Changing relationships with vendors highlight CompTIA’s 2016 channel trends

A new study from CompTIA based on December 2015 data includes an assessment of trends in the IT industry specific to the channel.


9 Tim Herbert, Senior VP, Technology and Market Analysis, CompTIA9

Solution providers are increasingly moving away from leading with vendor brands, and trying to break free from the single vendor solution practices most vendors still prefer – even when they say otherwise. Those are some of the channel-focused trends identified by industry trade association CompTIA in their recently released IT Industry Outlook 2016.

Tim Herbert, Senior VP, Technology and Market Analysis, CompTIA, said the changes are significant, although he cautioned that not all may hit with full force in the short term.

“When we develop trends, we try to strike a balance between new insight and useful information, but we don’t want to be so forward looking that the trend may not come to fruition,” he said. “The market is moving, but it never moves at a predictable pace. There are still elements of each trend that may take some time.”

With that caveat given, let’s dive into the forecasts.

A significant one is that many vendors are increasingly leading with their own brand, rather than their vendors’ brands.

“We see many more channel partners who don’t lead with their vendor brand, especially when they package different vendors together.” Herbert said. “It’s their brand that they lead with. This really blurs the line of what a vendor is.”

Herbert said that although there is some increasing concern over channel conflict because of the cloud, this trend is not a direct response to vendors selling direct.

“It’s more them seeing an opportunity to craft a solution that meets the needs of their customers, and it’s easier to package it under their own brand,” he said.

Herbert added that this trend is good news for startups and lesser known vendors who sell through the channel.

“There’s just more information available today,” he said. “Customers and partners are more willing to experiment with unknown technology vendors, especially SaaS ones, where they don’t have to rip out everything they own.”

Another trend relates to partners increasingly moving beyond legacy single vendor practices, with an increasing amount of vendor acceptance.

“This is something we’ve seen for some time now,” Herbert said. “To a degree it has been impacted by cloud computing, where the partner wants to meet customer needs for solutions that go beyond standing up servers or refreshing desktops. The problem is that many partner programs are still defined around selling units, although some are reaching escape velocity, breaking free from legacy practices, and creating solutions no longer relating to a single vendor.”

Herbert said that while most vendors have taken steps towards this in the past, the reality on the street has been somewhat different.

“There has been a lot of lip service paid to this, but they have to make next quarters numbers,” he said. “Still, more and more vendors recognize that customers’ needs are changing. It may not happen this year, but many of these factors will accelerate. There is more momentum for change than there was a couple years ago. On the other hand, the countertrend is that there are many customers who don’t want to change legacy systems, and there is plenty money to be made servicing them.”

A third trend, which has been developing for some time, is the need to get closer to the customer because customer decision-making and buying authority is changing.

“The customer relationship is changing based on demographics and the degree to which technology has penetrated all facets of departments,” Herbert said. “They are carving out their own budget for tech investments, and increasing numbers off decisions are influenced outside of the IT department. This isn’t anything new. We’ve been telling channel partners this for years. But each year, the dynamic changes a little bit more, and if they haven’t made adjustments to their sales and marketing practices they will find themselves at a disadvantage.”

Finally, Herbert said solution providers are increasingly skipping the idea of their own data centre build-out.

“This is a reflection of price competition and consolidation in cloud infrastructure,” he said. “When you see large companies like HP decide that being in the infrastructure business doesn’t make sense, others take notice. Many small MSPs recognize that they will have a hard time competing with some of the larger players. For a new company developing a managed services practice, why would you build your own data centre instead of figuring out how best to layer on your own unique service?”

The IT Industry Outlook 2016 is based on a December 2015 survey of 673 IT industry companies in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.