From theory to reality: How channel businesses leverage relevance

Scott Lynn, Services Director at Agilitas, looks at why businesses in the IT channel need to embrace a customer-centric model.

In today’s changing IT channel, expectations are on the rise, with customers demanding more and more from their channel partners. The need for relevance from channel businesses has never been higher: how else can they hope to remain relevant in this competitive market?

It is clear that there is widespread understanding amongst the IT channel of the need to be increasingly relevant to meet customer demands and requirements. Alongside businesses undertaking large-scale transformation projects, there are many channel companies that are embracing relevance by innovating. This can be anything from their services and products, to their business models and culture.

Our commissioned research by OnePoll shows that almost a quarter of companies are developing only bespoke, relevant products or services for their customers, with no offerings of generic or ‘off the shelf’ services or products. In addition to these businesses that focus entirely on bespoke offerings, the majority of companies offer a mix of both bespoke and ‘off the shelf’ services and products for customers. This approach is proving increasingly popular in the channel despite the challenges that a customer-centric approach can bring to businesses today.

For businesses to meet customer demands, they need to be developing new products and services. When bringing new services and products to market, many companies consider how to market their products to wider audiences as a priority. This approach demonstrates that as well as being focused on customers and their aims, businesses are also looking to create products and services that are desirable across a wide range of companies and potential customers – in order to fuel their growth ambitions.

It takes companies an average of five months to introduce a new product or service to the market – which can demonstrate that those companies are taking their customers’ objectives and requirements into consideration. Companies need to think carefully about introducing a new product or service, ensuring that they are relevant for customers, rather than rolling them out in haste.

Although creating new products and services allows companies to remain relevant for their customers, there needs to be a clear balance between introducing solutions to the market quickly enough to ensure it is still relevant. Sufficient time also needs to be taken to ensure that both products and services are actually relevant to their customers’ needs. For some companies, the time to market for products and services can be a challenge for implementing a customer-centric model.

On the other hand, although it is important to consider and take time to market a new product, some companies reported that it can take them over nine months to bring a new product or service to market. At this slower rate, companies can risk the solution being less relevant and therefore not interesting to customers.

Clearly, the time to market has a significant impact on the amount of new solutions that companies can implement. Some companies may not have the capacity to introduce solutions quickly enough as they may be struggling to remain relevant or understand what customers need. Some may also prefer to focus on tailoring their existing services or products to meet customer needs more rather than introducing completely new ones.

There are many different expectations from customers when it comes to their requirements, this can vary from requiring bespoke technology products, demand for professional services/installations, or expectations of bespoke contracts. In order to remain relevant for customers, companies need to ensure they are developing agile, bespoke services and products now and in the future.

As the landscape in today’s global IT channel is constantly changing, channel companies are embracing collaboration with others internationally. This clearly shows that the emphasis on retaining a customer-centric focus and model has never been more critical in order to grow wallet share and increase customer base. Evidently, those channel businesses that are looking to become more relevant for customers need to continuously listen to their customers and ensure their propositions remain aligned to their ever-changing needs.

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