Data is the new gold – now the channel needs to mine it

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

We’re living in the age of data. From live sales dashboards to cloud-based data platforms and API integrations – not to mention data from vendors, distributors, and other external sources – channel partners have never had access to so much information.

As well as presenting an opportunity, the data age poses a series of practical and operational challenges for partners – not least how to capture, unify, and make sense of all the numbers in order to generate actionable insights that improve business performance and ultimately drive revenue and profit.  

Data deluge

Westcon-Comstor’s new Bridging the Gap report reveals that many partners are in the thick of these challenges, and wrestling with how to use the wealth of information they have at their fingertips to transform and grow.

Indeed, after surveying more than 500 decision makers at value-added resellers, managed service providers, and systems integrators across nine countries including the UK, we found that access to the right data is the biggest obstacle facing partners in their pursuit of recurring revenue models.

Handling multiple diverse data types emerged as partners’ biggest practical challenge in the application and utilization of data, with more than half of those surveyed (56%) highlighting this as an issue.

This is to be expected given that partners often deal with a deluge of data from multiple vendors, customers, and internal systems, increasing the chances of inconsistencies in format, structure, and quality. Integrating and analyzing such diverse data sets, while introducing automation, can be time consuming, technically complex, and require specialized skills and tools.

As Samuel Cordery, head of Sales Operations, Client Success, and Lifecycle at UK-based ITGL put it, “[o]ur biggest challenge with data is the volumes we receive, and second to that would be that it resides in so many different places and it often conflicts.”

The data opportunity

Despite these challenges, there is  widespread recognition among partners of the importance of data in their current and future business models – as well as a firm desire to unlock data’s full potential. 

For example, many respondents acknowledged the need to bolster their internal capabilities to address gaps in how they manage and use data for lifecycle selling.

There is a strong desire among partners across all four continents where the research was conducted to become more sophisticated in their use of data in order to both maximize cross-sell and upsell opportunities and drive adoption of new products and solutions.  

Investing for the future

Almost all partners (95%) marked data as a key investment focus for the next 12 months, with a perhaps surprisingly high 70% stating that they already have an in-house data and analytics function.

This willingness to invest in data capabilities demonstrates a recognition amongst partners that data analysis can help them accurately identify customer segments, predict buying behavior, and offer proactive customer support – leading in turn to improved customer satisfaction, retention, and sales.

Most tellingly, 97% see data as a central component in their journey to a subscription, software, and services-based future.

Bernardy Suhendra, head of Data and AI at Indonesia’s PT MII, summed up the sentiment perfectly when he told us, “[a]ccess to the right data, at the right time, for the right users is one of the most important aspects of organization in this digital era to handle business challenges. Without data, decision-makers can only make decisions or analyze their performance based on gut feel.”

JP Smith of Kenya-based Dimension Data added, “data is crucial for making calculated business decisions – only if you know how to use it.”

Less noise, more insights

The overarching story of our research is that partners see data as the new gold. In fact, more than one used that exact phrase. So, the question becomes, how can partners overcome the challenges they’re facing and succeed in mining this new gold?

A major piece of the puzzle lies in improved collaboration.

Many partners are looking to distributors to help them close gaps in data and help complete their journey to a subscription, software, and services-based future. In fact, 59% strongly agree that the future of distribution lies in the provision of meaningful customer and market insights.

In this context, it is vital that those across the channel ecosystem, including distributors and vendors, step up and provide partners with the actionable insights they need. Crucially, this must be done in a measured way that simplifies matters and helps partners to see the bigger picture, rather than simply adding to the noise.


Nicole Oliveira from Altron Digital Business in South Africa said the channel can derive significant benefits by harnessing the power of data.

“Distribution can add big value through data. Not only just data on existing install bases and what was previously purchased, but also looking at white space analysis and new opportunities."

Striking gold

Despite challenges with data utilization, there is widespread acknowledgement of the strategic, pivotal role data plays in shaping the future of the channel.

Partners know that quality, actionable data will help them identify new opportunities, improve their forecasting, efficiency, and decision-making – all resulting in an increase in sales and revenue.

Now it is down to the channel as a whole to turn the data challenge into an opportunity, and strike gold in doing so.

Patrick Aronson
Executive vice president, Asia Pacific and CMO, Westcon-Comstor

Patrick Aronson is responsible for Westcon-Comstor’s business performance across south-east Asia, Greater China, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand and also serves as the company’s chief marketing officer. Prior to joining Westcon-Comstor, Patrick spent a decade leading Motorola's mobile business in south-east Asia. He also spent five years as managing director at Brightstar where he developed its engagement strategy and mobility business.