If the first couple of weeks of 2021 are anything to go by, it looks like this year will prove as testing as the one that preceded it. Regardless many businesses and organisations need to forge ahead, and the same rings true of the South African channel.
Hoping to provide some insight into what 2021 will hold for that industry is Dell Technologies South Africa MD, Doug Woolley, who recently unpacked some of the company’s predictions for the local channel market over the next 12 months.
Many of these predictions began taking shape in 2020, such as 5G and the hybrid cloud, but this year is when they are expected to be fully formed, and consequently leveraged for a competitive edge by savvy businesses.
“In 2021, technology will continue to provide a path to our economic recovery – and channel partners will play a key role in guiding our progress. They must advocate for the technological transformations that will help businesses to do more than simply survive, but to thrive,” Woolley optimistically explains.
The first aspect highlighted by the Dell Technologies SA MD is that of the hybrid cloud, and much of the hype surrounding it. The company too aims to capitalise on this, following the recent announcement of its own as-a-Service-driven Project Apex platform.
“This year, we will indeed see investments in cloud operating models continue to grow. However, these will span public, private and edge environments as businesses desperately seek to apply cloud resources to the last of their legacy data and applications in order to enable rapid scale and management of IT everywhere,” says Woolley.
“Yet, with public cloud now a hefty chunk of many hybrid cloud environments, businesses are increasingly expecting to consume their whole IT architecture in the same way as their public cloud services – orderable and scalable with a few clicks, providing more options and less complexity. This shift to an ‘as-a-Service’ model is exciting for partners as it presents new opportunities for increasing recurring revenue this year and making their overall revenue more reliable. Thankfully, this is not a pipedream and is already being enabled by IT providers like Dell Technologies with Project Apex,” he adds.
Next is 5G, which was anticipated to become more prevalent locally in 2020, but a lack of spectrum and global pandemic scuppered those plans.
In 2021, the sense of urgency around 5G will not lessen, but instead of simply making the access to the new broadband standard available in SA as a means of supplanting competitors, local networks will be looking to ramp up its rollout as a result of edge computing, according to Woolley.
Channel partners will also have their role to play in this regard, particularly as it pertains to consulting on the best solution to empower the edge for customers.
“Fuelled by a growth in adoption of edge, last year MNOs (mobile network operators) will need to make big, long-term investments in modern IT that ‘cloudifies’ their network architecture – helping to bring widespread connectivity and scalable edge processing ever-closer,” Woolley says.
“For this, however, MNOs will need guidance – something that the channel is perfectly placed for. Not only can the channel provide insight into key buying trends among businesses – as with the rise in edge computing – and give direction on the types of 5G offerings in demand, channel partners can also give invaluable advice on the technology and skills needed to meet this demand,” he continues.
This element is driven by the hybrid working model that many businesses will need, or already have, adopted this year. Consequently there will be a demand on improving devices to have a better user experience that blends AI, cloud computing and improved connectivity. This in turn presents an opportunity for channel partners to, “communicate the full benefits of a modernised remote PC management,” as essential.
“One thing the pandemic has done is transform the perspectives of the C-suite, spotlighting business critical investments in infrastructure. For example, AI will make PCs more seamless, customised and hassle free, which is essential for remote PC management, productivity and satisfaction. Intelligent software will help devices understand when users do and do not want to be seen in a video conference,” Woolley points out.
“Looking ahead, devices will be able to default to 5G when Wi-Fi is low. And new apps and services will continue to launch that make whiteboarding and collaboration easier and more organic, and the systems we’re using will also start to see upgrades in functionality,” he posits.
Looking at the year ahead, and the challenges posed within it, Woolley believes that there is a massive opportunity available to businesses, and by extension channel partners, if they are willing to recognise and adapt.
“Technology will enable a greater sense of connectivity in a time where we’re working and learning further apart; from our own homes. Virtual meetings and collaboration spaces give us a glimpse into the everyday lives of our colleagues and create greater flexibility for life-work balance,” he enthuses.
“But technology will also foster new relationships – AI and automation will reimagine the division of labour between humans and machines. We will offload more thinking tasks to AI instead of just mechanical ones, leading to faster, deeper and more meaningful insights that enables us as humans to shift our focus to greater innovation, purposeful work and human connection,” he adds.
These transformations cannot be gone at alone, and the role of channel partners in consulting, advising and providing the necessary technology and solutions will prove critical.
“Fully realising this vision will require high-level consultancy, to ensure that organisations are tailoring these technologies to their business in meaningful ways – and using them to their full advantage. Channel partners will play a role in instilling the possibility of what can be achieved, while guiding customers through a data-centric, insights driven roadmap,” he concludes.