Most channel partners are happy to put the 2020 year in the rearview mirror and concentrate on new money-making, customer-satisfying strategies for a post-pandemic world. As this group starts to claw their way back to what business was like before the pandemic, the impact of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns are still bringing serious challenges to channel partners in North America especially when it comes to data protection.
If there is one thing business has learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and the many stay-at-home orders from governments is that it has put a major strain on business continuity. It has also made the IT department reach new levels of anxiety as so many of its workers are now remote.
As the business world settled into this new mix of remote and workplace operations in 2020 and 2021, they began to put serious thought to modernizing its data protection plans. There are five main reasons for this, according to Veeam 2021 Data Protection Report, are:
The acceleration of cloud.
Modernization of IT environments.
Loss of data/failed backups; and
These five factors have led to many channel partners seeking new ways to modernize data protection in a post-pandemic world.
Dave Russell, vice president of Enterprise Strategy at Veeam, (the co-author of the report along with Jason Buffington, Veeam’s vice-president, Solutions & Product Strategy) pinpointed ransomware along with overall cybersecurity as top priorities for CIOs in a post-pandemic world.
“CIOs are looking for features and solutions that can overcome ransomware. At the end of the day, we are not a security company, we have hired a CSO, but it is fair to say the everyone in the data centre and everyone in the company has a role to play in security, but if you think about the greatest security vulnerability it is with the employees and fishing attacks,” Russell said.
A modern data protection approach, Russell suggests, must have best practices around digital hygiene.
Digital hygiene, Russell adds, is not specific to Veeam but can include items such as creating different passwords and separation of key resources and data on different networks so not everything can be compromised or access at the same place.
“Cybersecurity would still be a concern even without the pandemic. IT is still scared about cybersecurity because they do not know what the threats look like and how they evolve and change. In a post-pandemic world cybersecurity jumps to the top,” he said.
If there is another reason beyond the five mentioned for developing a modern data protection strategy in a post-pandemic world, Russell believes it is digital transformation. COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on digital transformation. According to the Veeam 2021 Data Protection Report, there was a massive increase in digital transformation speed in 2020, with 54 percent of organizations accelerating their digital transformation plans. Meanwhile, organizations already into their digital transformation journey ramped up their investments in this area. For example, 91 percent of organizations in the first few months of the pandemic increased cloud services usage in support of the many remote workers that were now in their midst.
Russell commented about an intersection of digital transformation that occurred in 2020, where some put their heads in the sand and took a pause because of COVID-19, while others saw it as perfect timing to “double down” on digital transformation.
Modern data protection does have a major role to play in digital transformation as it improves the overall data connection, accuracy, capture and protection. “And it surfaces up data to the cloud for sharing. We know that digital transformation will be backed on data and so it has to be protected.”
DRIVING THE RIGHT OUTCOMES
The ultimate outcome for business is to ensure peace of mind. Russell speaks to building confidence in an organization to deliver data at any time, any place and on any device. Currently, the spend on backup and data recovery versus cloud and SaaS solutions has a seven times gap. But the heightened state of ransomware in the wild has now made modern data protection a board-level discussion. From Russell’s experience, approximately five percent of data has been recovered. “The situation could become worse,” he said, “if they never had to recover their systems.” The issue stems from the IT team knowing there is a problem, but the business side not being up-to-speed. “There’s an old joke. What is your DR plan? It’s an updated resume,” Russell added.
HOW DO YOU GET THERE?
Russell envisions organizations making high probability type bets, as stated earlier in this article, ultimately prioritizing defending against ransomware. “That’s the big disaster other than a hurricane.”
One area is data protection-as-a-service or DPaaS for managed services providers in the channel community. Another is Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service or DRaaS. Both offer the ability to reduce IT costs while providing always updated solutions and peace of mind knowing that disasters can be averted.
A best practices approach can certainly work in this area especially for enterprise backup for physical and virtual servers. One thing to look for is a solution that is purpose-built with an onsite backup appliance and secure replication to the cloud. By implementing this type of as-a-service solution organizations will get the benefit of leading-edge technology, data deduplication, encryption, cloud storage and multiple retention capabilities.
Kevin Peesker has been at the helm of Microsoft Canada for three years now and, in that time, has spearheaded the subsidiary’s transformation into an as-a-service power. He has also taken a significant number of channel partners along with him on this ride.
But he is not stopping with the channel. Peesker is also driving an agenda to skill-up Canada’s future leaders by investing in a digital literacy agenda that focuses on three key areas: students, new entrants in the workforce, and current jobseekers. He believes that this will not just transform business, specifically small business, but also key sectors such as healthcare.
The current COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown that occurred throughout Canada may have put a halt to several industries but that was not the case for Microsoft Canada and many members of the channel community.
