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'It's Kept Us Insanely Busy:' Channel Sees COVID-19 Driving Digital Transformation Sales

‘What causes action in our industry is disruption and change … and partners are change agents,’ one solution provider speaking about the COVID-19 pandemic tell CRN.

The silver lining to any major crisis or economic uncertainty is that times of turmoil spur change, especially in the tech industry, solution providers say.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic initially sent businesses around the globe scrambling to keep the lights on while moving hundreds of thousands of employees out of the office to work from home. These customers leaned heavily on the channel for the tools they'd need to make remote work possible, such as connectivity, security, and collaboration solutions. But now, partners are looking at the long-term opportunities and tech transformation that will take place as a result of the pandemic.

If COVID-19 taught the IT industry anything, it's that accelerated digital transformation is imperative and businesses won't have the luxury of making a slow transition, said Darrin Nelson, senior vice president of digital, data and security business development for Sirius Computer Solutions, based in San Antonio, Texas.

“All of a sudden, we had this disruptive force that has come into our world and is forcing change,” Nelson said.

[Related: Coronavirus Will Change Tech Landscape In A ‘Radical’ Way, Solution Providers Say ]

Specifically, the pandemic has made support for a remote workforce imperative, and most likely, at a scale that most businesses hadn’t planned for. The crisis is, perhaps unwittingly, serving as a training ground for partners and businesses alike to test out their business resiliency plans and whether they have the right infrastructure in place to handle any disruption that could come their way, Nelson said.

“COVID-19 has caused a level of change that will carry on long after there’s a cure or a vaccine,” he said. “What causes action in our industry is disruption and change … and partners are change agents.”

One side effect of the coronavirus has been profound growth in cloud UC and video sales, said Robert Short, vice president of strategic services for Liquid Networx, a San Antonio, Texas-based solution provider.

"It's kept us insanely busy because everyone was trying to figure [remote communication] out," he said. "We were drinking from the fire hose and battening down the hatches to help people maneuver through this."

Long term, cloud and security will present lucrative opportunities for the channel, Short said. “Enterprises have just had their organizations scattered into home offices, with personal networks mixing with corporate assets -- there's a lot of bases and lots of areas to be covered for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Due to the pandemic, 35 percent of solution providers surveyed in April reported that they expect a significant negative impact to their product resell business compared to 60 percent of solution providers that expect either no impact or positive impact to their managed services businesses. Additionally, 50 percent of partners expect growth in the cloud business, even despite challenging financial times, according to a study published in May from IPED Consulting.

Solution providers surveyed specially called out managed services, cloud, security, and work from home solutions as bright spots post-COVID, the study found.

Sayers, a Vernon Hills, Ill.-based managed services provider, saw an immediate increase in demand for cloud-based services and solutions since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., according to Joel Grace, vice president of engineering and emerging technologies for Sayers.

"Everyone was focused on the tactical stuff [in the beginning], but public cloud adoption has gone up dramatically as a result of the situation," Grace said. That's because being able to scale operations quickly by adding more users and new licenses, for example, became very important at the height of the work from home movement brought on by stay at home orders across the globe.

There will be a lot of lessons that come out of the most recent pandemic that channel partners and businesses can use to their advantage, Saysers’ Grace said. “I think the short-term activity will provide more motivation to transform certain areas down the line. Even if people aren’t going after [transformation] right this moment, they are learning a lot.”

Many businesses had to put IT projects on the backburner and address immediate remote working needs, but IT projects that were deprioritized because of the pandemic will likely be picked back up by the end of this year or early 2021, said Joe Little, president of Laketec, a North Olmsted, Ohio-based managed services provider that has been focused on offering services to its base of education and SMB customers.

"The reality is, there's going to be an even higher demand once we do get to that spot because customers are now thinking about how prepared they were before [COVID-19] and what could happen in the future," Little said. “Long term, I think we are going to see a lot of good things come from this."

 

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