Guest Column | December 13, 2013

Navigating Channel Cross-Currents In 2014

By Gina Gallo, President and Chief Executive Officer, Stratix

Name your vertical: The channel is more essential than ever. Customers continue to depend on dealers, VARs, and ISVs for the buying guidance, savvy integration, and responsive support that direct purchasing can’t provide.

Nonetheless, the channel absolutely can’t afford to take anything for granted. The pace of technology change won’t slow down any time soon, and channel players in every sphere need to stay nimble in 2014. What environmental cross-currents should you stay on top of?

  1. Device obsolescence and turnover. Product lifecycles, particularly in the mobile arena, are continuing to shorten as new form factors, operating system versions, networks, and next-gen processors arrive. In response, customers are beginning to shift from an unwieldy, fixed-asset CAPEX budgeting mindset to a more flexible and predictable OPEX “subscription” model. How will your business model accommodate that switch?
  2. Micro-location sensing. This technology enables smart interactions with consumers and users depending on their precise physical position within a retail, hospitality, or work environment. These communications can be promotions, alerts, permissions, scanning prompts, checklists — even complete checkout capabilities. Any Apple device running iOS7, for example, can be configured as a functional “iBeacon” transmitter or receiver. How might this fast-moving trend impact your customers’ needs?
  3. New decision-makers. No longer can you count on a single buyer for contract sign-off. The operations director or IT manager now has to make room at the decision table for marketing, sales, human resources, finance, legal, and other line-of-business managers. In a sense, even the consumer end-user is a participant here. Does your selling process recognize this broader (and generally younger) procurement team? Are you developing rich connections to the front office as well as the back?
  4. Deeper analytics. Every device generates information about its application, versioning, location, content, and reliability. Not only are customers asking for real-time snapshots of their deployed assets, they also want visibility into usage patterns for actionable forward planning. Are you capturing and exploiting this data? (And are you getting smarter about collecting metrics for your own business?)

For channel players who think ahead and stay abreast of these and related dynamics, 2014 will be a year to compete more effectively, provide more value, and grow their account footprint.