Here’s What 20 Channel Chiefs See As The Biggest Challenges Facing Partners In 2024
Channel executives on the CRN 2024 Channel Chiefs list were asked what they see as the biggest challenges channel partners face this year. Here’s what 20 channel chiefs had to say.
The Challenges Ahead
The channel entered 2024 amid warning signs of continued economic uncertainty, high borrowing costs, shortages of skilled IT talent and escalating cybersecurity threats. The pace of IT evolution continues to quicken – especially with the disruptive advance of AI technology – while the channel itself is transformed by consolidation and the rise of online marketplaces.
As part of the CRN Channel Chiefs 2024 project, we asked the more than 560 channel executives that made the list to tell us what they see as the biggest challenges facing their channel partners in 2024. Here’s what 20 had to say,
VP, U.S. Channel
Interest rates and lack of reasonable financing will hurt all partners' ability to take advantage of strategic bets in 2024. This includes internal systems and infrastructure, but also rates for resellers to purchase these goods and services. Low-cost financing won't be available for the foreseeable future.
VP, Channel Strategy, Programs and Development
It will be important for vendors and their partners to be able to demonstrate their business value throughout the lifecycle of a deal because economic headwinds are forcing customers to re-examine their spending. Arctic Wolf's agnostic approach to security enables customers to keep the tools they already have while enhancing their security posture. Small businesses may also need/expect additional financial flexibility to help bridge the gap. Hiring and staffing needs will continue to present challenges to solution providers. Vendor partners that can deliver a full end-to-end service without solution provider staff augmentation will be critical to their long-term scale.
Senior VP, Global Partners
We're seeing rapid changes in the market with new technology, processes, and industry best-practices, and are embracing the reality that decisions are becoming more layered for businesses. In light of the macro-economic challenges and market volatility, we understand and continue to plan for changing conditions. The challenge for partners will be to balance their time and precious resources with the right market leader and partner, placing the right bets at the right time. For our channel, strong alliances and partnerships will be key in gaining new market insights to plan and position for success in this rapidly changing environment.
VP, Worldwide Partner Ecosystems
According to Gartner's recent forecast on IT spending, "economic and geopolitical uncertainties will drive reduced spending in the small business segment (below 250 employees) with a slowing compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8% between 2022 and 2027."
These uncertainties, along with talent shortages, the constantly evolving threat landscape, and increasing ransomware attacks, will pose significant challenges for channel partners in 2024. The moving target of cyber insurance will be another challenge in the year ahead as policies become more expensive and more difficult to get.
VP, Global Partner and Commercial Sales
Partners can't keep operating by the same playbook. Incremental change is no longer enough. Partners need to reinvent their businesses, reimagining themselves, how they operate, and how they bring value to customers. Partners need to be willing to explore new models and find a place where they can contribute and differentiate themselves.
Partners seem to all want to play upstream in bigger customers, but they're not bringing enough value to stay there. They should focus down market, where volumes are higher [and] where they can bring more value.
Head of Channels, Cloudflare One
In addition to the macro level challenges of the economy and world stability, I see our partners constantly dealing with the challenge of finding enough sales and technical talent to meet customer demand. Recruiting and developing new talent remains a perennial challenge for almost everyone in our industry. This means that ramping up their existing sales and technical teams to have the skills to help customers achieve Zero Trust and have the right security programs in place for their organizations is a challenging mountain to climb.
Chief Partner Officer
With the continued growth of data, we will see challenges in how partners monetize AI solutions that meet the outcome-based needs of customers. There are numerous considerations from data integrity, security, and ethics that come into play. As customers race to understand and implement AI in their workloads, partners must drive profitability through innovation.
We are seeing greater focus around simplifying how to deliver outcomes for customers and lean into a smaller set of strategic partners to go to market with.
VP, Channel Sales, U.S.
Adapting to ecosystems as the normal environment for customer buying decisions. There will be a lot more influencers involved in sales, and therefore a lot more relationships to maintain. Customers are looking to consolidate the number of vendors in addition to the convergence of products. Partners will be challenged to articulate the value of selecting the right vendors and the best converged solutions to maintain a strong security posture.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
VP, Channel & Partner Ecosystem Sales
Adapting to a rapidly changing market, evolving their business model to keep the pace and stay relevant with our shared customers, seizing high-growth and high-margin opportunities across edge, cloud, and AI – while investing in process automation to meet the new standards for customer experience. The macro-economic and geopolitical environment will also throw a few curve balls.
