2022 Priorities: Channel agility will create competitive advantage

2022 Priorities: Channel agility will create competitive advantage

November 4, 2021
Articles, Trends

The print industry is at a critical fork in the road. To emerge smarter and stronger in 2022, the whole print value chain and ecosystem – OEMs, channel partners and ISVs – must develop digital dexterity to drive innovation, agility and resilience.

MPS providers that do not deliver strategic value will be in danger of obsolescence

Quocirca’s COVID Business Impact Study revealed that 81% of industry executives viewed the pandemic as an opportunity for innovation with 63% planning to change their operating models. The industry continues to navigate massive uncertainty, with just 26% of industry executives confident that print volumes will bounce back to pre-COVID levels. The rapid shift to digitisation, office closures and a growing preference for hybrid working means that office print volumes may never recover.

Nevertheless, MPS providers and other channel companies have proved resilient over the past year, rapidly adjusting to remote working and supporting customers amidst supply chain disruptions. As we emerge from the pandemic and some offices reopen, now is not the time to take the foot off the accelerator and revert to pre-COVID habits.

MPS providers and channel companies need to make a big shift and evolve to meet rapidly evolving customer needs as they adapt to the new work-from-anywhere hybrid environment. In today’s era of the cloud, any managed service needs to deliver a predictable experience without sacrificing security or compliance, while dealing with the complications of managing and optimising new technology.

Those channel partners that have embraced agility, flexibility and innovation have been best positioned to help their customers respond to and rebound from market disruption. However, some traditional channel partners and MPS providers are failing to adapt beyond hardware-centric MPS, leaving them unable to address new customer demands in the hybrid work era. To successfully adapt, the channel needs to act now and accelerate the shift to become digital transformation service providers.

Part of this shift requires developing or extending managed IT services offerings. An IT skills shortage means that more organisations are turning to MSPs to manage and secure their IT infrastructure. This requires deeper IT expertise across areas such as cloud and security.  However, amidst the ‘Great Resignation’, MSPs face their own skills shortage. Attracting and retaining key talent will be a challenge for many MSPs over the coming year.

Top priorities for channel leaders in the print industry will be to:

Adapt to changing customer behaviour

Customer-centricity is critical in the post-COVID business environment. Technology purchasing is changing, driven by the consumerisation of B2B and a generational shift as Millennials move into decision-making roles. Today over 90% of buyer journeys start online and buyers expect an Amazon-like experience that is personalised and frictionless.  The modern B2B buyer prefers digital channels over traditional one-to-one interactions, boosting the use of online marketplaces. Quocirca’s recent B2B Cloud Marketplaces Study revealed that 54% have purchased office printers via B2B online marketplaces (such as Amazon Business) and 44% say they are very likely to purchase print and document workflow solutions through cloud marketplaces (such as AWS, Azure and GCP) in the next two years. This rises to 63% in the US. As Gen Z enter the workforce in larger numbers, the channel must prepare now and innovate their business models to deliver digital-led customer experiences.

Help customers build an agile, resilient and sustainable infrastructure

Customers will need guidance on how to build an agile and resilient infrastructure that supports a distributed and hybrid workforce. This needs to support the business outcomes defined by customers around security, sustainability, and workforce productivity. Many organisations accelerated their digital transformation journey by migrating to the cloud, adopting new workplace solutions and security policies to protect devices and data in a distributed environment.

Channel partners have an opportunity here to help customers navigate their multi-cloud journeys which, for some, may have led to cloud complexity. The channel should prioritise services around security, cloud, digital workflow automation, analytics and sustainability and create custom solutions to deliver higher value services. Quocirca will cover these trends in more detail in subsequent Print Industry Priorities for 2022 articles.

Harness the power of analytics and AI/ML

The channel should exploit the deep customer knowledge they have built which is supported by a wealth of data. By understanding where customers are on their digital transformation journey the channel can develop broader customer-centric services and drive strategic value beyond print. Those partners that leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to provide predictive support and deep insights into usage will be able to strongly differentiate. The channel should also explore the use of AI and ML to automate manual tasks, lower support costs and improve service delivery excellence.

Partner and collaborate

Serving customers through a standardised set of hardware, services and software is embedded in the channel’s DNA. However, partners need to evaluate collaborating with other partners to deliver a broader ecosystem of solutions – whether it is through additional IT services, audio visual/communications services or managed security services. This requires a change in go-to-market strategy and also for print manufacturers to facilitate integration where they have offerings in this space.

The path forward

To stay competitive in today’s business landscape, standing still is not an option. The channel must keep pace with technology disruption and simply cannot continue to deliver the same services that they offered pre-pandemic.  To attract new customers and extend existing customer relationships, the channel must embrace fundamental changes in how they operate.  The channel must up its game, adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and look for areas where it can not only innovate its own business but also its customers’ business. With the right skills and expertise, MPS providers can help customers navigate technology challenges and the journey to anywhere operations, and so evolve into a strategic partner.

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