At the beginning of this year, we laid out our top predictions for technology trends in the channel for 2016. As we reach the half way point of the calendar year, it’s time to recap and see how things are shaping up so far:
#1: Mobility for channel enablement
Mobility is moving more towards app-driven enablement, this much we know to be true. Mobile apps are becoming the norm for any kind of customer interaction, thanks to more personalised engagement through analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) data. However, what we’re seeing so far is that enterprise infrastructure is an even more important driver for the channel and partners in the mobility space.
Mobile is just one of many application areas in the IoT ecosystem; however it is the enterprise integration factor that’s really bringing this feature into the fabric of businesses. Mobility means much more than just having an app. It is a design and an IT project which requires all the relevant types of infrastructure to succeed.
#2: Security: a new engine to drive the transition to “the 3rd platform”
Earlier in the year we recognised that the accelerated uptake of 3rd platform technologies offers enormous potential for businesses, but will require distributors to adopt a broader security strategy to support partners through these changes. Software-defined networking, for example, needs the security model to change entirely.
IoT remains the most complicated of the 3rd platform technologies, but we’re yet to see a true scandal here in terms of security. As IoT penetrates deeper into people’s daily lives, security around IoT data becomes a personal factor and the consequences become more serious. Security is potentially the thing that could hold channel developments in this sector back. As a whole, the channel still needs to start looking at security as a holistic strategy, which operates at the core of the data centre.
#3: 3rd platform big data and analytics evolution
Following the constant buzz around big data and analytics, the notion of actionable insights is a trend that is fast becoming normalised for end-users in the channel. We now consider it normal for organisations to look at their place in the market, search within their own performances and make business decisions working off inward analytics.
What’s driving this is that it’s much cheaper for SMEs to ‘do’ analytics, as innovation and competition in the market is driving the cost of these technologies down. The ability for businesses to start small with analytics in just one area of the business allows smaller companies to learn the value of analytics and build upwards. Over the course of the year, we’re starting to see a dynamic shift in the channel as smaller players come to market with low cost solutions that show instant results. Generally speaking, the barrier for entry for analytics is becoming much lower, which will be interesting to watch as the year progresses.
#4: Cracking the next IoT layer
At the beginning of 2016, we foresaw IoT as an opportunity to bring Operation Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) together on a mass scale. It’s a move that we can see happening already; and it’s distributors who are essentially making it happen. More importantly, it’s becoming clearer that the roles and specialisations which individual partners have in this area are invaluable. Delivering IoT successfully in the marketplace requires partnerships.
The other big change that strikes me so far is where the budget for IoT projects is coming from, which is having a huge impact on what we in the IT industry are doing. IoT projects aren’t coming strictly from the IT budget any more. They’re coming from line of business and from budgets that weren’t previously available to partners. IT often won’t come into the conversation until much later on!
In terms of IoT security, 2016 so far has seen the passing of new EU data protection regulation which will have a profound effect on how businesses approach IoT projects going forward. Legislation in any area is a big driver and these changes coming into effect over the next few years will put security at the forefront of IT conversations for the rest of the year, and further in the future.
#5: Collaboration in the channel
One thing that has surprised me over the past six months is how much the market now demands vendors and partners to collaborate on new solutions, particularly around IoT. It’s a new dynamic that has created an interesting role for distributors as ‘matchmakers’. This need for partnerships means that one single vendor solution might not be enough to go to market with anymore, and distributors are required to step in as an integrator for multiple vendor solutions. It will be exciting to see how this dynamic continues to shift and what the outcomes will be, as we watch the rest of 2016 unfold.