2013 Best Companies: What Technologies Are Most Important To Solution Providers' Future?

Survey Says

CRN's third annual Best Companies To Partner With survey asked solution providers about what categories of information technology they considered most valuable to the future of their businesses.

Solution providers were asked to score a dozen technology categories from "1" (not at all valuable) to "7" (extremely valuable). Here are the results, starting with the technology categories with the lowest scores and working up to the technologies solution providers deemed most important.

No. 12: Components

Solution providers gave components a mean score of 4.19 on the 1-to-7 scale, the lowest rated technology among the 12 categories covered in the Best Companies To Partner With survey.

No. 11: Peripherals

Solution providers gave peripherals a mean score of 4.23 on the 1-to-7 scale, placing it next-to-last among the 12 categories covered in the Best Companies To Partner With survey.

No. 10: Office Productivity Software

On the 1-to-7 scale, solution providers gave office productivity software a mean score of 4.37.

While Microsoft Office remains the dominant productivity application package, Google is gaining traction with Google Apps, and there is a growing number of other alternatives from vendors such as Zoho and open-source software.

No. 9: Business Intelligence

Solution providers gave business intelligence a mean score of 4.55 on a scale of 1 to 7.

The relatively low score for business intelligence products is somewhat surprising given that industry analysts have identified business analytics as one of the top strategic initiatives among IT managers. But business intelligence requires a fair amount of expertise, and its overall low score could be due to the relatively small number of solution providers that work in BI.

No. 8: Client Devices

Solution providers gave client devices a mean score of 4.66 on the 1-to-7 scale.

There may not be a whole lot of money in re-selling PCs, tablet computers and smartphones. But some solution providers see them as part of a broader system solution -- especially as more of their customers' workers go mobile.

No. 7: Data Center

On a scale of 1 to 7, solution providers gave data center technologies a mean score of 4.94.

While data center products like servers have become somewhat commoditized, they remain the bread-and-butter livelihood for many solution providers.

No. 6: Cloud Computing

Solution providers gave cloud computing a mean score of 5.06 out of 7.

Given that pundits have proclaimed cloud computing the future of IT, it's surprising solution providers scored cloud technology in the middle of the pack of the dozen technologies covered in the Best Companies To Partner With survey.

No. 5: Applications

Solution providers gave applications a mean score of 5.07 on the 1-to-7 scale.

Now, we start getting into what solution providers consider to be the most valuable technologies to the future of their businesses. Solution providers can work with packaged applications, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, for example, and provide value through additional services such as software implementation and customization. Or they can develop custom applications for customers, a service that requires technical development capabilities as well as vertical industry expertise.

No. 4: Virtualization

On the 1-to-7 scale, solution providers gave virtualization a mean score of 5.21.

Virtualization has been one of the hottest technologies for the channel in recent years, so it's no surprise this is fairly high on many solution providers' lists. Virtualization now extends beyond servers into such areas as storage, network and desktop virtualization.

No. 3: Storage

Solution providers gave storage a mean score of 5.33 on the 1-to-7 scale.

Data storage would, at first glace, seem to be a fairly commoditized technology without a lot of opportunities for solution providers. But with big data volumes exploding, customers apparently just can't get enough storage capacity.

No. 2: Security

Solution providers gave security a mean score of 5.49 out of 7.

No surprise here. All one has to do is read the horror stories in the press about attacks on IT systems and compromised or stolen data and it's clear why security solutions are in such demand, as well as why solution providers see security as such a valuable technology for their futures.