What’s next for the UK tech channel? PCR breaks down CompTIA’s latest report

IT trade association CompTIA has surveyed 202 UK-based channel organisations, and found that more than half are feeling positive, with just 12 per cent pessimistic about what’s around the corner.

The report shows that cloud computing, demand for managed services and a broader use of technology within business are the main drivers behind this positivity.

When asked where the specific growth areas may lie, 55 per cent said it’s the cloud, followed by security (49 per cent) and custom software development (45 per cent).

However, to take full advantage of these opportunities, solution providers recognised that improving training (43 per cent) and availability of skilled workers (37 per cent) are the top two areas necessary to driving growth. This demonstrates that the skills gap is still affecting IT resellers – something CompTIA is working hard on closing.

In terms of what is necessary to reduce the skills gap in the market, 43 per cent of those surveyed said that training is vital, while over a third (37 per cent) cited the availability of skilled workers.

Other key findings from CompTIA’s 2015 State of the UK Channel Report include the fact that more than half of the channel companies surveyed (52 per cent) are now making money from consultancy services. This is reflective of the more service- led approach resellers are taking, as opposed to traditional one-off hardware sales or repair charges from previous years.

Carolyn April, senior director, industry analysis, CompTIA, told PCR: “Consulting services play an increasingly centre-stage role in the channel business model. While cloud’s emergence is one driver behind this, the evolving customer is also a factor. Why?

“A big reason is the fact that technology procurement is no longer the exclusive domain of the IT department. More non-IT business executives such as marketing directors or finance officers are making IT decisions on their own, purchasing the apps or devices of choice for their departments. Some do this in collaboration with the IT staff, others do not.

"The danger in this practice is that technology laypersons are not always well versed in some of the potential issues that come with the use of specific products or services. That’s where channel professionals with consulting chops come in. They can help vet solutions ahead of purchase and then aid with security, compliance, interoperability and other important considerations.”

Furthermore, nearly nine in ten UK channel companies are satisfied with their relationships with technology vendors. Almost half (46 per cent) of solution providers expect to see a gain in vendor programs for the coming year.

Solution providers listed an increased marketing budget (35 per cent) and more creativity with marketing (32 per cent) as two ways to enhance their sales efforts.

Finally, 46 per cent of cloud channel firms are developing new materials to educate customers on emerging tech areas, while 43 per cent of channel firms with a primary telecom focus are rebranding their marketing messaging to mention their qualifications as a service provider.

Carolyn explains the importance of getting the marketing message right: “Channel firms are good at the technology part of their business, but in today’s ‘as a service’ world, lack of attention to marketing is a competitive disadvantage.

“Some basics include having a website that makes sense to a layperson – meaning anyone can go to it, read the copy and understand the services on offer. Customer testimonials also reinforce a channel firm’s reputation and skills. Marketing and brand reputation are crucial for channel companies that are largely selling services as opposed to products.”

Key stats from CompTIA’s findings
45% – The percentage of resellers who say that custom software development will be a key growth area

12% – 12 per cent of dealers are pessimistic about the future of the IT channel

52% – More than half of resellers are now making money from consultancy services

37% – Over a third of resellers say that the availability of skilled workers is vital

46% – Almost half of cloud channel firms are developing new materials to educate customers on emerging tech areas

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