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COLUMN: Future Shock -- COVID-19 Channel Upheaval

CRN's Steve Burke says the old channel playbook has been thrown out the window.

In the 1970 best-seller “Future Shock,” Alvin Toffler wrote about the enormous structural change that was taking place as a result of the shift from an industrial to a super industrial society. The state of future shock is the perfect metaphor for the technology upheaval that is ripping through the channel in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forget super industrial. The new future shock may well be the equivalent of a supercomputer for every home given the structural changes in the global workforce. The pandemic has exposed the fault lines in IT budgets and strategies, which are now shifting at a blinding pace to provide employees the computing power and support they need.

So what does this future shock mean to solution providers? That’s the question Senior Editor Kyle Alspach takes on in this month’s cover story, “The New Channel Normal.” The deep dive on the pandemic impact—which includes data from the COVID-19 Channel Impact Study by our sister business unit IPED—shows that the solution providers that are thriving are changing at a rapid pace what they sell and how they sell it.

The old channel playbook has been thrown out the window. Solution providers that do the same thing they were doing before the pandemic outbreak are going to find themselves grappling with the famous definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

The bottom line is customers are speedily moving to pay-per-use cloud services and anytime, anyplace and anywhere business models. That’s good news for solution providers with an end-to-end suite of recurring revenue managed IT services.

If you want a good example of a company that gets it and is moving at a blinding pace to help customers move to the new world order, then look no further than Anexinet, No. 212 on the 2020 CRN Solution Provider 500. Anexinet CEO Todd Pittman is one of the leaders who has put his Blue Bell, Pa., company at the forefront of the post-pandemic super industrial era. That means closing a blockbuster virtual sales deal with a national energy company for a new mobile and web app.

“We’ve revamped our approach with our customers,” Pittman said, calling the virtually delivered project a major success that Anexinet is now replicating with two other customers. “Frankly, [the stakeholders] at our first customer were raving fans.”

It’s no small matter that Anexinet—a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Platinum partner— is also betting big on HPE’s GreenLake pay-per-use platform. “Everybody wants to ensure that they have the capital required to keep their business operating through this uncertain time. And so I think that will continue to drive more conversations around leveraging the cloud, pay-as-you-go models, GreenLake,” Pittman said.

The future shock, by the way, also applies to vendors. HPE CEO Antonio Neri, for one, is doubling down on an edge-to-cloud Platform-as-a-Service strategy and accelerating HPE’s Everything-as-a-Service model in the wake of the pandemic.

In Toffler’s amazingly prescient vision of the information era, citizens are, for the most part, inextricably linked to their homes, doing their own manufacturing and consumption from those electronic cottages.

That’s the world we find ourselves living in now. Those solution providers that are able to absorb this kind of future shock are going to thrive. Those that don’t will disappear into the past.

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