“We are in an incredible industry,” said Peesker during the Jolera Interview Series. “The impact on Canada and globally that we are making will be memorable.” But, Peesker added that this journey is a two-way street, and while he and his team at Microsoft Canada are fully engaged, it’s time for everyone to get involved and participate.
It’s clear that this journey is an as-a-service endeavour. According to Peesker, the as-a-service market has become a value-driven engagement that brings about consistent annuity revenue streams for business while delivering a better level of service to customers.
“It’s a proactive way to engage in the mid and long-term. Microsoft has moved to this model at scale globally. In Canada, the vast component of our revenue is as-a-service, more than 70 percent. We are committed to providing a scalable development of offerings and innovation that gets into the hands of the customer as soon as possible,” Peesker added.
Microsoft Canada surveyed 670 business decision-makers across Canada. Some of those polled are from companies with ten employees or fewer to large enterprises. It looks like most Canadian business leaders, big and small, agree with his optimism. Approximately 69 percent of Canadian business leaders recently surveyed by Microsoft Canada say they are confident that their business will survive the pandemic into 2021, and just over half (54 percent) believe their organization will be able to adapt to whatever the upcoming year might hold, this includes a second wave of the pandemic.
“There are several bright spots from this research. I’ve been calling it our Darwinian moment. Those organizations that have leveraged the benefit of technology are not just surviving but thriving. In contrast, those stagnant organizations or those that did not respond to digital transformation have been impacted. Those that put in place a digital strategy, anchored by cloud and data, were able to scale when the pandemic hit their business,” Peesker said.
Also, during the interview, Peesker talked about one of his passion projects: Digital literacy in Canada along with artificial intelligence, the Microsoft Surface, and find out what Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, said to Peesker about flexible, hybrid work strategies.
As the year 2020 gets kicked to the curb, and we usher in 2021, we collectively look into the crystal ball to figure out what may occur during this year in the IT industry.
To do this, we talked with Diane Krakora, founder of Partner Path in Silicon Valley, to make five bold predictions for 2021. Krakora is one of the most influential channel strategists in the industry. In more than two decades of work, Krakora has crafted some of the more progressive channel programs for some of the industry’s biggest names, such as Cisco, Citrix, Dell, Dropbox, Microsoft, SAP, and VMware.
Krakora, along with her colleague Jay McBain, Principal Analyst, Channels, Partnerships & Ecosystem for Forrester Research, developed these five key predictions for the IT marketplace. During the Jolera Interview Series, Krakora reveals the top 5, while providing insight on each.
McBain was a previous guest on the Jolera Interview Series, and you have to watch that video here.
5 Predictions for the 2021 IT Marketplace
Marketplaces will be integral.
This was a 2020 prediction for Krakora and McBain. B2C marketplaces such as Amazon, Alibaba and eBay are making moves to solidify themselves in the B2B sector. But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, growth in marketplaces soared. Find out how marketplaces can add to or compete with other indirect channels.
Non-transacting partners will drive an ecosystem approach.
Non-transacting partners are organizations a bit unknown in the marketplace but yet are driving cloud-based technology purchases. “The old partnering models, frameworks and programs won’t fit the future constellation of partner types,” Krakora said. The reality of the situation is that these channels such as dealer networks, wholesale distribution networks, resellers, retailers, franchises will all be a significant factor in 2021. Find out how this trend is impacting the as-a-service market.
Methodologies will develop to influence the influencers.
This prediction stems from the trifurcation channel model of 1. non-transacting advisors or influencers before the sale, 2. transacting partners and 3. services partners that implement and integrate solutions. What this means is there will be five different partner influencers guiding a customer through their primarily digital journey, on average. The challenge here is to influence as many people as possible. And, there could be a fourth methodology in play for 2021 to go along with non-transacting, transacting and service partners.
Partners will be rewarded based on customer adoption.
In subscription or consumption-based business models, what are the true measures of success? Well, Krakora predicts it will be “adoption” for 2021. Similar to other subscription models, the measures of success will not be revenue or profit, Krakora predicts, but “adoption.” If you get adoption of your product, you get retention and renewal. So which partners are driving customer adoption? How do you measure and reward that adoption, will all be key questions for 2021? However, if you get adoption of your product, you get retention and renewal. Find out how to best drive customer adoption with this prediction.
You will know your ecosystem multiplier.
It’s time to promote your ecosystem multiplier, says Krakora. The marketplace needs to figure out every dollar of hardware, software, and services created or enriched because of the dollar of product sold. “They want to hear there is a big enough pie to make it worth their while to join your program, get certified and direct their mindshare towards your products,” she added. Expect to see about 80 percent of your future partners becoming non-transacting partners. This means you are going to have to make it worth their while, revenue-wise, to join your program, get certified and direct their mindshare towards your products.
During the interview, Krakora summed up the unforgettable year of 2020 and provided key takeaways for the channel community.
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.