By Doug Woolley
Although 2020 might have been a year that no one could have predicted, shrouded with uncertainty, technology was the one constant. Helping businesses become more agile and connected with communities in different ways, it provided an essential part of our human and business adaptations to the so-called ‘new normal’.
In 2021, technology will continue to provide a path to our economic recovery – and channel partners will play a key role in guiding our progress. They must advocate for the technological transformations that will help businesses to do more than simply survive, but to thrive. And there’s plenty for them to talk about. Here are five tech heroes to watch in the coming year, which will rock the channel and bolster business:
Hybrid cloud hype: understanding the full channel opportunity
While many talk about a good game regarding the acceleration of multi-cloud and edge cloud in 2021, this is only half of the story. It will be down to channel partners to communicate the full opportunity, beyond the zany soundbites.
This year, we will indeed see investments in cloud operating models continue to grow. However, these will span public, private and edge environments as businesses desperately seek to apply cloud resources to the last of their legacy data and applications in order to enable rapid scale and management of IT everywhere.
Yet, with the public cloud now a hefty chunk of many hybrid cloud environments, businesses are increasingly expecting to consume their whole IT architecture in the same way as their public cloud services – orderable and scalable with a few clicks, providing more options and less complexity.
This shift to an “as-a-Service” model is exciting for partners as it presents new opportunities for increasing recurring revenue this year and making their overall revenue more reliable.
Preparing channel partners for 5G and edge breakthroughs
Many experts touted 2020 as ‘the year of 5G’ with mobile network operators (MNOs) across Africa prepared for widespread deployment. Sadly, twelve months on, many of these rollouts have been marred by changing government policies, delays in the auctioning of spectrum, and a significant shift in reliance on broadband networks due to the pandemic.
Yet, in the background, another technology has been subtly fuelling a revolution – creating a sense of urgency for 5G acceleration in 2021. That technology is edge computing.
Fuelled by a growth in adoption of edge, last year MNOs will need to make big, long-term investments in modern IT that “cloudifies” their network architecture – helping to bring widespread connectivity and scalable edge processing ever-closer. For this, however, MNOs will need guidance – something that the channel is perfectly placed for.
Not only can the channel provide insight into key buying trends among businesses – as with the rise in edge computing – and give direction on the types of 5G offerings in demand, channel partners can also give invaluable advice on the technology and skills needed to meet this demand.
Putting the Edge opportunity into focus
The increase in remote work and learning was exponential in 2020. Looking ahead, combined with data-powered smart applications, we will continue to see highly distributed data workloads that need to be managed and analysed in real-time at the edge. This presents a real opportunity, in 2021, for channel partners to guide customers as they look to increase investments in distributed technology infrastructure. In particular, ensuring that the tech infrastructure they invest in is indeed simpler and faster to deploy.
This shift will drive momentum for hybrid cloud operating models that extend out to the edge, beyond the traditional data centre. It will be down to channel partners to help customers understand the scale of the opportunity here – so that they can uncover their true digital advantage.
Fuelled by 5G, the ability to analyse and act on data insights at the edge will accelerate the pace of new data-driven outcomes such as e-commerce and digital business apps. Meanwhile, connected and intelligent sensors will give way to new capabilities and insights across industries from healthcare to education, to oil and gas.
This provides channel partners the opportunity to demonstrate their industry expertise, as they help customers unpack the best approach to garner the most meaningful outcomes specific to their industry.
Intelligent PCs adapt to hybrid, hyperconnected users
As people adapt to the new hybrid work and learning dynamic, we need technology to do the same – adapt. Helping us along the way in the year ahead, we will see a combination of AI, cloud and improved connectivity merge to improve user experiences with devices. Helping channel partners to communicate the full benefits of a modernised remote PC management will be essential in uncovering what is a ripe opportunity.
One thing the pandemic has done is transform the perspectives of the C-suite, spotlighting business-critical investments in infrastructure. For example, AI will make PCs more seamless, customised and hassle-free, which is essential for remote PC management, productivity and satisfaction. Intelligent software will help devices understand when users do and do not want to be seen in a video conference.
Looking ahead, devices will be able to default to 5G when Wi-Fi is low. And new apps and services will continue to launch that make whiteboarding and collaboration easier and more organic, and the systems we’re using will also start to see upgrades in functionality.
Powering a new age of human transformation
Technology will enable a greater sense of connectivity in a time where we’re working and learning further apart; from our own homes. Virtual meetings and collaboration spaces give us a glimpse into the everyday lives of our colleagues and create greater flexibility for life-work balance.
But technology will also foster new relationships – AI and automation will reimagine the division of labour between humans and machines. We will offload more thinking tasks to AI instead of just mechanical ones, leading to faster, deeper and more meaningful insights that enable us as humans to shift our focus to greater innovation, purposeful work and human connection.
Fully realising this vision will require high-level consultancy, to ensure that organisations are tailoring these technologies to their business in meaningful ways – and using them to their full advantage. Channel partners will play a role in instilling the possibility of what can be achieved, while guiding customers through a data-centric, insights-driven roadmap. Now more than ever, businesses understand that the human advantage is a competitive advantage.
Doug Woolley, MD of Dell Technologies South Africa