Data-driven decision-making can help a business predict how a market will change, what demands customers will place on their vendors and suppliers, and how the broader economic climate could impact each business decision.
Every business in the channel can collect vast quantities of data about its customers and the wider markets they operate within. Performing data analysis on this information for tangible and actionable data-driven decision-making should be a core focus for channel businesses looking to achieve sustainable transformation and capture profit over the long term.
While some channel businesses already take advantage of this opportunity, many do not. Ben Nicklen, CEO of workplace analytics firm Tiger, tells ITPro that the channel is not yet fully utilizing the kind of big data analytics necessary to predict future customer trends and requirements.
“Regrettably, it seems that they may not be allocating sufficient resources towards adopting future technologies, as their primary focus often appears to be maximizing profits from existing strategies.”
No business is immune from the economic turmoil we have seen worldwide in recent years. Stubbornly high inflation and interest rates on an upward trajectory have meant businesses are re-evaluating their spending and what this means for future purchases. The channel ecosystem can adapt to shocks in the tech sector while individual channel partners can help maximize growth and deliver cost savings. But what the channel must be actively pursuing is strategies that predict the shape, size, and needs of their markets over the short to medium term.
Building channel resilience is now a top priority and the basis of that resilience is data. In conversation with ITPro Rob Mackle, director and co-founder at Assured Data Protection, points to the essential customer data the channel must be collecting and analyzing.
“Data plays a vital role in not only determining what vendors and software developers build, but what and how service providers and partners go to market,” Mackle tells ITPro.
“Economic factors drive business and channel decisions. It is all about executing today and where the customers will be in the future. For example, businesses are typically driven to cloud due to the concept of cost savings and economic pressures. In reality, is it cheaper, is it as secure oras flexible as on-prem? Data will be a good indication of how the cloud has delivered today and what does the future hold.”
Samantha Sene, channel leader at A10 Networks, outlines its approach to using the data they collect. "At A10 Networks, we send regular surveys to our customers to see how our services and products are benchmarked and what additional product features our clients want.
“It’s also key to offer flexible pricing models. If the customer grows their business, channel suppliers must be flexible enough to offer adapted pricing structures to ensure it suits their customers’ growth models.”
Big data is big business for the channel
Nearly 60% of businesses report they are driving their businesses with data, according to a report [PDF] by NewVantage Partners which took in responses from executives at 116 leading organizations. However, less than a quarter (20%) stated they have nurtured a data culture within their organizations. This worries channel companies, who need to leverage their data to become more relevant to their customers and market.
Richard Farrell, CIO of Netcall, sees data-driven decision-making as essential for any business in the channel, arguing that the channel is increasingly reliant on the process to anticipate customer needs.
“By analyzing historical sales data, market research, and customer behavior, channel partners can identify emerging technology demands and tailor their offerings accordingly. Predictive analytics can help anticipate shifts in customer preferences and buying patterns, allowing vendors to proactively develop products and services that align with future demands.”
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Farrell adds that expertise is necessary to make this happen in the most effective way. He suggested that businesses could benefit from working with smaller vendors for closer collaboration.
“These vendors are more agile and responsive to channel partner feedback, making it easier to co-create solutions that precisely meet customer needs. Smaller vendors often prioritize relationship-building, fostering a deeper understanding of the channel's requirements.”
The value of data-driven decision-making
The managed services market will increase in value by 13.6% by 2030 according to Grand View Research Its current value is $267 billion. This significant expansion should be food for thought as the channel continues its journey to deliver more integrated services to companies in the future.
For Seagate, data is at the core of their business. Andrew Palmer, UK channel lead for Enterprise Data and Cloud Solutions, explained to ITPro how Seagate uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help track its sales history and manage its inventory.
“Using AI-powered analytics, we can determine customer sales trends based on their product requirements. AI has helped drive predictions for us regarding building stock and committing to a manufacturing cycle. It's not just the frequency the customer buys, but the types of products."
Palmer also emphasized the power of historical data for driving decision-making. “Information, like when sales peak or dip, can highlight which strategies are the most and least effective. Companies can then use this data to create more effective promotions, following seasonal and long-term trends to adapt to changing markets.”
The channel must become more proactive. In the past, it was often guilty of following market trends shaped by large players such as the hyperscalers. To become truly innovative and essential business partners, the channel must shape its own future by forming strategic plans through data-driven decision-making to speak directly to its customer needs.
“Data is the foundation for differentiation and success in the IT channel,” Farrell adds.
“By harnessing data effectively, UK LCAP and contact center as a service (CCaaS) vendors can stay agile, responsive to market changes, and customer-focused, setting themselves apart from larger US mega vendors. Partnering with a smaller UK-based vendor offers channel partners a unique advantage due to their agility, localized expertise, and commitment to personalized solutions.
“By leveraging data in collaboration with these vendors, the channel can better address the specific needs and dynamics of the UK market, creating a win-win scenario for both parties.”
Understanding the market environment channel customers are working within is critical if the channel is to remain relevant and have the required products and services available on demand. Here, data is the key. A more detailed definition of each channel customer, their market sector, the pressures they are under today, and how these might evolve into the future, is how the channel becomes an essential partner and not simply a supplier. Data can deliver that level of intimacy and insight.
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David Howell is a freelance writer, journalist, broadcaster and content creator helping enterprises communicate.
Focussing on business and technology, he has a particular interest in how enterprises are using technology to connect with their customers using AI, VR and mobile innovation.
His work over the past 30 years has appeared in the national press and a diverse range of business and technology publications. You can follow David on LinkedIn.