Guest Column | January 8, 2020

2020 Predictions: What's Next For The Enterprise Technology Channel

By Wayne Monk, ASG Technologies Group


2019 marks another year of accelerated change in business, technology and regulation. Consequently, market needs are evolving, posing an opportunity for channel partners who have an eye toward innovation. By identifying the latest and greatest technologies—and putting them in the context of emerging trends—channel partners can incorporate new services into their portfolio and position themselves for success in 2020.

As MSPs and VARs strategize for the new year, they should take a comprehensive look at their markets to understand how to best enhance their service offerings. Here are a few predictions for opportunities, challenges and changes in the enterprise technology channel in 2020.

  1. Business leaders will make most technology decisions, causing a shift away from traditional IT channels.

Today, business leaders are driving more strategic decisions around technology within the organization. Consequently, more of IT’s budget is being moved to the business side—a shift that is impacting the traditional channel. Up until now, most traditional channel partners have been selling to IT leaders and, as a result, don’t have established relationships with business leaders. Channel partners should be mindful that business leaders value having a trusted advisor, and therefore, should be prepared to discuss vision and strategy.

It’s important for traditional channel partners to create a shadow channel that addresses increasing shadow IT requirements—or the set of innovations and processes that business leaders now handle independent of IT. They also need to learn how to best communicate with business leaders, in terms of business outcomes instead of technology benefits. Channel partners who can adapt—becoming more industry-centric and vertical-oriented, rather than technology-focused—will be able to benefit from this trend, rather than get left behind.

  1. Liquid applications will emerge and custom code will become “cool” again.

Many companies are selecting category kings to address their business requirements—Salesforce, Workday, SAP and NetSuite to name a few. With 2020 approaching, the question has become: how can companies gain a competitive advantage if they are all using the same application stacks and similar IT infrastructure? Should they reinvent their applications or innovate on top of what they already have?

The market is seeing fewer businesses that want to use out-of-the-box applications, and more that want to innovate and build on top of these mainstream applications, or in some cases develop their own. Netflix built an entirely new engine to differentiate its business, for example. Accenture created a liquid studio, which embraces a faster, more flexible way to build software and support dynamic business needs. Custom code is regaining popularity because there are new tools that allow businesses to innovate and write code at a much more rapid pace. That agility is the competitive advantage.

As channel partners consider their offerings and resale tactics, they should note—users are moving from monolithic, purpose-built applications to new, nimble applications that serve a specific function and can be built on top of existing services. This is clearly an emerging market opportunity.

  1. Self-discovery has evolved into self-evaluation for enterprise software. 

It used to be that when someone wanted to try a software, the vendor would perform a presentation and demo of their solution, often leading to proof-of-concept to ensure they could address the client’s requirements. Today, people who are evaluating technology want to self-discover as much as possible—they don’t want to work with the vendor. This is an impact of Millennials becoming more prevalent in the marketplace. Millennial buyers are used to downloading apps and determining within a matter of minutes if they meet their needs. As a result, self-discovery has evolved into self-evaluation, where evaluators run software on their own to prove that it’s intuitive. Having to read a manual is too complicated—it must be self-explanatory. This shift will change how channel partners approach their sales strategies.

Even more critical, growing buyer self-reliance may lead to less profitable channel engagement and accelerate the shift from resale to online transactions and referral models. This results in reduced selling cost incurred by vendors and partners. Today, most self-evaluations move to SaaS trials which may cut out the partner. As more people self-discover, the customer is bearing the cost instead of the vendor and partner, reducing the amount of benefits that can be paid to the partner.

  1. A spotlight on data trust will refocus the market on fundamental data management.

Establishing trusted data has become a top priority for today’s enterprises. Over the past years, companies have spent millions of dollars building data lakes so they can better drive business analytics to make decisions. However, few are realizing the ROI they hoped for—because they realize they do not have complete traceability and visibility of all the data elements feeding their data lake. There are many more places where data can live, from databases to file systems. Just because the data ended up in the lake, doesn’t mean they can trust it. They must know the data source and how the data may have been transformed as it moved throughout the enterprise.

In 2020, companies will be focused on “draining the swamp” and returning to data management fundamentals. Before building a data lake, organizations need an understanding of the water ways, or data paths, feeding the lake. MSPs and channel partners will prevail if they can deliver capabilities such as data discovery, data lineage and a data catalog to help organizations across every industry keep their lakes crystal clear and establish trust with their data.

  1. Digital process automation powered by low-code/no-code design studios is the next big sales opportunity.

Digital process automation will be a new category in 2020, and there is no category king yet. There is a major need in the market for digital process automation, marking a massive sales opportunity for vendors, MSPs and channel partners.

Despite an increasing focus on digital transformation, organizations can’t transform if they don’t optimize their business processes first. Digital automation tools provide the platform users need to transform more quickly. Even those in the robotic process automation (RPA) space can’t automate end-to-end processes alone. They need a single design studio with the ability to perform traditional business process management (BPM), RPA and workload automation functions, so they can rapidly build and deliver new functionality to digitize the business. Vendors and partners that can deliver in the digital process automation space and demonstrate their ability to quickly bring innovation to their clients, will be tapping into the “next big thing.”

2020 presents a great opportunity for channel companies to take stock of their services. As traditional business shifts, customer expectations evolve and new innovations surge, MSPs should ensure their offerings meet today’s market needs. By adding or adjusting services now, channel organizations can prepare for a profitable new decade.

About The Author

Wayne Monk is Senior Vice President, Global Alliances and Channel Sales at ASG Technologies and is responsible for establishing strategic partnerships, indirect channels and other key routes to market. Wayne has 30 years of enterprise solution sales, marketing and channel management experience with high growth technology companies. Wayne has held many sales and channel management positions with Seamless Technologies (acquired by Avnet), HP Software, Mercury Interactive, CA, MainControl (acquired by MRO and then IBM), and NCR Corporation.