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Why digital transformation must realign the channel's focus

Trends such as remote working hint at the areas that channel professionals should focus on for the remainder of 2021

In early 2020, businesses across the board had to tighten their belts as COVID-19 impacted their ability to function normally. Almost every operational aspect was affected, including IT, in which CIOs had to prioritise “mission-critical” spending. As a result, overall IT spending fell by 3.2%, according to Gartner. 

By the time 2021 ends, the situation is expected to alter dramatically, with IT spending projected to total $3.9 trillion, an increase of 6.2% from 2020.  This increase, it says, will be driven by the unprecedented pace of digital transformation as organisations look to adapt to remote and hybrid models of working. 

That fundamental shift in the way we work also provides some clues as to where the channel should be focusing its efforts for the remainder of the year. 

Looking to areas of growth

The degree to which remote work will impact IT spend this year can be seen in the way Gartner projects enterprise software will rebound strongest. Devices will also experience strong growth as organisations look to best equip their employees to work remotely.

This shift will also likely see a growth in cloud spending, as companies work to ensure their employees can access company documentation wherever they are. IT spending related to remote working will, in fact, total $332.9 billion by the end of 2021, an increase of 4.9% from 2020.

Looking even further forward, cloud computing will see particularly strong growth. IDC, for instance, predicts that spending on cloud services, the hardware and software underpinning cloud services, as well as professional and managed services opportunities around cloud services will surpass $1 trillion in 2024. 

Pushing for efficiency gains

This rise of remote and hybrid work isn’t the only trend driving IT spending in 2021, with companies also looking to optimise their processes to operate more efficiently. Here too, cloud computing will play a significant role. It’s likely, for instance, that we’ll see a continued increase in companies shifting to cloud platforms for application development, rather than developing apps in-house. This platform as a service (PaaS) approach offers a variety of benefits, including the ability to take advantage of serverless computing delivering scalability, flexibility and quicker time to develop and release new apps  

This push for efficiency is also resulting in an increased focus on automation.  Automation can cut costs and increase efficiency in a variety of areas, from low-level business processes to software development functions. 

Safeguarding the future

These radical shifts in business operations will also need to be underpinned by security. Channel professionals, therefore, need to ensure that they take the variable security of specific technologies when selling them to clients.  Additionally, they need to convince them to use the security vendors best equipped to deal with new working realities.  

When it comes to identifying what characteristics to look for in a security vendor, they shouldn’t just look for one that will help them comply with regulations, but also threat detection and prevention and secure, automated cloud-to-cloud backup with unlimited data retention.  The right vendor will also be available 24/7 and anticipate the needs of customers, communicating with them regularly. 

The changes in the way businesses do work means that organisations are deploying more devices, communicating on more channels, allowing more remote work, and facing more and bigger cyber threats than ever before. Channel professionals need to understand this reality and help their customers deal with it. Their best hope of doing so is to emphasise and underpin everything they do with security - and the right vendor - in mind.

Paul Balkwell is Vice President at International at ZIX | AppRiver 

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