Looking Ahead

It’s the turn of the year and the start of a new decade so what have the channel leaders got on their minds for the next 12 months?


“Across the telecoms, media and technology landscape, much of the focus and hype in 2020 will remain on 5G, but the experience is still likely to be ‘4G-plus’.

Despite this, we should see real signs of traction in many other networking and connectivity technologies, such as software-defined wide-area-networking (SD-WAN) and NB-IoT. In the business market, we expect that many operators will look to expand their IT portfolios, especially in cyber security.”


“In 2020, it will be the IT Asset Manager’s job to determine whether XaaS (or other types of cloud-based vendor relationships) is appropriate for an organization. Outsourcing XaaS can help make operations more efficient, but there are real risks, including the assumption that third parties will provide security (which they, in fact, may not). There is a downside to outsourcing everything.

XaaS relies on a cloud-based environment. Organisations concerned about securing data in the cloud might shy away from XaaS. That is true especially with organisations that offer medical services in the United States (required by law as HIPAA compliant), any organisation that does business in the European Union where GDPR has strict privacy requirements and levies heavy fines for violating them, or financial institutions. Service providers are aware of these concerns and have been implementing more security and protection into their cloud accounts. Yet still, there is risk involved.”


“There’s been plenty of talk about the impact of AI, from driverless cars to business applications, but the reality is that we are still at the beginning of a long-journey. Despite this, we find ourselves in the middle of the AI hype curve.

No doubt there are some amazing innovations, but they remain beyond the reach of most organisations given the level of investment required to realise them. As we enter the next decade, I think we’ll see fewer people rushing to buy AI out of FOMO and properly interrogating their investment first.  RPA (robot process automation) is the first step for many on the journey to AI.

We’re also in the early days of 5G but it will be a real game changer for the economy. The big networks are piling into our major cities to make it ubiquitous in these important commercial nodes.

For the channel, 5G will add more scale and speed to the tech infrastructure underpinning London, Manchester, Birmingham et al, creating happy hunting grounds for resellers targeting movers and growers. Those without routes into these markets won’t feel the ripple effects of the 5G goldrush, even if the cost of doing business in these centres rises.”


“Big data will become even bigger as we move towards a more connected world with the advent of smart home devices and the like, we will continue to generate an ever-growing pool of IoT-collected structured and unstructured data ripe for analysis. Not only will this allow businessestoleverage untapped insights and create new, innovative services, but it will also provide AI algorithms with even greater opportunities to train and improve their performance. These collective developments will ultimately allow predictive analytics to become more widely adopted in 2020, and will be essential for businesses to maintain their competitive advantage.

Partners must transform their value propositions and empower their sales teams to become true consultants that understand customers’ requirements and how these new technologies will add value. Partners who do understand how to identify customers’ pain points – and ultimately offer a new solution or emerging technology that relieves that pain – will be the most successful and outperform other industry players, such as service integrators.

These partners have the potential to disrupt the mid-market, who are after these services just as much as large, multinational clients – as we all know, a company’s size does not dictate the value it offers to their customers, and small businesses – with the right idea, and the right execution – can most certainly disrupt an entire industry.”


“5G may not be making much ground with consumer users, but look to heavy industry and it’s a completely different picture. Connecting manufacturing and processing plants, ports, mines, utilities and agricultural facilities will be a game-changer, creating a new industrial internet of things (IIoT), or Industry 4.0 (or Industries 4.0 if you’re in Germany, where a strategic alliance has been formed with the aim of making the country a leader in advanced, intelligent smart manufacturing).

Cellular connectivity may have been enough for factories in 2019, but in 2020 and beyond, these buildings will also require ultra-low-latency high-reliability machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity. We’ve already seen China making great strides in this area, thanks in part to its Made in China 2025 initiative. The government plan aims to make China a manufacturing superpower, via advanced technologies and high-end numerical control tools and robotics which will deliver greater manufacturing efficiency.

Instead of having to go to mobile operators (which have historically had a monopoly of the licence market) to deploy a connectivity system, business owners will also have the option of going to other parties that have bid for and won these licences themselves. These could be companies which were traditionally specialists in software (such as Oracle) or engineering (like Bosch). There’ll soon be a new breed of connectivity provider on the IIoT block.”


