Tiffani Bova, the Global Customer Growth Innovation evangelist for Salesforce has done it all in the computer industry. She was one of the first women channel chiefs, for Gateway Computers, Bova then transferred her skills to the field of market research for Gartner Group. It was there that she made bold predictions such as “Cloud Service Brokerages”, which aggregated multiple cloud services from a single source. She also furthered Gartner concepts in the market such as every company would become an IT company and Bi-Model IT.
And Bova continues to think beyond the near term and into the future of the IT industry. Today, Bova says the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has become a catalyst for digital transformation.
The 2019 member of the World’s Top Management 50 Thinkers list, Bova said during the Jolera Interview Series, in the face of a terrible crisis, digital transformation and the as-a-service solutions market is leading the way.
“The as-a-service market has cracked the front office and into customer facing resources such as sales, marketing, and customer service. These areas are now using as-a-service technology and cloud in special ways; in light of what’s going on,” she said.
Just a year ago, digital transformation and the as-a-service market was looked at as a “nice to have” or put in place for cost reasons or if an organization was modernizing its data centre.
COVID-19 is driving all this acceleration, she added. Bova described the pandemic as “a black swan event” in the world that has moved businesses to help people work from anywhere; safely. This activity also includes new ways to service customers, while also modernizing the supply chains.
“Do I think COVID-19 is the ultimate catalyst for all those that did not make an investment in digital? Yes! And, for those that were slow to adopt digital fully it too accelerated their progress over the last year. All because of the pandemic,” Bova added.
While at Salesforce, Bova continues to make strategic bets on where the industry is heading. For example, a new piece of research from Salesforce indicates that there are three areas that will dramatically change the way people work.
Health and safety of employees;
Providing up-to-date tools and capabilities for people to do their job; and
Staying connected with customers.
The best-selling author of Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break your Business, Bova believes businesses need to work on stabilizing their business while developing a path for workers to return to the offices – and in many cases back to actual work – safely. From there, the business also needs to focus on a get back to a growth strategy that sets the right tone and message for an already weary base of people that have gone through the pandemic.
“It’s amazing how quickly we’ve all rallied around the employees to keep them safe and productive. But it will be time to begin to put people in place in each area and these people should be from all aspects of the business,” Bova said.
Also, during the interview Bova talked about new ways to improve customer experience, her take on diversity issues and what’s in store for the channel and IT overall in 2027.
The Canadian Business Unit Leader and National Director of Services for Dell Technologies Canada, Marc Mondesir describes himself as a customer advocate, but most importantly a problem solver.
Since the start of Mondesir’s career at Dell Canada in 1998, he has always focused on helping customers remove obstacles to better achieve their goals. Some of those obstacles can be more daunting than others such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, while others more traditional, like digital transformation. But regardless of how challenging the obstacle can be, Mondesir always works in customer’s point of view rather than basing his strategy purely on his past successes.
And the marketplace today admittedly is like no other time in modern history because of COVID-19. In the last 200 days or so of the pandemic, Mondesir has had to switch gears in terms of his customer approach. He has been positioning digital transformation as a competitive advantage for business for five years, but the pandemic and subsequent lockdown has accelerated that push to transform.
“Digital transformation has gone from providing a competitive advantage to a necessity. And as-a-service solutions compliment that as it helps the customer consume in a flexible way,” he said during the Jolera Interview Series.
Mondesir displays a large quote on his LinkedIn page: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” That quote is from Mahatma Gandhi, Indian social activist.
“I take this quote seriously, and it’s an ode to being anti-consumption, and it speaks to the sign of the times. Things are complicated now with politics, diversity, inclusion issues, and it can be overwhelming. Words are like jet fuel, and it sparks a lot of emotion in people. What I tell myself is happiness is to focus on what you can control. You can look at the world’s problems, but what can I control? I can control my actions and show up every day, and this quote reinforces that.”
Mondesir has his own take on diversity too within the industry. Certainly, he says, there are inequities in pay and power, but there is also an unconscious bias that both fascinates and scares him too.
“There’s a quote out there that ‘software is eating the world,’ and it’s true. Software is everywhere, and it is automating a lot of the aspects of our lives. Software is a series of algorithms. People program those algorithms to interpret the world, so the person who builds these algorithms, if they have inherited biases, may end up coding them into the software. What does that do to the fabric of our society? Could we find ourselves going back to the drawing board in terms of the progress we have made this far?”
During the interview, Mondesir also talks about Dell’s innovation, the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and reflects on his time running an all-ages dance hall.