SVP and General Manager, Global Channel, Sales Innovation & Operations
The biggest challenges are navigating volatile global economic situations with optimism, the rapid adoption of AI, and continuing to put customers at the center of all initiatives. Despite the uncertainty there are also many opportunities including how hybrid work has changed customer needs across the entire office landscape. HP has new products and solutions for the next era of work with the most end-to-end portfolio of products and solutions for hybrid flexibility. By embracing HP's Future Ready strategy, we can prepare for market shifts and maintain a competitive edge together with our partners.
General Manager, IBM Ecosystem
The adoption of AI technology will be an enormous opportunity for partners in 2024, but it comes with challenges. The expertise gap is very real, impacting partners of all sizes. Another barrier is the cost required to build [machine learning] and AI models from scratch. We are easing the growing pains by giving partners access to education resources and our trusted AI technology to help them get a leg up in bringing their own solutions to market to meet the needs of clients.
Senior VP, Global Marketing
The headwinds remain including economic uncertainty, talent shortages, cyber threats and technology disruption. Channel partners must embrace the whole concept of getting more comfortable with it and use it build advantage. To keep moving ahead, channel partners must realize they can't do everything, and they certainly can't do everything at once. Learn to say "no" more often, especially to projects outside your specialization or that may distract you. Say no to perfectionism. Embrace being perfectly imperfect and moving forward a little more each day. Celebrate the small wins and be "in service" of the customer.
Group VP, Global Channels and Virtual Sales
Financing terms and credit, adapting to new consumption models and helping customers to transform, hybrid work models, and the macro world environment.
Executive VP of Channel
M&A is happening all around us and you see a lot of MSP M&A. And a lot of MSPs are talking about how they haven't been marketing, they don't have a brand, and it's getting more demanding on the overall sales process. MSPs have to have a solid marketing strategy and branding guidelines and really take it seriously. Competition is only going to get more intense [so] having this in place keeps you on the same playing field as other MSPs.
Executive VP, Partners
Partners will be under further scrutiny to invest in working with – and relying on – others versus doing it all themselves. Headcount allocation comes to mind. The longer game is collaboration, but in a volatile economy partners may be pressured to rotate to short-term gain resulting in long-term pain.
VP, Americas Channel Sales
Considering the macroeconomic environment, market uncertainty, long-tail recession, complex emerging technologies and cloud growth, partners will have to find new, creative ways to help solve customer challenges while also saving them money. Another challenge will be the uncertainty of the channel in the marketplace world.
VP, America’s Partner Organization
The biggest challenges we're going to face is helping partner-sellers getting really comfortable with engaging in AI conversations across the enterprise organization. We need partners to be confident in discussing this across CXO, lines of business, [and] data science and research organizations and then bridging this with Enterprise IT so they're confident to deliver robust solutions and infrastructure services to support rapid AI development across the enterprise. This is happening at a pace we've never seen before, and our partners must be prepared.
Senior VP, Global Partner Executive
"It's the economy." The past few years have seen out-sized growth due to supply chain constraints. And as that backlog draws down, we are not seeing new order growth at the levels we enjoyed in the recent past. So value-added-resellers are going to have to be creative in fashioning tailored solutions for their customers, to deliver the IT resources that either solve business problems or position companies for capitalizing on opportunities. Predictable spend[ing] and ease and speed of keeping business systems and tools up to date will be paramount.
VP, Americas Channel Sales
In today's channel market, partners must be prepared to keep the customer engaged, especially during turbulent economic times. Today's customers don't just buy from one place as they traditionally have done in the past. Customers are now buying from multiple marketplaces and from massive companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. It is important to be consistent in finding different and creative ways to reach and engage with the customer, whether it's picking up the phone to make the sale, partners need a strong core team to support that continued effort.
Senior VP, North America Sales
Emerging technologies present a risk to physical infrastructure across the board: business-critical applications face new threats every day. We also recognize that economic uncertainty can put a strain on partners when it comes to the cost of doing business – a potential recession is always top of mind.