For the second year running, we surveyed our partners on the biggest challenges and opportunities in the Channel for 2022.
Respondents shared their thoughts on growth trends, hybrid working, the technologies that will be in demand, and the distributor’s role.
Here are the highlights.
Growth to continue in 2022
Two years on from the start of the pandemic and the UK Channel remains optimistic about growth, if a little more pragmatic about the year ahead having previously underestimated the ramifications of COVID-19.
The research shows 62% of respondents expecting to see 2-10% growth in 2022, a figure that stood at 40% in 2021. The lift in confidence is likely influenced by the 75% of respondents who saw growth between 2% and 10% in 2021.
At the same time, expectations have been tempered, influenced by pandemic related factors such as the global chip shortage and reflected in the finding that only 35% of respondents were expecting growth of over 10% in 2022. A figure that stood at 43% in 2021.
Cybersecurity remains the most in-demand technology
The mass adoption of remote and hybrid working models, requiring businesses to secure rapidly extended networks with protection against cyber criminals, presents a notable segment opportunity for channel partners.
With remote working here to stay and bad actors stepping up criminal activity in exploiting network vulnerabilities, it’s understandable why cybersecurity continues to be the biggest opportunity in the Channel, as identified by 78% of respondents. This is closely followed by cloud security at 56%.
The survey also revealed a surge in popularity for ‘network visibility’, with 27% of partners expecting it to be a new area of growth in 2022, up from less than 10% in 2020.
Channel partners remain conflicted over hybrid working
While 25% of partners wished they switched to a new operating model earlier, the shift to hybrid working practices has proved divisive, with respondents acknowledging both the advantages and challenges of adoption.
Here, 70% of respondents found remote working beneficial, with 40% citing increased productivity, and 30% having more time for strategic thinking.
Conversely, 40% of partners said hybrid working made running their business harder, framing it as their biggest challenge. New set up requirements, lack of supervision and working longer hours, were seen as negative aspects. Additionally, 22% ranked the inability to see customers and colleagues in person as a source of frustration.
The divergence of opinion likely a reflection of generational and job role differences amongst respondents.
The challenge of the distributor’s role
The research also shows organisations are continuing to look to distributors for sales support. However, in 2022 there is a shift in expectation with many wanting distributors to focus on addressing the specific challenges that have arisen in a post-pandemic era.
For example, due to hybrid working adoption many will require more support around marketing and lead generation activities. Another key area for distributors to support over the coming months will be to keep the supply chain running smoothly in all eventualities.
Additionally, competitive bidding is regarded as another key challenge by respondents, having jumped from 18% in 2020 to 62% in 2021, and possibly influencing the more conservative growth expectations in 2002.
With the focus turning from price to value add, partners that offer valuable, on-demand, scalable services, can overcome this challenge, as cost becomes a less decisive factor. Distributors can support partners by complementing their service offering and matching individual resellers with the most appropriate customers and prospects.
In 2020, partners viewed COVID-19 delays as one of the least important challenges they faced. The new research indicates the ramifications of the pandemic were underestimated and that adjusting to a new remote model was not as negligible a challenge as some had anticipated.
Yet, despite these challenges, there was strong growth last year and, with the lessons learnt, the channel is quietly confident this trajectory will continue for the year ahead.
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