Jay McBain, the Principal Analyst – Channels, Partnerships & Alliances at Forrester Research, talks to roughly 500 companies about channel programs every year. If you think that is a lot, it just skims the surface, according to McBain, who has himself transitioned from a Channel Chief for Lenovo and Autotask to an influencer at Forrester Research during his career.
During the Jolera Interview Series, McBain recognizes more than 10,000 companies in the world that run some channel program. There are also approximately 175,000 software companies doing business, of which only 10 percent have a channel program.
If you add in the emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and Blockchain, to name a few, then there could be more than 800,000 other companies to add to the channel mix. Of the emerging technology companies, only 10 percent of those organizations are running a channel program.
All this activity leads McBain to one conclusion: “Channels are about to explode.”
According to McBain’s research, the transformation IT vendors and channel partners have gone through in the last 18 months is more than what business has seen in the past 39 years combined.
“Partnerships are changing, the way we go to market is changing, and customer behaviours are changing, the growth of marketplaces and ecosystems are becoming more important,” he added.
This is where the as-a-service market kicks in. Recent data captured from CEOs from several industries help paint a direction for the as-a-service world. McBain says that 76 percent of CEOs tracked in this survey believe their current business model will be unrecognizable in the next five years. The market is moving quickly to subscription and consumption-based models such as Netflix.
“Everything will be as-a-service whether it is driving a car, renting a forklift, or buying paper-clips. You have to be rethinking your business model for as-a-service.”
All this activity in the as-a-service market has led to the creation of super-marketplaces, McBain said.
He added that if there is one trend to focus on for Managed Services Providers (MSP) today, its super-marketplaces because they will impact the channel dramatically.
And most of these super-marketplaces we know already, such as Amazon and Alibaba. But, the COVID-19 pandemic has only escalated their relevance in the market, and now we learn from a joint Forrester/McKinsey study that super-marketplaces have grown more in the last three months than during the previous ten years combined.
“In the U.S. alone, about 1/3 of all the dollars in the economy flow through super-marketplaces. We predicted 17 percent of the IT industry would flow through super-marketplaces – that’s $3.6 trillion by 2023. What COVID-19 has done is driven that prediction to next year,” McBain said.
During the interview, McBain provided insights on the trifurcated channel, the lasting impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on IT, and who the winners will be in the age of the super-marketplaces.
Two decades ago, the term RMM or Remote Monitoring and Management was not in anyone’s IT vocabulary. Back then, Gavin Garbutt founded N-able Technologies in Ottawa and developed an RMM solution that fits well in the SMB market and created a new managed services economy for the channel.
Today, Garbutt is starting a new venture called Augmentt. Once again, creating a new channel of revenue for managed services providers (MSPs) with a Software-as-a-Service solution helps MSPs better understand their customers’ SaaS usage, apps, and the costs associated with those apps, identify shadow IT and enforce security policies.
According to Garbutt, Augmentt tries to solve the same problem that N-able tackled 20 years ago.
“The idea of N-able was started when I was at a cocktail party at Christmas time. I talked to a $5 million VAR (Value Added Reseller) and asked him if there was one thing, he could use that would propel his business forward from a profitability and operational perspective,” he said.
The business owner told Garbutt a remote monitoring tool that would inform him of issues ahead of time would be ideal. This type of tool could save the VAR precious time and money from dispatching a truck filled with technicians. This tool could also fix the issue remotely or pinpoint what equipment the technicians needed to bring for onsite remediation. Garbutt’s response to the VAR owner was solutions such as HP OpenView, CA Unicenter, and IBM Tivoli already existed for that. However, those solutions were all enterprise-grade and not well suited for small to medium-sized businesses.
“Eureka! Here’s an opportunity,” Garbutt said.
Fast forward 20 years and all those devices MSPs are handling have moved to the cloud, and the important part of IT is no longer monitoring the actual devices but the applications that run on them.
“So, my view is the next pivot is on cloud services and apps management. This is how MSPs can help customers improve their performance,” he said.
Garbutt does not consider himself to be a pioneer. Instead, he described himself as a person who worked to innovate industries. When starting N-able, he looked at the current landscape and saw the MSP model at 120 devices managed per technician and thought, how can I get that up to 1,000, while still improving service delivery?
“N-able started just after the Dot-Com bust. We tried to create technology to help VARs, at the time, move away from a reactive services model. Back then, their real value was to be inside the customer’s environment and work to fix things. We changed that with remote monitoring and management tools, which took those businesses to a new level. My aspiration was let us take the old model where we managed 120 devices per technician at $60 per month, per device and increase it to 800 or 1,000 per technician: still at $60 a device per month. That now increases your EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) profit by 20 to 30 percent.”
