Written by Koorosh Khashayar, VP Global Channels at iland

At a time when the majority of Europe is firmly rooted in the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with huge swathes of its workforce being told to work from home, many businesses have seen their operations almost grind to a halt. Pivot to North America and it’s a similar story, with organisations forced to accept that the return to any kind of ‘normal’ will not be a complete reset because, despite positive news about potential vaccines, it is clear that some of the changes to the work environment brought by the pandemic may be permanent.

So, what does this mean for businesses? It means fundamentally that those who haven’t yet begun their digital transformation journeys are under increasing pressure to do so. If we learned anything from the first wave it was that many organisations simply were not prepared to support a remote workforce securely and effectively. Caught unawares, or in the infancy of their digital transformation journey, organisations found the rapid migration from a fully centralised work force to a dissipated one came with a plethora of unforeseen challenges. In this ‘new normal’, for want of a better phrase, if you do not have a remote-first work strategy the chances are that, at best, you will fail to remain competitive and, at worst, you could go out of business altogether. Every area of industry has been affected by the coronavirus and the IT channel is no exception. However, there are ways in which the vendor community and channel partners can support organisations to ensure that they not only survive this pandemic but go on to enjoy continued growth and success.

Immediate company challenges

The challenge companies face over the coming months is in sustaining value creation born from the crisis and reinvesting in recovery. There is an opportunity for businesses to recalibrate how they function, and it’s a significant opportunity for the channel partner community too. Partners are in the privileged position to help their customers transform the very nature of what they do; pivoting entire business models, supply chains and operations to help their customers.

The stakes have never been higher. It is a case of immediate make-or-break survival for many organisations and being forced to weather the long-term economic storm for others. For all businesses, however, leaders must grapple with the need to drive efficiencies and develop a post-pandemic competitive advantage.

Businesses must now apply strategic thinking in short-term decision-making, taking into account the events and insights of the past several months. This could involve transitioning the immediate business continuity measures into a robust digital foundation that enables organisations to modernise application environments and fully commit to cloud-based flexibility, further distribute network capacity and continue digital workspace investments to create more agility for employees.

The right partners therefore can play a vital role at this stage as trusted advisors, so long as they have the right vertical market and technical expertise. They need to know, for example, the particulars around certain cloud infrastructure systems, their precise purposes, and which scenarios they would be best suited to. Partners should also be invested enough to know the nuances of their customers’ businesses, yet objective enough to drive new coordination and ways of thinking between different departments within companies. They should bring forth the right vision and perspective to reshape how these organisations work, survive and excel.

Remaining competitive in the ‘new normal’

It is no longer a question of if we will experience a global recession in 2021, and it is certain that customer tech budgets will be cut. The only question is how deep and long-lasting the recession will be and therefore how much tech budgets will be reduced, affecting channel revenue and the financial health of partners’ businesses.

It is therefore imperative that to remain competitive channel partners are laser focused on what it is they are offering and what it is they are able to deliver. When you looked at MSPs 10-15 years ago the strategy was very different. They would go to a customer and ask them what it was they were using, then go and get certified on it so that they could then go back to that customer and try to win that business. As a result, they were certified on five competing backup solutions, five competing security solutions and trying to be everything to everyone. Now this strategy must change, and partners need to have a highly targeted approach. This starts with the premise of picking the best of breed recovery technology or the best of breed security software and then going to market with it. It’s about becoming specific in what they are offering and concentrating on getting certified on one solution and fully mastering it.

Nobody can predict exactly what will happen as lockdowns are gradually lifted. While we all hope for a degree of normality soon, businesses will continue in a state of flux for some time. There is every likelihood that further waves of infection will force new lockdowns well into the new year, until a vaccine is approved and rolled out.  At this time of seismic disruption, partners can deliver a consistency of experience that organisations are demanding. Whether it’s through consulting, professional and/or managed services, partners can make it simple for organisations to consume technology, all through a single digital foundation, to help weather the storm we all face. In doing so, they can drive tangible business outcomes and position themselves to establish long-term relationships with customers.

By Editor