“Companies will need to draw a strategic line between how and when they use the public and private cloud for data storage. This decision will require careful evaluation of the agility, flexibility, speed-to-market and cost offered by each approach. It will be impacted by the quantity of legacy data to be stored as well as what data companies want to ‘own’ and store locally, on premises.

Not all data is suitable for storage in public clouds. Interestingly, we are speaking to senior executives responsible for cloud strategy who are telling us they have a plan to move to cloud solutions in totality and shut down all their data centres.

Though there isn’t necessarily a timeline in place to support this goal as yet. In parallel, whilst they have committed some hosting to the cloud, there isn’t a set strategy for what goes where in the long term, which suggests there is still a lot of fine-tuning to be done.”


“As smaller ecommerce businesses move to modern systems which were born in the cloud, they are also beginning to take full advantage by becoming multitenant (which means each customer shares the same underlying engine).

This will open up AI opportunities that have once been reserved for big tech and only the largest retailers in the past. AI is a hungry beast that needs a huge amount of data to learn. Now, smaller companies can pool their ecommerce data in an aggregated, unidentifiable way through third-party AI partners to make accurate predictions.

This can be a way to reduce costs while embracing AI as a powerful revenue driver which helps retailers connect with customers in terms of product suggestions for an entirely personalised experience. Let’s take pricing as an example — with enough training data, an AI could suggest when to discount, by how much, or what that discount might cannibalise elsewhere on their site.”


“While cloud adoption has been around for several years now, plenty of companies still struggle to move into the cloud completely because of old legacy technology and hardware. However, in a world of increased remote and flexible working, cloud adoption will not only help companies to improve their overall productivity, but it can also help companies to improve costs and risk management.

In the next 12 months more companies will see a cloud approach as a crucial part of their business strategy. By prioritising models such as Software-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service companies can begin to consume applications without having to invest in skills to build solutions themselves from the ground up.

Following on from this, more companies will also begin exploring Edge computing as part of the print setup to solve issues that Cloud can introduce, such as latency and bandwidth costs, which can, in turn, impact productivity and efficiency.

Sustainable lifestyles have become increasingly important not only for individuals but for organisations no matter how large or small they might be. Green movements such as Extinction Rebellion have created a huge political movement that has made climate change more imperative.

As a result, individuals hold organisations more accountable than ever before, not only for their consumption but also for their contribution to the environment. Organisations are expected to improve their green credentials and do more to achieve energy efficiency goals.

For most companies, print IT will play a huge role in this and organisations are expected to report on elements such as how many trees are used to print as well as report on their water and energy consumption. As a result, more companies will adopt automated scan workflows, which transform paper-based work processes into digital workflows, helping companies to keep track of their consumption and be more productive, while focusing on their core everyday tasks.”


“Self-healing IT is poised to become a reality given the radical advancements in AI and automation. Together, these technologies can fuel truly autonomous IT operations by delivering a closed-loop system of discovery, analysis, detection, prediction, and automation, enabling infrastructure issues to be resolved before they ever have an impact.

The European Commission estimates a shortage of 756,000 skilled workers in IT in just the next 18 months. Naturally, Brexit uncertainty has the potential to aggravate this situation by making the UK a less attractive place to work or by forcing relocation for IT professionals. In 2020, with the increasing complexity of IT and data volumes exploding, this skills shortage will compel businesses who want to survive and thrive to look towards new technologies like intelligent automation and AIOps to bridge the gap and maintain their competitive edge.”


“The real challenge and shift for the channel next year will be to more effectively leverage and demonstrate the value that emerging technologies can deliver. Artificial intelligence and machine learning, for example, will continue to grab headlines and drive discussion, but many people are still unclear about what these will actually mean for their business. We all too often talk about amazing new technologies without framing them in the context of what it actually means for the user – be they a SoHo, SMB or large enterprise.

Agile and flexible working have been the buzz words of 2019, and the channel has the potential to really capitalise on this. The way we currently work is disparate and distracting, and the wealth of productivity tools we have make this even harder.

The channel has the opportunity to fix the way we are working by bringing these siloed tools together and offering customers a simpler way of looking at IT decision making. This is a forcing factor in channel organisations needing to truly understand what the customer wants and how they can cater to this new focus on flexibility.”


“The technology expected to have the biggest impact on the channel industry in 2020 includes the development in quality of SD-WAN technologies that are helping small businesses become more dependent on distributed applications (SaaS apps) to run their business as opposed to traditional networking solutions.” 

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