Blog | February 13, 2014

It's Time To (Re)invest In Expertise

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By Mike Monocello, editor-in-chief, Business Solutions magazine
Follow Me On Twitter @monocello

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CompTIA recently released its IT Industry Outlook 2014, a 41-page report chock-full of very interesting information relevant to the IT channel. If you’re a CompTIA member, get your free copy now. Apart from a bunch of data that points to growth and opportunity for solutions providers in 2014, the report contains a thorough overview of the most significant trends to watch this year.

While all of the trends in the report are very real (cloud, Big Data, business process automation, mobility), there was one I thought particularly interesting because it ties in with most of the others: reinvesting in expertise. Here’s what CompTIA has to say:

Trend: Is it time for a tech skills reboot? For many years now, channel watchers have noted that solutions providers sport superior technical acumen, but often show less-than-stellar sales and marketing aptitude. That’s less pronounced today as channel firms have upped their game in those two critical areas of business. Ironically, now it’s the technical side of the equation that needs some polishing as channel firms take on the worlds of mobility, Big Data, cloud, and other innovations.

Drivers/Opportunities: New product categories such as those that cross Big Data (analytics, business intelligence), mobile application development, and unified communications’ many facets are opening up a world of new business opportunity for the channel. In order to capitalize, however, many channel firms will need to reinvest in skills training and development across these new categories, and in some cases hire new talent. This is especially important for the vast number of veteran channel firms that have been in business a long time providing basic networking, systems, security, and break-fix services, but want to grow into these high profit-margin sectors.

CompTIA is right on. I hear from VARs all the time that keeping up with all these new technological advances is too much of a burden. After all, the entrepreneurial spirit of most VARs is found at the ownership level, and if owners are busy being the lead salesperson, HR department, marketer, and technician, where’s the time to evaluate and learn about new technologies?

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The report continues by cautioning that trends take time to progress through the stages of adoptions — often taking longer than many expect. “The year ahead will certainly feature its share of surprises, but realistically, it will be one of evolution and progression, rather than revolution and quantum leaps.”

While it’s true that many of the trends/opportunities included in the report lie in burgeoning technologies, don’t be fooled into thinking that just because your customers aren’t interested today, they won’t be tomorrow. Also, consider that just because a technology might not be mature or at the right price point today, it could be tomorrow.

Indeed, it might be worth the investment in time or personnel to get up to speed now to better position your business for the future. Consider how long it takes to find and hire the right person. It make take you six months just to get your business in the position to be able to look closely at new technologies. Start now!

On the flip side is the idea that you should do nothing differently. In the report, CompTIA did add that “not every company needs to be on the far end of the innovation spectrum,” and “mature product categories remain a solid business foundation for many channel firms and will continue to do so in the years ahead.”

That’s true. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t warn you that the “status quo” path is less likely to lead to long-term success. Please keep a watchful eye on the trends CompTIA presents in its report. Doing so is a first step in building a business that will stand the test of time and breakneck technological innovation. The second step is challenging your own thinking about which opportunity is right for your company.

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