Garbutt’s approach to entrepreneurship is to “go big or go home” and to have the ambition that you can make a difference in a large industry or with a small business owner.
Also, during the interview, Garbutt talking about his experience starting a company during a worldwide pandemic. He also spoke about his leadership style in times of crisis and what the second “T” stands for in his new company Augmentt.
If you ask Denis Gaudreault, the Country Manager of Intel Canada, to describe the chip-making giant, you might be surprised at his answer. Since Intel gained mainstream notoriety with its “Intel Inside” marketing campaign in 1989, the company has been best known for its microprocessors. He mentioned that many do not realize Intel has been in business for more than 50 years. Through Intel’s history, the company has gone through many different stages. Today, Intel is a data-centric company that builds technology from end-to-end such as edge devices all the way up to the data center.
“We do the full spectrum of digital transformation,” Gaudreault said.
While Gaudreault admits he does not have a crystal ball, he did say the COVID-19 global pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has accelerated the realization of digital transformation.
“We are on our way, and we have been advocating for this, especially in Canada, for quite some time. Now people have realized how critical this is to an organization, and we see the behaviour change.”
Gaudreault added that telehealth and education are two sectors that he has seen a massive acceleration for digital transformation in Canada. In its own way, Intel is working to address the many new waves of innovation, such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and 5G. According to Gaudreault, all these new waves of innovation are key elements of the company’s strategy.
“We see them as leads for digital transformation, and they provide an important infusion to our solutions,” he said.
Intel has always been a channel-centric organization from early in the company’s history. In the past year, the Canadian operation has developed several partner programs to ensure business continuation during this difficult lockdown.
“There has been a big shift already to the as-a-service model, and with the pandemic, this has only accelerated. The as-a-service model helps to save on capital expenditure and provides more agility and flexibility. Those who went that route, I believe, reacted better to the pandemic,” Gaudreault said.
Gaudreault also brought up his passion for career development, and during the Jolera Interview Series, he spoke about how important it is to be life-long learners. Intel Canada has added significant investment in this area for training and building career plans for its staff.
“We push people to develop themselves, and it’s not only good for their career, but it helps Intel evolve and grow as well,” he added.
Gaudreault also gave his perspective on what young professionals will say about the COVID-19 lockdown in 20 years and how leaders will be seen based on how they acted during the crisis.
For Bill Brandel, the country chief executive of Ingram Micro Canada, acting fast to help the many thousands of channel partners that rely on Ingram Micro Canada for its supply of IT solutions became the priority for the long-time distribution executive.
Brandel has been the Ingram Micro Canada leader for just over four years. In that time, he has gained a great perspective in the marketplace because he deals with hundreds of vendor partners and thousands of channel partners. As Canadian business and society were heading into an unknown lockdown because of the massive spread of the Novel Coronavirus, Brandel understood that financing was going to be crucial if any of these businesses Ingram serves were going to survive.
He decided to explore corporate financing programs and found a U.S.-based plan called KickStart. Ingram’s normal course of action is to launch programs in the US and then bring them into other geographies such as Canada. Since Ingram Micro Canada is run autonomously, Brandel decided to take KickStart and Canadianize it immediately. Called Future Funds, it extends roughly $110 Million in additional credit to channel partners, while also waiving significant financial service fees. Future Funds also offers exclusive payment terms to solution providers who are members of Trust X Alliance and SMB Alliance communities.
“It was always important for us to get out of the gate with the COVID-19 lockdown. We could see right away that this was not going to be a quick thing that was going to pass through the market. We knew this was going to leave a long-lasting impact. The biggest challenge is managing working capital. Even without the pandemic, many companies were transitioning from a project-based business, which is a buy/sell relationship to an as-a-service or consumption-based model. Those models put a lot of strain on working capital as many companies have to purchase the hardware upfront to develop customer annuity buying programs,” Brandel said during the Jolera Interview Series program.
Brandel does see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. “I am the eternal optimist, and I do see the light at the end of the tunnel as things are getting better in Quebec, for example. BC is getting back to normal, and in Ontario, while we are more conservative, I am encouraged that we’ll get back to normal based on the good feedback I received from Quebec,” he said.
In this unprecedented time, the Buffalo-native has been amazed at the resilience of the entire Canadian IT community and how quickly they have responded to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. “When you look at the impact this could have brought to channel partners, vendors and the supply chain… at one point it looked overwhelming, but this group has done an amazing job, and it speaks to the ingenuity of the customer base,” he said.