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How has COVID-19 impacted the way the channel collaborates?

Richard Eglon, Marketing Director of Agilitas discusses how the channel has coped this year since the Coronavirus pandemic took hold.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to disruption across all aspects of the economy. The IT channel industry, in particular, has had to evolve at an unexpected rate and develop new strategies to stay afloat in this ever-changing world.

As anyone who has worked in the IT channel will be able to confirm, collaboration has become even more vital to keep the industry running smoothly. However, the current climate has meant that vendors and distributors cannot collaborate in the ways that they’re used to. Many aspects of the channel are built on effective collaboration, which means that a sudden lack of it could pose a high risk to the industry as a whole and could result in the inhibition of growth and recognition.

In a recent survey, The Institute for Supply Management looked at the impact of COVID-19 on supply chains. Almost 75% of companies reported supply disruption because of the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, the effects of lockdown have created a significantly higher demand for some products and a drop-off in demand for others. Seamless collaboration will be a priority to keep the channel functioning and ultimately increase sales.

Disruption in the channel
Businesses within the channel are still adapting to a new way of working as a consequence of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The channel operates as a tight-knit chain and therefore, each company and its services have been affected by one another. Consequently, this means that the slightest disruption can have a knock-on effect to all businesses and partners involved.

For example, in terms of distribution, COVID-19 has resulted in supply shortages, with distributors warning of delays. Vendors have also had to notify channel partners that shipments of parts could take over three times longer to be delivered, depending on where they are based.

As with most businesses across all industries, staff have also had to adapt to remote working and find new ways of collaborating effectively. Instead of traditional face-to-face communication, the world has been ‘coming together’ through the internet with online tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

New tools and services
By embracing this change in the industry, vendors and distributors can develop their products and solutions to maintain a competitive advantage and to bring positive changes to the new way of collaborating with others. New tools are already being used by many in the channel to enable effective collaboration, such as online support platforms. An example of this is Agilitas’ ‘Partnership’ Services Portal, which assists partners in providing their customers with additional support during the current crisis. Services like these play a crucial role in ensuring that service levels are maintained to the same standard pre-COVID-19, if not an even better one..

The channel can expect a big shift towards digital communication through video tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet, with virtual meetings becoming a regular occurence in everyday working life. This would ultimately need a fresh investment in scalable productivity and collaboration tools.

Future of the channel
With remote working continuing into the foreseeable future, organisations must still be sure to listen to its people and value their insights. The COVID-19 disruption has brought about a new need for businesses to rethink their operations and how their staff collaborate, which could lead to longer-term positive effects. Many companies could help speed up a transition to a “remote-first culture” as a result of measures brought in during the last six months.

Now is the perfect time for channel firms to focus on collaborating with their customers and partners, as the value of collaboration begins to be recognised in the way it should. It could also bring many positive economic benefits, such as higher inventory availability and lower out-of-stock levels.

Remote working is still an extremely new approach for lots of businesses, and there are many aspects to learn about how to work both remotely and beneficially. As the channel industry’s knowledge of this grows, collaboration methods will also be utilised. This will provide prosperity to businesses in the channel, as well as boosting productivity and profitability. Although the initial outlook on collaboration of the COVID-19 pandemic seemed uncertain, expectations have swiftly improved as businesses in the channel are learning to overcome communication challenges.

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