Exploring the IT Channel Evolution: Opportunities, Cybersecurity, and Customer Experience

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The information technology (IT) industry channel of 2023 offers a wealth of technology solutions, providing great opportunities for specialization and success for everyone from legacy firms to new market entrants, according to new research published by CompTIA, the nonprofit association for the IT industry and workforce.

The channel is healthy and evolving with new technology solutions, new players, new rules of engagement, and new customer habits, said Carolyn April, senior director, industry analysis, CompTIA.

The generally positive outlook detailed in CompTIA’s “State of the Channel” report is likely bolstered by recent financial results. Two-thirds of companies said their profitability generally increased over the past two years, mainly in the areas of business consulting, IT consulting, and managed services.

Within the managed services market, 52% of managed service providers (MSPs) say that cybersecurity services are the most requested offering by customers. In response, 42% of MSPs said they hired personnel with specific cybersecurity skill sets in the last year. A similar percentage (41%) retrained their existing workforce to update their cybersecurity skills. However, channel firms that focus on product sales and break-fix services “can still stay in a traditional lane and find a market to run their business,” April said.

The report suggests that customer experience (CX) as a competitive differentiator is the top factor in maintaining relevance and health in the IT channel. Delivering a quality CX experience at every step of the buyer’s journey, from initial sales interactions to onboarding to tech support, communications responsiveness, and ongoing account management is crucial. “Customers are more knowledgeable and exacting about the technology solutions they use, and have more options about where to buy them,” April said. “If you are not providing them with a high level of service and support, they are going to move on.”

The research also shows that technology vendors have responded to the increased expectations in a positive way, with nine in 10 channel firms reporting satisfaction with their vendor relationships.

Channel businesses are also advised to keep a close eye on inflation in the coming months, as it remains an area of concern. Inflation was the main reason for reduced profitability over the last two years among the businesses surveyed. However, the channel has shown resilience and adaptability by focusing on efficiency, cost-cutting, and maintaining a healthy cash flow and access to credit.

In North America, 90% of respondents feel positive about the IT channel’s ongoing relevance. Responses were balanced between firms that believe the channel is relevant and changing rapidly (43%) and those that feel it is relevant and holding steady (47%).

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