From Crisis Comes Opportunity: Jay McBain’s Four Paths to Channel Success in 2021

Published On: February 12, 2021Categories: Buzz, Partner Success, Uncategorized, XaaS


From Crisis Comes Opportunity: Jay McBain’s Four Paths to Channel Success in 2021 graphic

Lucky for us, each January it has become a tradition for our team at Channel Impact to talk with channel authority Jay McBain, Forrester’s Principal Analyst for Channel Partnerships and Alliances. This annual ritual sharpens our focus and helps set the stage for the New Year as we align our client strategies with emerging channel changes and opportunities.

Every conversation with Jay is educational, enlightening and sometimes surprising, and our most recent discussion with him was no exception. Of course, after a year like no other, Jay’s insights held added significance for all of us as we looked to 2021 with a sense of hope. And now that February is already here, it’s still difficult to know where this year will take us, but one thing is clear: change will continue.

During the discussion, Jay outlined four big channel growth opportunities, which, come to find out, align with my own experiences working with clients this past year. I hope my takeaways from the discussion will help shine a light for you on where to focus your efforts during these challenging times:

1. Automation as a business accelerator

Work from home has required companies to rethink every line of business, process, and workflow, and it has triggered massive growth in business process automation, along with risk. Jay sees this as the largest opportunity for the channel coming out of 2020. 

Automation as a Business Accelerator

Our team at Channel Impact believes that process automation can make the greatest impact in IT channel incentives and marketing, helping channel leaders create new ways to serve partners and customers. The ability to share customer data and analytics to assist partners in delivering a hyper-personalized experience at scale will be the greatest differentiator between channel leaders and losers moving forward.

2. Cloud initiatives are everything

2020 was both a nail in the coffin of legacy client-server infrastructure and a green light for digital transformation projects. In fact, one of the biggest shifts Jay sees coming into 2021 is the growing performance gap between two distinct channel segments. Today, computer and telco infrastructure, systems integration, and tech consulting are down by double digits, while cloud acceleration and infrastructure-as-a-service revenues are up by nearly 50%.

Business reliance on the cloud and hybrid cloud configurations will continue to scale as more on-demand computing, storage, and automation capabilities are needed to power everything from AI to IoT. Jay sees the ability for partners to link services to the cloud as an obvious path towards growth, and Channel Impact couldn’t agree more. 

Cloud Initiatives are Everything

For the past three years, we have been supporting clients in optimizing the channel to deliver X-as-a-service (XaaS). This process requires that traditionally transactional partners reimagine their role with the customer and extend their value throughout the entire lifecycle; and it demands that vendors provide partners with the strategies, framework, content, and tools to help them drive exceptional customer experiences.

3. Remote work is here to stay

The third big opportunity to emerge is a brand-new topology for the channel: the remote, residential-level network. For the past five years, the number of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB) that outsourced IT remained flat, then soared by double digits in 2020. Remote work is here to stay, and companies will need to service, support, and secure all of their employees working from home accessing enterprise-class data and systems while, often times, using consumer-grade devices and networks. 

Remote Work is Here to Stay

Those VARs and integrators that have been slower to transform are now finding a new source for growth in serving these SMB market demands. The shift has also created a big opportunity for born-in-the-cloud services for remote workers around networking, security, and collaboration. Gordon Mackintosh of Juniper recently shared the company’s winning approach to the pandemic, urgently supplying AI-driven Mist products to customers as they scrambled to support remote networking and helping customers keep critical supply chains up and running in the wake of COVID. 

4. Rethink your CX, PX and EX

Lastly, the past year has forced every company to reconsider how they serve customers, partners, and employees. E-commerce marketplaces grew more in the first three-months of COVID than during the prior 10 years combined. The trend towards spending money on technology to transform around customer (CX), partner (PX), and employee experience (EX) is the fourth largest market opportunity for the channel.

Rethink your CX, PX and EX

Our clients are increasingly looking to their channel to help them scale customer success. But this shift requires equal investments in both the customer and the partner experience. Vendors need to give partners the playbooks, analytics, offers, and best practices to make customer success a reality. You can read more about partner success strategies here.

For a deeper dive into what Jay sees coming for the channel in 2021, go to his blog here.

I also invite you to join me on Feb. 23 at the B2B Marketing Exchange on Channel Marketing, where I’ll be speaking virtually alongside Jeanne Quinn, Cisco’s Senior Manager, Digital, Social, Omnichannel Strategy, Global Partner Marketing. We’ll be covering what a successful omnichannel strategy actually means, and what companies are doing to truly deliver on Partner Experience.

Until then, if you need help adapting your channel for the changing times, please reach out to me directly. I’d love to talk.

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