfully. This approach can extend the provider’s offering beyond their initial expectations, and help the customer solve business challenges in a faster and more streamlined way.

These are just a few examples of how distributors can provide strong value for channel partners and vendors. Just because there are fewer beige boxes being delivered to businesses doesn’t mean distributors are no longer relevant. In fact, they may be more relevant now than they ever have been.

Moheb Moses is co-founder, Channel Dynamics, and director, ANZ Channel Community, CompTIA.

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Moheb Moses

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