Did anyone win 2020?

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In a year like no other the channel has been on both ends of accelerated digital transformation, says Billy MacInnes

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18 November 2020 | 0

Has the channel been the big winner in 2020? Have distributors ‘won’? That was the view put forward by Canalys president and CEO Steve Brazier at the recent Canalys Channels Forum. “It’s actually turned into a very good year and we couldn’t have predicted that,” he said, adding that “the opportunities are enormous” for 2021.

But are his comments about 2020 shared by the Irish channel? John Purdy, CEO at Ergo, freely admits 2020 “was not the year we thought it was going to be. In mid-March large strategic projects stalled and all our focus moved on to work which helped customers deal with the immediacy of working from home. We had to pivot some of our services to relevant propositions that were required almost immediately.”

By mid to late summer, “strategic projects started to return, with a big emphasis on cloud, adoption & change management, security, collaboration, data management, and Microsoft Teams. We are seeing a clear acceleration to digital transformation which will drive the economy into a new place.”

 

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From a distribution perspective, Michael Conway, director at Renaissance, describes 2020 as “a good year but a very strange one”. IT budgets changed their focus to reflect the move from an office environment to remote working. “This has changed the focus of delivering technology to enabling remote working environments and to securing them,” he says.

He acknowledges distribution has faced “significant challenges in delivering the hardware necessary to enable remote working” and there is still a challenge in restoring supplies and supply lines for these items.

Karen O’Connor, general manager, Datapac, says 2020 “has been a mixed year for the channel, with some areas flourishing and others being forced to adapt.” Although not the initial concern when remote solutions were being deployed, security “is now a top priority for most businesses operating in an agile manner and will be a key customer interest going into 2021.”

She notes that the closure of offices during the pandemic “had a significant impact on other traditional IT channel areas.” But while the shifting landscape brings challenges it also presents new opportunities for channel partners. “People are interacting with technologies in new ways from their home office and being agile to adjust to new demands will ensure these areas continue to stand firm in the ‘new normal’,” O’Connor remarks.

Agility matters

Version 1 CEO Tom O’Connor believes Covid-19 served as “a technological catalyst for organisations across all sectors that have recognised the need to mobilise and scale up teams remotely, enable employees to work at home and make the shift to agile, digital ways of working.” He says Version 1 helped customers “to accelerate key changes to the way they work using technology, through digitising, modernising and being more cost effective.” Looking to the future, he adds: “Our experience enabling change for our customers during the pandemic leaves us with a positive outlook going into 2021.”

In common with his counterparts, Paul Flavin, commercial director at Triangle, says the company is experiencing a strong 2020. It has “experienced the direct benefits of our customers’ requirements for secure remote working” but has also enjoyed very strong growth in its infrastructure innovation services, “whether that be optimising and automating critical workloads in data centres or building capability within our customers to allow them to leverage aspects of the public cloud.”

He predicts “strong growth into 2021” with a high degree of confidence due to the success of the managed service business and the multi-year partnerships it provides. “Longer term trusted partnerships tend to do well in times of crisis,” Flavin observes, “this is not a new phenomenon.”

Summing up, Conway proclaims: “The one thing we are clear about is technology has enabled humanity to drive forwards and continue in a year of a global pandemic. This could not have been countenanced some years ago.”


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