Managed Services

Channel Vendors Weigh in with 2024 Predictions

This year, 2023, seemed to be dominated by AI and all the benefits (and drawbacks) it can bring to the IT industry. What's ahead for 2024?

ITWire polled seven IT vendor channel executives from BeyondTrust, Dynatrace, Extreme Networks, LogRhythm, Nintex, WalkMe and WatchGuard Technologies to find out what will impact the channel in the coming year.

Rob Spee, SVP of Global Channels at BeyondTrust, said he believed generative AI would start accelerating the growth of partner ecosystems in several ways in 2024, largely driven by partner technology vendors who are incorporating AI technology into their products and platforms.

That could look like using AI to generate partner sales, marketing, and learning content in multiple languages, for instance. He added that full self-service partner enablement and partner management platforms are already adding AI to expand their capabilities so that partners can receive information contextualized for their specific needs, including AI-generated value propositions. That could result in being able to test joint value propositions with potential partnerships before an agreement is ever signed.

Michael Allen, Vice President Worldwide Partners, Dynatrace

In 2024, the channel will witness growing demand to help customers reduce the risk of digital service outages as they increasingly use generative AI to accelerate software development and innovation. 

Without proper guardrails, however, using generative AI in software development will lead to more poor-quality code in applications, increasing the risk of service outages. Customers will naturally turn to their channel partners to identify and resolve these problems when they occur. This will be a major headache, as AI-generated code is poorly documented and difficult to untangle. As a result, the channel will need to find ways to prevent poor-quality code from getting into their customers’ applications in the first place.  

These dynamics will create a new opportunity for the channel to build digital immune systems for customers enabled by AI and automation. These systems will protect customers’ applications from the inside by comparing new application code with the previous release and automatically rolling it back if it damages the user experience. 

Bob Zemke, Director, Channel Marketing, Extreme Networks

There will be three core trends in the channel in 2024.  First up, we’ll see shifting sales strategies from cyclical upgrade cycles to consultative outcome-based sales methodologies.  This will require sales and sales engineering teams to focus much more on how the end result of the sales will benefit the customer. Vertical expertise will play a dominant skill here with partners that have become specialized through experience having the upper hand when competing for new customers. Channel partners need to look at their entire business to support this sales strategy.

Secondly, we’ll see a trend for skillset differentiation, advanced technical capabilities, and result-driven outcomes.  With so many resellers, how does one stand out? Rather than being forced into a pricing war, the key lies in skillset differentiation. Demonstration of advanced technical capabilities, published case studies and driving outcomes will help channel players stand out from their competitors. Having proof points prospective customers can easily access, will help position a company. Why is this important? Changing vendors entails risks for an organisation and the careers of those making the endorsement. While price savings might seem like an easy sales tactic, it’s not the right approach. Instead, minimising risk and enhancing organisational outcomes should serve as key elements in a sales strategy.

Finally, sustainability and your company's understanding of its impact and the efforts being made will soon play a growing role in marketing efforts, RFPs, and customer expectations. This also extends to selecting vendors for resell and project implementations, with factors such minimising e-waste becoming significant considerations. Resellers who do not begin to prepare for this journey will soon find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

Kevin Kirkwood, Deputy CISO, LogRhythm

A concerning trend will persist in the cybersecurity landscape: organisations repeatedly investing in security measures under the assumption that their security posture is sufficiently fortified. However, a critical perspective often overlooked is that hackers share this same mindset, recognising when organisations become complacent in their investments. The reality is that security is an ever-evolving landscape, and if a security program is not continually adapting and enhancing its defences, it remains vulnerable to emerging threats. The new year will underscore the importance of not just initial investments but a sustained commitment to security to effectively thwart evolving cyber threats.

Chris Ellis, Director – Pre-Sales, Nintex

In the year ahead, we will see democratisation of AI and generative AI, making the revolutionary capability far more accessible and ultimately adopted across business users and ‘citizen developers’. We’re starting to see this wider availability through use such as within the Microsoft Office suite and ServiceNow’s recent declaration that AI presents a potential $1 trillion total addressable market, which compared to just automation alone at $200 billion presents a significant opportunity for organisations, vendors and channel partners alike. 

We’ll also see a doubling down on cyber security and associated risk mitigation as the advancement of AI presents a more significant challenge to business integrity and critical data. What is shared and to whom will become a significant watch point for organisations and early indications are that some are considering hybrid deployments moving certain workloads back on premises as a means of protecting intellectual property. 

Uzi Dvir, CTO, WalkMe

Businesses will need partners to help them adapt their business processes to be truly AI-driven—because that adaptation requires a lot of change and an implementation focus that ideally needs a dedicated leader or staff. Banking, insurance, and healthcare companies in particular are highly regulated industries, and they will need partners to aid in the implementation of hyperproductivity-enabling technology.

In this new market for hyperproductive achievement, IT partners will become critical in helping businesses achieve these goals and will act as consultants or service providers specifically on this type of transformation. Implementing these solutions is one thing, but businesses will need  consultancy services as well to implement cultural and process changes in the flow of work.

Corey Nachreiner, Chief Security Officer, WatchGuard Technologies

The last full-year estimate pegged the global number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs at 3.4 million, a figure which surely grew substantially in 2023. Adding fuel to the fire, cybersecurity has a burnout problem which is why Gartner predicts nearly 50 per cent of cybersecurity leaders will change jobs, contributing to a “great cybersecurity resignation.” With so many unfilled cybersecurity positions, how will the average small to midmarket company protect themselves?

The answer is managed service and security service providers (MSP/MSSPs). MSPs will enjoy significant growth in their managed detection and response and security operations centre  services IF they can build the team and infrastructure to support it. We expect the number of companies who look to outsource security to double due to both the challenging economy and difficulty in finding cybersecurity professionals. To support this spike in demand for managed security services, MSPs/MSSPs will turn to unified security platforms with heavy automation (AI/ML), to lower their cost of operations, and offset the difficulty they may also have in filling cybersecurity technician roles.