Guest Column | December 13, 2016

Reinventing The Channel: 5 Top Emerging Trends

Federal Healthcare Readmission Rate Report

By Stephanie Dismore, Vice President & General Manager, U.S. Channels at HP Inc.

While it has always been incumbent upon a manufacturer to keep pace with changes in technology to ensure success of its channel partners, the challenge to do so has never been greater. Adding to the accelerated pace of innovation, is the speed of business disruption. Markets can change overnight.

Ask any IT tech manufacturer for a list of the key trends impacting their product innovation and you are bound to get a variety of answers. But regardless of the specific disparities, few would disagree the world is changing and emerging trends such as the blend of consumer and commercial (one life) and the rise of millennials as IT decision makers is having a significant influence not only in the way we design our products, but in the way we go to market.

Consumer And Commercial Worlds Are Blending

A blending of the commercial and consumer worlds has led to the consumerization of IT. In the past, enterprise needs drove technology developments and those innovations made their way to small business and then to the consumer. Mobile devices changed that. As more and more workers brought preferred devices into the workplace and hooked them up to the company network, companies responded with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. However, BYOD brought with it a host of IT challenges. Having a range of devices access company information raises concerns over security. Device management and maintenance and data segmentation, which keeps personal data separate from corporate data, are other issues.

A new option many companies are embracing is Choose Your Own Device (CYOD), whereby employees choose a device from a pre-approved list. CYOD lets users continue to use preferred mobile technology; but employers set procurement standards. CYOD provides companies with more security by giving IT more control over the devices in the network. With fewer approved devices accessing the network, management and support also are easier and quicker.

Whether the option is BYOD or CYOD or both, the fact remains employees’ desire for advanced, feature-rich devices that provide exceptional connectivity, performance, and reliability prevails. The response from hardware manufacturers can be seen in the in the emergence of new thin and light laptops that provide business-critical robustness, security, and manageability and a new generation of versatile tablets that provide the full productivity of a notebook.

Rise Of Millennials Creates New Expectations

Millennials don’t view tech products as tools but as an extension of themselves that reflect the way they connect with colleagues and friends. When it comes to tech products, characteristics that resonate with this generation are sleek, flexible, and powerful. Yet size still matters. As more and more millennials, and the rest of the workforce, work outside of the office often from a range of locations, they seek more convenience. Smaller, lighter weight yet still powerful devices also fit the bill.

Millennials also depend on a range of products to get work done because they believe it makes them more productive, connected, and able to respond to changing events. They often start one activity and finish it on another. As an example, when workers start activities on a smartphone, they often reroute them to a laptop or desktop at some point for completion.

And contrary to what one would expect from a generation raised on technology, millennials have no time or desire to figure it out. Regardless of the device, millennials want a straightforward, seamless, and self-guided experience. If the experience doesn’t meet their needs or expectations; they will seek an alternative.

In response to millennials’ desire for style and performance in a range of devices, new premium-looking, enterprise-class mobile devices are pulling double and even triple duty in a variety of different computing form factors from phablet, laptop, and desktop. They enable users to run productivity apps seamlessly across the different experiences.

Mobility And Security Are Influencing Everything

Work is everywhere these days. But mobility is more than devices and apps. Mobility is about businesses using purpose-built devices and industry-specific solutions to enable a workplace transformation. Mobile devices boost productivity, enable real-time business, lower the cost of operation, and increase customer response time. And all the while, mobility can help also improve employee work/life balance.

However, mobility also raises the stakes on security. Up to now companies have focused security on the network but not on devices and that includes printers. But with all the recent data breaches, companies are becoming more concerned with device security, particularly as employees work out in public opens spaces over unencrypted networks and near to the prying eyes of onlookers.

Devices manufacturers are building into their systems security features for entry points. These new features help to repel threats from malware in the BIOS or enable remote PC wipes from the cloud. Others even prevent intruders from visual hacking content on the screen.

Printers have become an increasingly popular target of hackers because they have inherent vulnerabilities that can be exploited to expose sensitive company data. Hackers can inject unprotected printers with malware that can intercept printing jobs traveling over a network to/from a mobile device. New mobile printing software solutions and hardware options are available to help employees stay productive with effortless mobile printing from their smartphones, tablets, and notebooks while maintaining security policies.

Everything as-a-Service
Under the Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) model, everything is being delivered to the customer through public and private clouds as a subscription-based service. XaaS enables companies to tailor their computing environment to shape the experiences they want for employees and customers. It also addresses the evolving need for a cohesive one-stop experience so that companies can focus on the business and not on its underlying infrastructure.

XaaS also affords companies the flexibility to take advantage of new technology since it eliminates upgrade costs. And the pay-as-you go model makes it easier as well as more cost effective to scale to meet changes in the workforce or business. Using printing services as an example, a subscription-based service allows customers to print what they need wherever they are — at home or on the road — without worrying about the cost or levels of ink or paper.

To take advantage of this opportunity, manufacturers and channel partners need to take a consultative approach to services, making sure customers have what they need, when they need it. By constantly staying in the loop, listening to customer feedback, and analyzing data, they can act quickly to discuss options and adjust pricing for everything from PCs to printers to mobile devices across a range of operating systems along with the needed workflow services.

Innovating Customer Interactions
Manufacturers are also innovating customer interaction through platforms such as conversational commerce. Demand for conversational commerce is expected to continue to rise, providing consumers with a much more satisfying experience. It provides a simplified approach to interacting with companies thus easing the purchase decision. It will benefit the retailers and service providers as well, eliminating online shopping frustrations and obstacles that result in abandoned purchases. Conversational commerce also enhances the opportunity for upselling and cross selling products by better understanding a consumer’s need. And it enhances customer service via automated messages to confirm an order and provide shipping and delivery information.

Conversational commerce is the next step in enabling consumers to interact with brands in a highly personalized and more convenient way and the revenue-generating potential for brands and channel partners is significant. The more spontaneous the buying experience, the more likely the sale. It allows customers to ask questions, get product recommendations, select products, place orders and track deliveries seamlessly, over the device of their choice via chat, messaging or chat bots.

Meeting today’s trends with product and services present manufacturers and channel partners with challenges but also exciting opportunities. Working together they have the potential to reshape businesses, markets and lifestyles.