By Peter Flischman, Cloud Integration Manager at Axiz

Cloud technologies are changing South Africa’s businesses. While many companies still take a narrow view of cloud services – some only think of it as an efficient place to store backups – a growing majority now understand the cloud is vital to stay competitive.

We can attribute some of the changes to the pandemic’s shakeup. But this transition has been growing for a while. The arrival of local cloud data centres, growing confidence in online services, the cost benefits of rent-don’t-own software, broadband availability and tested use cases have culminated into a cloud revolution that is starting to hit full speed.

The cloud is changing business in SA, which has consequences for channel providers. Where should technology providers direct their attention? I want to present six trends that help answer that question:

On-premises and always-on is fading away

In the initial years of cloud adoption, companies primarily focused on peripheral services that complemented their operations yet didn’t alter core business systems. That’s been changing, especially for enterprises running extensive and always-on systems. They realise it’s more cost-effective and consistent to use cloud infrastructure for applications such as ERPs or payroll processing. Some migrate their systems to virtual hosting, some adopt cloud-native versions of established software and some let go of ownership and opt for software as a service alternatives.

Multicloud and hybrid cloud dominate the market

Pure cloud and pure on-premises technology stacks are the exceptions. As local companies gain access to reliable and secure third-party providers such as Microsoft Azure, they are growing more confident in blending their technology options between different hosts, services and internal capabilities.

Pressure on channel skills is growing

The rapid and accelerating shift caused by cloud-era technologies is a strain on internal skills. Companies rely even more on channel partners to provide skills for newer technologies and offer some skills transfer. Embedded consultants and technicians are now so commonplace that it’s often hard to distinguish them from their clients. Channel companies increasingly win or lose business based on their access to skills.

Companies want a B2C experience

Individuals make business purchases (B2B) and prefer the methods in customer retail (B2C) made commonplace by cloud technologies. These include mixing different products, browsing marketplace catalogues and consolidating services into one touchpoint. Channel companies must emphasise sales tools such as CRMs, customer analytics and integrated marketing to appeal to the modern market.

The edge is the new centre

The combination of decentralised technology and hybrid offices places much of the action at the edge. This concept traditionally referred to devices that operate on the periphery of business estates, such as branches or remote sites. But increasingly, the edge reflects a decentralising office structure. Even as we debate the merits of remote working versus being in the office, the eventual picture will look very different to the centralised offices of yesterday. Cloud services enable this shift, and those who deliver on the cloud deliver on customer expectations – including those things customers haven’t thought of yet.

Security is not a separate product

Cloud’s reach and access are terrific benefits for companies and consumers. But it’s also caused greater security concerns as we evolve from office perimeters to operating from anywhere. The market has started to accept that embedded and strategic security is necessary, and companies are growing less interested in buying security as a separate product. They want security contextualised to whatever products they buy, and channel partners capable of navigating the required levels of collaboration and integration.

As a channel company, all this can be overwhelming. Customers are changing, but many channel companies still have to finalise their internal digital transformations. Acquiring additional skills or products is expensive and risky. What can channel businesses – especially small to medium suppliers – do to stay in step with what the market wants?

The short answer is to partner with a distributor such as Axiz. The above trends are some of the reasons why Axiz has been expanding from our distribution roots to add cloud service and provider credentials. We are evolving into a platform-centric company that integrates our different strengths – such as product distribution, vendor management, business development, skills development and financial support – for our partners.

The future of the channel requires companies that are flexible and able to meet customer expectations through their internal capabilities and partner networks. Axiz’s business model is to be the facilitator on both levels: help our channel clients develop themselves and align them with other partners, while using the best the cloud world offers.

South African companies are changing with the cloud era. Is your channel business able to change as well? With Axiz in your corner, the answer is yes.