By Jay McBain, Principal Analyst – Global Channels, Forrester
The global IT channel have proven to be remarkable change-agents, both in front of their customers and inside their own businesses. Thinking about the amount of churn over the past 35 years can be downright dizzying.
Starting from the first disconnected PC's to the recent WannaCry ransomeware attack, channel partners have transitioned their skills to dozens of new technology opportunities. At the same time, they have transformed their business models from resell, break-fix, installation, maintenance, to solution providing and recurring managed services, among others.
The one thing that has stayed relatively constant over these decades is how customers decide and procure technology. Led by CIOs and IT departments, channel partners and vendors have fine-tuned their product and messaging mix to capitalize on this customer buying journey. Over the past couple of years, driven by cloud and the growing acceptance of SaaS business ecosystems, this journey just took a hard right turn.
Forrester is reporting that 65% of technology decisions are influenced and/or made by line of business executives. These leaders of departments such as sales, marketing, customer experience, finance, operations and HR are increasingly taking ownership of their own digital transformations. In fact, it is predicted that this number could rise to 90% by the year 2020.
Here are some other startling numbers that are reflective of this new buying journey:
Business leaders are clearly looking for full-service solutions and are putting together the resources and teams to make it happen. They are increasingly relying on a new set of influencers including SaaS ecosystem partners, industry-based professional services firms, ISVs, born in the cloud firms, and the startup community. These shadow channels are discussed in detail here.
There are three reasons why I feel this will be a difficult transition for channel partners:
After all of the technology and business model twists and turns, and with 40% of the channel planning retirement in the next 7 years (CompTIA), there may be a lack of energy or enthusiasm for this latest curveball.
This is more difficult than adding a new technology practice or specialty to the line card. I even think this is harder than changing a revenue model. Working with a completely different buyer, with different preferences, motivations, requirements, and levels of influence will profoundly challenge the channel like nothing before it.
About The Author
Jay leads Forrester’s research and advisory for global channels, alliances and partnerships. His focus is on B2B marketing in the age of the customer, understanding and navigating the complexity of multiple routes to market, ensuring contextual and relevant content to accelerate the indirect sales process, and describing the technology infrastructure to build and support channel relationships.