INSIGHT

The top three opportunities for the channel as lockdown eases

By Mike Hallam, Wholesale Director - Fixed, Virgin Media O2 Business

July 2021

Over the last year, channel partners have rapidly adapted to survive and stabilise.

They’ve not only made radical adjustments to their own ways of working but have stepped up to help end-customers respond to digital delivery needs.

And now 94% of senior IT managers believe investment in new technology will help their businesses bounce back from Covid-19, according to our study.

With the vaccine rollout progressing, and society slowly reopening, it’s time for channel partners to think ambitiously, identify opportunities and grasp them with both hands. By doing so, channel partners won’t just grow and succeed.

They will contribute to the national rebound and add £232bn to UK GDP, according to our research with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr).

So what are the three top opportunities for channel partners right now? They are:

1.    Helping organisations implement hybrid working seamlessly

2.    Supporting businesses in taking more agile and bold decisions

3.    Encouraging continued digital transformation and highlighting the role of connectivity in future-proofing UK plc.

Here’s how channel partners can take advantage.

1. Supporting hybrid working

As society continues on the road to normality, we’re going to see a shift from mass homeworking to a hybrid model, where employees can work from anywhere.

The Cebr report highlighted flexible working as one of the key trends boosting productivity and contributing to the £232bn uplift to our economy. And we’ve seen major organisations like the Civil Service, PwC and Lloyds Bank commit to long-term hybrid working policies, designed to give their staff more freedom to shape their everyday.

The channel has a pivotal role to play in giving businesses the tools to implement this hybrid working revolution.

This is because an “Operate From Anywhere” model relies on superfast connectivity, allowing employees to collaborate in a secure and seamless way.

But 77% of senior IT managers told us that they were unhappy with the state of their networking infrastructure, and that it had hindered their response to Covid-19. And our research also found that 57% of senior IT managers do not believe their business is agile enough and lacks the ability to flex tools and infrastructure or make swift decisions in response to changing conditions.

So it’s important channel partners point them towards advanced connectivity solutions like National High Capacity Services (NHCS) – optical point-to-point services which allow businesses to transfer massive data volumes at high speed and low latency.

It’s also crucial that partners give businesses as much flexibility as possible.

A more fluid workforce means that organisations will want to adjust bandwidth on demand at speed, so it’s important that the connectivity channel responds with flexible service models that put the customer in control of networking needs.

2. Helping businesses take bold decisions

As businesses switch their thinking from survival and stabilisation towards recovery, they will be considering how they can make bold decisions to drive growth. Boston Consulting Group has predicted that the organisations that would “win the 2020s” will be the ones that set imaginative aspirations and “scale fast” – testing new digital ideas and services and moving beyond pilots quickly once it’s clear that they are gaining traction.

But to do this successfully, they need as much flexibility as possible from the connectivity channel. They can’t afford to be burdened with contractual administration or locked into rigid multi-year agreements which are no longer fit for purpose.

Yet that’s exactly what’s happening.

Almost half of senior IT managers (44%) looking for support from their channel partner say they are locked into restrictive arrangements and paying for services they don’t need. And 36% say negotiating fixed-term contracts is a barrier to operating more flexibly and making bold decisions over the next 18-24 months.

That’s why at Virgin Media Business Wholesale we’re revolutionising the way we work with our partners, giving them maximum flexibility by introducing anytime cancellation, benchmarked pricing for installed services and abolishing upfront fees.

Major steps like these will help give the channel and end-customers the flexibility needed to take bold decisions and think ambitiously about the recovery from Covid-19.  

3. Encouraging continued digital transformation

As technological specialists, the channel has a critical role to play in helping businesses build on digital progress already achieved.  More specifically, they have a key role in highlighting the importance of connectivity to continued digital transformation.

Senior IT managers told us they are keen to introduce new technologies. 48% want to introduce 5G within the next five years, while 52% are actively considering embracing the Internet of Things. Yet 50% say that they aren’t convinced their networking infrastructure can support these innovations.

And this suggests an opportunity for the channel to get closer to their customers and point them in the direction of connectivity technologies that can make a difference like Dedicated Internet Access, NHCS and Ethernet services.

Leading the revolution

It has been a challenging year for UK plc and the channel.

Leaders have been faced with difficult decisions and unprecedented demands. But as society reopens, they can
look to the future with optimism.

Partners have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get closer to their customers and give them the flexibility they need to set up hybrid working and continue to digitally transform.

To find out more about how we’re providing the channel and businesses with greater agility through our UltimateFlex
proposition, visit our website or watch our Big Switch Up launch event here.

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