The ongoing global disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic is forcing the IT channel industry to evolve much faster than is comfortable, pushing many changes that would have likely occurred over the course of several years, to happen almost overnight.
However, it will be clear to anyone who has worked in the IT channel that innovation and disruption are the lifeblood of our industry. In a time when change is no longer an option, only those organisations that can be agile and adapt to evolving circumstances will survive. Lack of innovation in the IT channel comes at high risk and could inhibit recognition and credibility within the channel industry.
Some companies have argued that the current landscape has resulted in a positive push from a digital point of view. In a recent survey, 250 channel leaders working in UK-headquartered channel businesses were asked what areas they believed would be most popular for innovation: 55% said new technology, 52% operations/logistics, and 51% said digital transformation. With these innovative prospects rising, the channel industry should embrace the opportunity to drive positive growth across the channel.
Agile and flexible solutions
Businesses that fail to adjust and improve their services during these difficult times can put themselves at risk of losing their customers to more innovative competitors. Partners will appreciate the extra effort that companies invest in them, as well as the additional value that this brings, especially when they are most needed.
Being agile and adaptable to the current needs of customers and updating solutions to fulfil partners’ and customers’ requirements won’t only help businesses right now, but will leave a good impression in the long term. As the channel operates as a tight-knit chain, even minimal disruption in one small area could affect all those involved. For that reason, to combat any disruptions in the channel, seamless collaboration will be a priority to keep the channel functioning, especially if it leads to an increase in sales.
Businesses within the channel also need to be leading from the front by offering complimentary services that enhance their customers’ current experience. This includes proactively innovating with regard to how they support their clients, meaning that they need to communicate more than ever with their customer base and they need to be a lot more empathetic. Nowadays, it’s more about serving and less about selling.
Reducing distractions and unprofitable solutions can make room for businesses to focus on long-term goals, rather than putting them on hold. Being aware that some propositions may not be successful, and therefore eliminating these left over ideas can bring a range of different benefits to companies, such as lower costs, better profit margins and improved customer satisfaction.
Innovation can also help organisations to swiftly anticipate changes within the channel. This is something that most industries have experienced in the wake of COVID-19, and can now hopefully learn from it. It can also help differentiate companies from other competitors. By continuously analysing trends and customer needs, businesses are able to spot opportunities to help those who are looking for these solutions.
Benefits to employees
Having an innovative approach will help keep employees stimulated and passionate about the business they work for. While most teams are still working from home, companies could still achieve this by establishing daily check-ins, and ensure that they are providing emotional and steady support. This will also boost productivity and reduce workplace turnover, as well as developing employees into becoming industry experts.
This itself can lead to further innovation as employees are a company’s best source of creativity. An organisation must listen to its people and value their insight, which can be applied to improve areas such as product portfolio, customer experience and general efficiency of solutions. This allows employees to play a vital role in the innovation process.
Overall, innovation can determine a company’s success or failure. In today’s highly challenging environment, partners are becoming increasingly demanding and dependent on new technologies and solutions. For businesses in the channel to survive and stand out from the crowd, innovation can provide that extra edge, as well as boost growth, productivity and profitability.
However, many businesses are hesitant to innovate and will avoid it where possible – especially in a time when change has been thrust upon us in higher volumes than anyone could have expected, it’s understandable to be concerned about implementing more changes. It’s important to note that innovation doesn’t have to be an extreme change. Instead, it can be simple yet effective and will hopefully lead to incremental improvements that generate solid benefits for the business.
By Shaun Lynn, CEO of Agilitas