Every day, I learn many new things as I interview some of the smartest people in the tech industry for eChannelNEWS and from other private discussions. One question that we often discuss is what will the channel look like as we roll out of the pandemic. I have been digesting a lot of data, insights, opinions and predictions.

I recently discussed the topic with Jay McBain from Forrester.

Three types of people seem to be emerging:

      1. Let’s go! The folks that are chomping at the bit and just cannot wait to get back on the road, breaking bread, drinking wine (or beer) and socializing in-person. These people are less concerned about catching COVID-19 and have decided that it’s time to move forward. I think about 25% of the people fall into this group.
      1. Cautious, but ready to go! These folks want to get back on the road, but do not want to risk their health or the health of those around them. This group will meet in-person but they want assurances that they will not be exposing themselves to unnecessary risks. I estimate about 55% of the people fall into this group.
      1. Not until the coast is clear! These folks refuse to risk their health or the health of their loved ones for any reason. They prefer a zero-touch remote working environment and do not see why the rush to in-person activities that may pose risks to lives. I estimate about 20% of the people fall into this group.

KEEP IN MIND, that this does not only apply to the channel partner community. The end-users will also have similar thinking and even though you may want to meet them in person, they may not want to meet you.

On our end, I would love to be hanging out at in-person events, but we also want to do it safely for everyone present. In the countries we serve, we are planning to restart in-person ChannelNEXT events in September because we see the curve flattening, significant quantity of vaccines are in people, hospitalizations are on a downward trend and even though we see positive COVID tests spike in some areas, it seems to be clear that the vaccines are working and that by the end of the summer, we should reach herd immunity. The vaccines have also been shown to be effective against every variant. With more treatments coming online, continued hygiene and the world being vaccinated, we are seeing the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Virtual will not disappear when in-person activities are back in full swing. We will be integrating live streaming to reach a wider global channel community. Today we are reaching more people in more countries than ever. All the data from most everyone I speak to points to a digital-first strategy in the future.

Never stop learning and never stop improving. Start beefing up your best practices and your digital footprint!

My advice:

For MSPs: If you are looking for a better way forward, just find and collaborate with 8 of your peers. The struggle is real and it’s shared. You are not unique. Your peers can help you avoid making their mistakes and you can help them avoid your mistakes. They can also help you see a better path forward. If you need help finding an appropriate group, check out the Channel Partner Alliance.

For Vendors: Think deeper about your current channel strategy, programs and tactics and ensure that they are in sync with the needs of all parties in your channel partner ecosystem. Many vendors are already making the transition so just follow them. I recently saw demos of next generation partner ecosystem management platforms that may be ahead of the curve (watch for more info on this coming on eChannelNEWS).

For Distributors: Distributors should think about getting on the SaaS and marketplace bandwagon before it’s too late. The “middleman” is under threat as the world shifts to a digital-first economy with tens of thousands of SaaS vendors entering the market. It brings renewed meaning to “there is an app for that!” Some distributors are already making the SaaS shift!

For end-users: Build out your digital-first playbook and execute. I will suggest you read just one book to get a solid grasp on what you need to do and why “Thriving in a Virtual Economy” by Shane Gibson and Dr. Denis Cauvier. It doesn’t matter what business you are in, if you are not gearing up digitally, you run the high risk of being marginalized in the future.

I will end with this…The Channel is the world’s greatest and largest sales force, and while they do have side effects, nothing beats the channel for any go-to-market strategy. Many new SaaS vendors are entering the channel as they realize its potential. Do your due diligence to ensure you build out the right channel automation, programs and tactics. If you need help, ask us.