At the start of the pandemic many people would have been mistaken for thinking that work-from-home and stay at home orders were going to be short-lived. After the Prime Minister introduced these initial instructions to the nation, many IT teams rushed like mad to maintain business continuity and productivity for their organisations. Since then, society’s behaviour has changed; and so has the way in which people work, seeing the rise of remote working.
During that time cloud application usage skyrocketed too. Digital transformation initiatives sped up almost overnight. And, while the initial scramble focused on business continuity and technology upgrades; across the board, the cloud evolution has not ceased and neither will digital transformation. Especially since the UK is encouraging investments in connectivity and digitising Britain. Rob Hancock, Head of Platform, Giacom reflects on the last year and provides the channel with an outlook on where the opportunity to generate revenue lies through the rest of 2021.
Changing the shape of organisations
Initially, during the pandemic, homeworking was considered temporary. But, through 2020 many organisations came to accept the longevity of the situation and changed their working policies. Today, we see more firms opt for continued remote working and / or hybrid working policies, offering a blend of office-based and remote working options to employees.
But, where does the opportunity to sell ‘remote working’ truly lie for the channel in this scenario? Research shows that in 2020 there were 6.0 million SMEs in the UK; which was over 99% of all businesses. Clearly, there is vast revenue potential available here.
Another driver of organisational change across enterprise and SMB markets is cloud adoption. Research points out that 88 per cent of organisations expect the adoption of cloud services to increase in the next 12 months. This underpins the importance of cloud within wider future technology strategies; which will, no doubt, improve organisational operations too.
Business-grade and secure
Through the pandemic we’ve seen many people work from their kitchen tables, for instance. Often employees have used their personal broadband and, in some cases, own mobile devices and laptops. While this workforce’s diligence is worth applauding, the use of their own personal technology is often not business grade or secure. At first, these temporary solutions may have been sufficient; but they are not sustainable long-term.
This is where the ongoing opportunity lies for the channel. As organisations make committed strides towards remote or hybrid-working, they will require the right blend of technology and equipment to enable employees to be productive. This means, kitting out employees with fast, efficient, robust and secure internet and voice connectivity that is suitable for their jobs. Moreover, they need to offer staff access to feature-rich communication applications, like Microsoft Teams, for unified communications and collaboration (UC&C), so that productivity can be maintained.
At a practical and physical level, organisations need to supply employees with reliable equipment to do their jobs. We’ve talked about business grade laptops and phones. But what about support with setting up ergonomic home working stations for staff, as they provide people with voice, data and cloud applications to enable them to work.
Collaboration and brainstorming applications
Before the pandemic, Microsoft Teams wasn’t used effectively by many firms. However, since last March, Microsoft Teams usage for video calls increased by 1000%. And, it is also reasonable to say that many firms have become adept at driving productivity with UC&C technology; and that they derive substantial return on investment from these applications.
The need for UC&C is not going to go away anytime soon. Meaning the revenue opportunity will remain available for a long time yet – especially in the SMB market. What will change over time is the need for richer features that enable people to do aspects of their job better, since they no longer meet as often in person. This might, for example, mean employees seek out features from technologies that enable them to brainstorm more effectively, such as digital whiteboarding – or, more accurate meeting transcription services. Therefore, CSPs and MSPs will need to work more closely to match client needs against partner technologies.
The data security opportunity
And, while remote and hybrid-working will likely remain standard for many organisations in the future, it does raise security concerns for IT teams. As various pandemic lockdowns ease over time, many people will likely be eager to change their work scenery and work in different locations. Some might want to take a week away and work remotely. Some might want to work in a local coffee shop. Regardless of their choice, organisations will have to assess if their IT security strategies are robust enough to accommodate these sorts of situations.
In these kinds of scenarios, are MSPs then equipped to help organisations with these new data security needs? Do they offer multi-factor (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO) security? What about the on-boarding of new employees at the SMB level when new staff join? Has cyber security awareness training been offered to employees – is training ongoing in order to protect data?
Line of business moves to the cloud
Aside from offering voice, data, UC&C and security technologies, many organisations are shifting entire business applications into the cloud. This was a large focus for many organisations in 2020 and will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. This presents further opportunity for MSPs as they consult with clients. They may already be speaking with customers about these aforementioned technologies – but, since they have their clients’ ears, there is opportunity to become more deeply embedded within client organisations by supporting wider initiatives to move business applications into the cloud. It then also means MSPs will be able to offer a great deal of value-add off the back of existing contracts and generate incremental revenue.
During the pandemic the channel demonstrated how adaptable it is to step up and meet customer needs fast. Strong relationships between CSPs and MSPs were at the heart of this success. But, it can’t stop there. Digital transformation is a long-term destination and the use of the cloud to support organisations is here to stay: be it for collaboration; data security; or to enable business applications to shift to the cloud. The opportunity is almost endless.
To capitalise further, though, means MSPs need to align with CSPs that can provide the strong foundations they need to support their customers with their cloud journeys. Can their preferred CSP offer collaborative consultancy and work with them to solve any technology challenges? Do they support with training and marketing? Can they bring value to the MSP’s proposition by offering a breadth of technologies that enables them to expand their portfolio of products that they offer to customers? What is their long-term technology roadmap? The right CSP partner will have all these bases covered.
What is more, the future is promising in 2021 for the channel – especially when you consider the revenue generation opportunity across that 6-million strong UK SMB market. It just begs the question about whether the channel has the right partnerships in place to succeed.