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Nuzoo blog: New channel challenges – decentralised IT procurement and partner marketing ‘skills gap 2.0’

Research was released this week that once again points to hybrid working arrangements as a huge security risk for businesses. Employees buying and installing their own technology is one of the biggest headaches for IT teams, according to the research by Brother UK.

More than a third (34 percent) of UK IT leads said more decentralised purchasing decisions for devices such as laptops, printers and scanners are creating more data vulnerabilities. 

Almost a quarter (23 percent) anticipate that office technology would be centrally procured with employees purchasing home tech from approved supplier lists over the next two years, up from 19 percent that currently have this procurement model.

However, 11 percent of IT leads said they expect all office and home technology to be procured by employees on their own over the same period, compared to five percent that currently operate in this way. This not only signals additional security risks in the future, but challenges for the channel too. What will this new purchasing model mean for partners?

Mike Mulholland, head of services and solutions at Brother UK believes partners can help customers respond to new challenges from the workforce becoming more dispersed, by providing new solutions and services.

He says moving to a decentralised model of procurement isn’t without risk, so partners still have an important role in consulting with customers to ensure they aren’t creating unnecessary vulnerabilities for themselves.

“Security, productivity and cost-efficiency have been central to IT progress for years,” he told Nuzoo this week. “And these are far more challenging to improve and control when purchasing is put in the hands of employees that are likely to be less au fait with sometimes complex tech requirements.

“There’s a risk of businesses moving backwards on IT goals, instead of forwards, in a quest to get a dispersed workforce equipped easily through decentralised purchasing.”

Happily partners have the gift of time for proper consultation with customers, said Mike.

“The shift to remote working last year was literally overnight, whereas transitioning to hybrid doesn’t require the same immediacy.

“And customers that have moved to a more decentralised purchasing model may really value a check-in from their IT partner. A needs-based assessment could offer a second perspective on whether their current set-up is delivering them meaningful value, spurring opportunities for partners to supply new solutions.”

There will be cases where businesses retreat back to a more centralised approach, given the potentially greater risk of creating security breaches, inefficient workflows or unexpected costs, Mike also pointed out. This might call for a “gentle, and consultative push by channel partners.”

“Resellers may face a shut door from procurement stakeholders,” he said. “But keeping close to IT leads through their transition to decentralised purchasing models will help to strengthen relationships key to securing new business.”

 

Partner skills gap 2.0

Elsewhere this week, we saw some interesting research into channel partner marketing.

Channel marketing firm Coterie and The University of Huddersfield conducted some research into how vendors and partners should uplift their partner marketing to ensure the most successful and profitable outcomes.

They discovered that as the traditionally people-focused channel market has had to abandon face-to-face interactions, partners are witnessing the birth of the skills gap 2.0. 

The report found that many in the channel simply don’t have the skills or knowledge to cultivate relationships virtually. Not only has this put a strain on existing relationships, but it has also made establishing new partner relationships virtually impossible.

Meanwhile, it noted a shortage of partner marketing professionals with integrated skills. As we know, digital marketing – including messaging, branding, research skills, and community building – is vital for success in the channel today. Unfortunately, Coterie says this suite of skills has become a rarity in the industry, which could lead to many partners disengaging with their vendors or forming stronger relationships with alternative vendors who do display strong marketing.

Respondents cited a lack of skills and therefore a lack of innovation when it comes to their digital marketing – a challenge that is only exacerbated by a rise in digital fatigue and marketing noise. 

Speaking of these findings, Huddersfield Business School Professor Shona Bettany said: “The pandemic has undoubtedly acted as a challenge and ultimately forced many companies across the industry spectrum to stop and reconsider, and the findings derived from our research suggest that partner marketing is not exempt from the changes wrought by this historic period.”

Author: Christine Horton

Publish Date: 24/09/2021 11:28

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