The emergence of new technologies, driven by new buying patterns from new customers, are combining to change the go-to-market strategies of the traditional channel.
Akin to Cluedo - the iconic murder mystery game - partners are now faced with a triple threat in a market evolving at pace.
Think Colonel Mustard, with the candlestick, in the ballroom. Now think, the CMO, leveraging artificial intelligence, as-a-service.
Such is the rate of change turning the channel on its head today, as new-look technologies, business models and end-users redefine supply chain strategies.
“We are in an era of massive innovation and evolution in technology,” said Mike Zilis, executive vice president and group president of Asia Pacific at Ingram Micro.
In addressing a jam-packed keynote of 1700 attendees during Ingram Micro One - the distributor’s bumper channel-centric conference in Singapore - Zilis cited key trends such as cloud, cyber security and the Internet of Things as transformational technologies.
Likewise, the rise of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality and driverless vehicles continue to reshape the industry, creating a ripple effect through the channel.
“These are areas that are starting to create meaningful case studies and proof of concepts that are being applied everyday,” Zilis added. “Technology doesn’t always work the way we expect it however, and that’s why we [the channel] are here as well.
“Whether it be software, hardware or services, delivering a solution today is complex, which is why we can provide value.”
In referencing IDC research, Zilis said that cyber security protection ranks as the leading technology investment priority for organisations over the next five years, across 52 per cent of businesses.
Just behind is cloud-based infrastructure and applications (50 per cent), followed by customer experience management systems (48 per cent); data integration across line of business (45 per cent) and agile software development processes (44 per cent).
“Technology is no doubt implicit across everything we do, in both our business and personal lives,” Zilis explained. “Technology spend is growing faster than virtually every other area of spend which isn’t surprising.
“We have multiple generations of the workforce, both younger and older. Some grew up with technology, and others are learning and adapting. We see different buying habits across different generations which we need to be adaptable to.”
In a market dominated by cloud, security and data, Zilis said customers are now focusing on “innovation and efficiency”, calling on partners to transform in tandem.
“Customer service is more important than ever,” Zilis added. “If you put together a value package and provide the execution aspect, that’s when we all win.”
According to IDC, the top business goals of end-users across Asia Pacific centre around the need to innovate to deliver new products or services to market (36 per cent), alongside the ability to increase investment in research and development (25 per cent).
Furthermore, the delivery of digital products compared to physical offerings ranks highly (25 per cent), in addition to improving marketing and sales capabilities (22 per cent).
“Models are also changing,” Zilis said. “We have different consumption models today also because everyone wants everything as-a-service on a subscription basis - whether that be hardware, software or services.
“That’s causing the channel to adapt to new cash flow models as a result.”
As the market grapples with new technologies and new ways of purchasing, in parallel, new buyers are emerging across the market.
“The CIO isn’t necessarily the chief decision maker on technology anymore,” Zilis added. “They certainly still wear a very important but business leaders now own a greater percentage of the budget, and are becoming more influential in technology decisions.
“They are taking just as many decisions as anyone else in how their organisation uses and buys technology.”
In short, the CIO is no longer the standard bearer of IT, with business leaders now owning 60 per cent of the technology budget, while influencing more than 80 per cent of deals.
Coupled with a change in buying cycle time - spanning an average of 11.7 months for enterprise, and 10.2 months for small businesses - and the channel is grappling with transformation across three core areas.
First, new technologies. Second, new buying models. Thirdly, new buyers.
“We need subject matter experts that bring complex technologies together in a workable business solution,” Zilis said.