Renewed focus on digitisation and customer experience fuelling cautious optimism
New research shows that more than 90% of channel partners (CPs) agree customers are taking a more strategic, long-term, approach to their digital investments.
And 82% believe that digitally-equipped organisations are significantly less vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic. Partnerships have been critical in keeping the country running, with 96% of CPs said to be remaining operational thanks to channel support.
BT and Cisco have published new research from the UK Channel, with 96% of respondents citing that customers are now taking a more strategic approach to digital investments. 91% of Channel respondents believe businesses are prioritising digital transformation plans for the foreseeable future.
The research reveals levels of optimism in the year ahead despite the current climate, with businesses continuing to adapt in response to evolving circumstances. This cautious optimism is leading to a greater emphasis being placed on the role of technology in underpinning resiliency, continuity and future competitiveness and growth.
The survey of senior decision-makers across 100 separate channel organisations shows that the biggest opportunities are perceived to be in helping businesses increase agility and flexibility; enhance customer experience; and drive efficiencies.
The positivity felt by businesses is balanced by caution, predominantly driven by the ongoing uncertainty from the Coronavirus pandemic. While the majority agree that managing costs is an immediate priority for most organisations the research also indicates a focus on changing customer needs.
Over two-thirds of respondents have seen increased demand for network bandwidth from customers; 62% increased demand for collaboration tools. A third have seen businesses demand shorter procurement times as businesses look to adopt tools far faster, in response to the changing situation.
Gavin Jones, channel sales director, BT’s Wholesale Unit, says, “The rapid digital acceleration from the outset of the pandemic has started to settle but the consistently evolving environment means businesses must continue to evaluate how best to progress. We’re seeing a shift in the way channel partners and their customers are considering a long-term strategic approach to digital investments, including permanent changes in working practices for distributed teams of people. The research indicates a desire and need to handle complex technology via third parties which presents a huge opportunity for channel growth and, more broadly, bodes well for the technology sector in Britain.
“At BT, we’re at the forefront of this technology revolution. We know there isn’t a one-size-fits-all, adding true value comes from understanding customer pain points and then developing innovative solutions to match. We’ve spoken with partners and our continued support throughout this period and beyond, has been the most comprehensive in the telecoms channel we’re dedicated to helping CPs and their customers to look forwards.”
Cisco UK’s CTO Chintan Patel, adds, “As the pandemic persists, it’s clear that channel partners and their customers are looking to transform their emergency digital responses for the long-term. CPs highlighted cost savings through automation, enhanced agility, flexibility, and increased security as key strategic benefits. As a result, the benefits and returns on these technology investments can be viewed as a dividend, giving UK businesses a return over the years to follow.”
A permanent change to the way we work
According to the channel, this demand for new technologies is rooted in customers’ rapidly shifting the way they work with offices being reimagined, and hybrid working models here to stay. 84% anticipate that the pandemic experience will transform company cultures for the long-term.
Providing employees with increased trust and more autonomy over where and how they operate is at the centre of this. CPs themselves experienced the benefits of remote working, with 90% reporting that their productivity is the same or higher than in the office.
When thinking about the future, nearly half (49%) believe that a new hybrid working model will prevail for customers, while 15% predict a predominantly virtual working model; an opportunity for technology providers to grow, by offering a new breed of solutions that empower remote working.
“A blend of old world and new world is where we’d like to get to as an organisation, taking the best of both situations into the future, according to Justin Coombes, marketing director at Gamma. “New benefits such as expanded talent pools and more flexible working conditions leading to higher productivity are just some of the advantages, so all businesses need to engage with the positive outcomes of hybrid working this year and beyond.”
Security a firm priority
The research also reveals clear concerns over increased cyber security issues which are emerging as a result of widespread remote working. Given the immediacy of this threat, 70% of CPs are looking for external support to help their customers combat cyber security threats and are increasingly looking towards managed service providers (MSPs) to assist them with this. Nearly half (44%) are prioritising relationships with suppliers which have strong cyber security ecosystems.
Rising to the challenge: How the channel should respond
Moving forward, the research shows the combined importance of technical support and commercial flexibility to channel resellers, reflecting the shift to digital, IP-based communications and away from a traditional telecoms approach. Many have already responded to the crisis by simplifying their offer.
The research also makes clear the importance of the channel ecosystem in these challenging times, 96% of respondents claim their CPs were essential in keeping them operational during the first wave of coronavirus; 84% state that partners have provided additional support above and beyond expectations.
To read the full whitepaper report based on the research and longform interviews with BT Wholesale, Cisco UKI and Gamma, Click here.
The research was a proprietary online survey, conducted in October 2020, via Coleman Parkes Research, that reached 100 senior decision makers at 100 different UK telecom CPs, spanning SMEs through to enterprise level organisations of 1,000+ employees. Additional information came from a number of structured, one-hour, in-depth interviews with senior personnel from BT Wholesale, Cisco UK and Gamma Group. The primary research was complemented by an extensive literature review covering all aspects of the UK pandemic experience in 2020.