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5 key technology trends for the channel to prepare for in 2018

21 December 2017:

Many trends that rose to prominence this year will remain topical in 2018. Andy Brown, Technical Services Director at Azlan UK looks at the technology areas for the channel to watch in 2018 

While some technology trends fizzle out quietly into insignificance, others are so momentous that they transform our lives and how we live and work. Looking forward here are our top 5 technology predictions for the channel to prepare for in 2018.

1. The time for cloud is now

Software as a Service (SaaS) paved a flexible and financially attractive path for businesses to sample cloud services. Today, many organisations are taking a cloud first policy and with the growth of infrastructure and platform as a service, the trend is set to continue into 2018.

As more organisations seek to capitalise on the benefits of using cloud in their operations, channel partners that only sell, support and maintain hardware infrastructure will be under threat. Competition will come from the global public cloud providers and smaller, regionalised cloud service providers. 

Cloud in all its guises is pervasive; channel partners that have not yet developed a cloud practice need to explore their options now. Partners can take steps to evolve their service offering while retaining their core customers. Supported by distribution and in partnership with cloud providers, 2018 is the year for business partners to embrace cloud services and change their business model, their approach and the value they add before it’s too late. 

2. Internet of Things and analytics

Without doubt one of the biggest technology phenomena in recent years is the Internet of Things (IoT). The main purpose of IoT devices is to generate data – but that data is only useful when organisations do something with it. With huge volumes of real-time and near real-time data flowing from IoT devices, standard analytics will no longer be enough.

In 2018 there will be a new sophistication in the way organisations analyse the data they capture. Analytics and the business intelligence gleaned will help companies move from IoT initiatives that merely produce incremental gains, to those that create entirely new business models and revenue streams.

Mid-market companies and SMBs typically don’t have people focused on managing data, and these organisations will increasingly lean on channel partners. This presents an opportunity to offer guidance and deliver services around data management, such as “Analytics as a Service”, delivering insights and devising a data strategy for the enterprising mid-market – the perfect target for business partners. 

3. Intelligent apps and artificial intelligence

The rapid pace of research into artificial intelligence (AI) will spawn a host of intelligent applications that will begin the adoption of a technology that has the potential to transform the way we live. A bold statement you may think, but AI is set to revolutionise the way products and applications are designed, developed and integrated into the work place.

The challenge for business leaders will be to identify where AI and intelligent apps can be applied to business problems in order to improve outcomes. With the market awash with hype and new technology entrants, the channel will play a key role in advising businesses in the selection of credible and proven AI technologies. This will deliver opportunity for the channel to assist organisations in sorting through the hype, designing the appropriate solution and managing the integration, ensuring new technology operates alongside existing systems.

4. Security will remain a priority

From hacks, attacks, ransomware, data leaks and even attempted extortion, 2017 saw some of the most problematic IT security issues to impact organisations of all sizes. It is clear that security can no longer stand still or be thought of as something organisations ‘do’ after they have completed their core business functions.

If organisations are to remain competitive security can no longer lag behind and delay innovation. It needs to keep pace and become highly adaptive in order to support today’s business environment. Channel partners have an opportunity to work with their customers to establish processes that are embedded across the organisation to secure business critical systems.

Going forward, security can no longer be the sole responsibility of the IT department, or viewed by the rest of the organisation as a barrier at the end of the development and operational cycle.  It needs to be a tightly integrated element of the broader digital strategy if organisations are to fully embrace the opportunity that digital transformation will deliver. 

5. Addressing the skills gap

A skills shortage continues to hold back companies and delay deployment of business critical IT projects. Addressing this issue will be a high priority for IT leaders in 2018 and this will result in an increase in spending on training.

Channel partners keen to benefit should include training as an intrinsic part of a solution sale. By helping customers maximise the return on their investment, partners will enhance customer satisfaction and strengthen customer relationships - paving the path for repeat business.

The skills gap also presents a huge opportunity for the channel to fill the void in the form of consulting or services. In order to deploy projects and remain competitive in the market place, organisations will seek partners with the appropriate accreditations and the latest certifications. Those partners equipped with the right skills can be confident that their talents will be required for the foreseeable future and can also expect to command a financial premium for their services. 

“It is far better to foresee even without certainty than not to foresee at all.”

– Henri Poincare, one of the foundation builders of Chaos Theory

While no one can truly predict the future, we can reduce risk by eliminating guesswork. Whenever trying to predict the future with any certainty, the key is to identify the changes that will potentially impact your business and optimise your response.

Azlan has built an outstanding portfolio of products, services and digital tools to support our partners throughout 2018 and beyond. Whatever the future holds we look forward to working with our customers and vendors to make it a prosperous year for everyone.

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