2012: Channel in change

Leading channel identities and analysts deliver their highlights of 2012

It was an unsettled year, a year when economic conditions played a significant role in stifling new business opportunities and project roll outs, a year when the channel saw Cloud computing move forward from discussion to implementation, and a boom in mobility.

ARN asked a group of leading channel identities and analysts for their highlights 2012. The result was a relatively mixed picture of a year that lacked real identity but was underscored by change.

For Ovum research director, Kevin Noonan, the highlight of 2012 was the fact Cloud computing finally delivered on its promise.

“There has been growth in the number of organisations doing Cloud computing. They’re reporting no major problems and there’s significant growth in the vendor space,” Noonan said. “The fact Cloud has arrived, delivered and provided clear outcomes is the thing that may surprise some people because we’d been talking about it for some time.”

Another area that saw traction was the mobility space. Noonan said the discussion had matured beyond simple issues of bring your own device (BYOD) and what devices should be used, to talking about a variety of different of mobile devices and applications to suit. He pointed to Microsoft’s release of Windows 8, which is targeting the mobile space.

“We’re also starting to talk about workplace reform and one of the big agenda issues is how people do their job differently because they’re more mobile and how can we do service delivery different because of the high uptake in the community,” he said. “We’ve gone beyond just a device centered discussion to something that’s more about business outcomes.”

Data#3 managing director, John Grant, said money was being spent within the mobility arena, along with the different applications and services delivered within that environment.

“It has cannibalised what we regard as the standard run rate business in the desktop and laptop area,” Grant said. “There’s been a shift in attention in investment and focus. It certainly had an impact of destabilising enterprise IT’s view on life.”

Business strategies

Distribution Central co-founder, Nick Verykios, noticed the discussion moving beyond technology itself, towards business strategies.

“They aren’t technology discussions anymore. They are now strategies about how technology will be adopted to solve customer problems. That would be the overriding trend that has driven certain technologies associated to them,” Verykios said.

Channel Dynamics director, Moheb Moses, said devices such as tablets and smartphones, stopped being toys and started to become business devices. This also flowed onto the way in which businesses adopted technology.

“Unless there is a really good reason to adopt it, businesses weren’t implementing technologies just because of the hype anymore, and that has affected many vendors,” Moses said.

Verykios claimed the introduction of Big Data and data analytics had also been rampant: “The strategy is associated with what a customer has been doing traditionally, and that is hoarding data.” Ovum’s Noonan said there had been plenty of discussion within the Big Data space, which is part of a major analytics revolution.

“On one hand we’re starting to see examples of Big Data applications and we’re seeing normal business analytics turning up on mobile devices and it is being transformed because you can up to date information on your mobile device” he said. “There’s a lot of development that’s happened in the last 12 months, and that’s setting a scene for value-added services.”

The telecommunications sector also witnessed some transformation, with companies evolving to become more service-oriented providers, according to ShoreTel A/NZ managing director, Jamie Romanin.

“There has been a shift in the way that they are going to market. It’s less about the connectivity to the customer from a voice perspective and more about how they can enable applications out to their customers,” he said.

Customer demand Romanin claimed customer demand was driving the channel to become more of a trusted advisor or business consultant in helping the customer understand where to profit from. “They are also moving away from being point-of-sale type resellers to providing end to end solutions,” he said.

ASI Solutions director, Maree Lowe, saw growth in network infrastructure, particularly in the switching space, ISPs and datacentres. The increase in the amount of Cloud services was also noticeable, she said.

“With Amazon Web services just being introduced into Australia, there is this whole new discussion about how to make money out of the Cloud,” Lowe said.

But businesses are also encountered challenging times. Many industry experts noticed the decision making process is taking a lot longer to get projects off the ground within the government space and it has been further fuelled by budget cuts.

Data#3’s Grant said government expenditure on IT had flattened causing significant deferrals and delays, or just non-commitment. Investing in new businesses to create new opportunities and customer relationships had also been stifled due to the cautious economic environment, he said.

“Capital investment and any sort of significant investment has to show returns in relatively short periods of time,” Grant said. “That has impacted on the flow of business within what is termed as the ‘classic project area’ and that flows on to large investments that embody investments in infrastructure and applications.

“That organisational attitude to cautious investment together with the opportunity that enterprise IT sees with Cloud and the conversations that occur with that, combine to create an environment where there’s a delay in things and decisions aren’t made quickly when there are projects up for grabs.”

Further cuts

Ovum’s Noonan said a lot of government agencies were trying to understand if there are further cuts down the track and if they can afford to commit to a new IT project.

“Cutbacks will cause a slowdown in project approvals,” Noonan said. “There’s a continuing concern on big sales projects and projects that have failed. There are some strategies coming into place to cut down the size of projects into smaller parts, which in turn opens up options for smaller players as well.“

“The economy is in a crisis of confidence. It hasn’t sparked as fast as what people hoped it would and there’s been a sense of negativity, and concern that we might go back into recession because of what’s happening overseas. That’s really caused a conservative approach in IT investment.”

Channel Dynamics’ Moses, said the tight economy and the increase in caution were critical factors that led to a slow uptake in also adopting new technologies. “This caution has also led to decisions being delayed and businesses trying to hold on to their money for as long as they can. Those two things fed off each other and created a level of unpredictability,” he claimed.

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