The age of co-opetition

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Getting the most from emerging tech requires a joint effort from IT and partners, says Billy MacInnes

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8 November 2019 | 0

There was an interesting report on the MicroScope website in the UK about the difficulty channel partners have over there in finding skilled staff and the effects that is having on their willingness to embrace emerging technologies. Put simply, it’s causing quite a few of them to steer clear.

Reporting on the 8th State of the Channel study from CompTIA, it found that many channel partners were aware of the benefits and margin opportunities from getting involved with the likes of IoT, 5G and AI but a significant number would have confidence in getting involved if they had more skilled staff.

“Most channel firms see major potential in emerging technologies,” Carolyn April, senior director of industry analysis at CompTIA told MicroScope. “In many instances it remains a slow, iterative process for technology providers and customers alike.”

There’s nothing remarkable about that. But April did provide an interesting nugget when she revealed the emergence of a trend for channel companies to partner as a means to try and overcome the skills issue.

Okay, so we’ve heard a lot about channel businesses being urged to collaborate with each other to provide solutions to customers and help each other to fill the blanks in their technology and skills capabilities. Nothing new there.

But what April was talking about was something very different. She was referring to growing collaboration between IT channel businesses and those companies that have found themselves being called on to sell solutions, such as accounting firms, law practices and digital marketing agencies. 

“These arrangements help fill gaps in skill sets or solutions portfolios, mitigate technical complexity that prevents some companies from entering new markets, and enable an easier entry into the emerging tech arena,” she said.

Innovation through collaboration

In many ways it makes as much sense – if not more – than trying to get two IT channel businesses to collaborate to sell solutions and technology to customers. For a start, it takes away one of the biggest obstacles to collaboration within the IT channel, namely allowing a competitor access to your customer base.

Channel partners are rightly keen to be given the role of ‘trusted advisor’ by their customers but it’s a little bit harder for them to bestow that level of trust on a fellow solution provider because they are competing businesses.

Forming alliances with companies that are engaged with IT because of their expertise in a specific industry or vertical, rather than because they are IT providers, is a far more comfortable place to put themselves in.

And the two sides of that equation buttress each other because they are playing to their strengths. IT partners are free to concentrate on their primary skills, capabilities and expertise as technology businesses while their industry partners can give them a much clearer idea of how that technology is being used in their verticals.

At the same time, IT partners can lift the technology burden from their industry partners and allow them to concentrate more on how it works for them and others in their verticals.

To use the well-worn cliché, it’s a win-win.

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