Back To Business: Cautious Optimism Prevails In The Canadian IT Channel: CompTIA

Information technology (IT) channel companies in Canada are cautiously optimistic as they refocus on growth opportunities in 2021 and beyond after the unprecedented events of 2020, according to new research from CompTIA, the nonprofit association for the IT industry and workforce.

Ninety percent of Canadian channel executives believe the channel maintains its relevance in the IT universe, CompTIA’s “International State of the Channel 2021” report finds. But they are split when asked about the channel’s health: 43% say it is holding steady in its current form, 47% say it’s rapidly changing.

Asked about the steps they are taking to maintain relevance Canadian executives say they are enhancing the customer experience to create a competitive differentiator. Also top of mind are becoming a trusted, go-to source for cybersecurity and implementing consultative selling that’s aligned with shifting customer demographics and buying behaviors.

The channel’s cautious optimism is bolstered to some degree by forecasts for global IT spending of more than $5 trillion this year, based on the feeling that customers will resume their spending on software, devices, hardware infrastructure and IT services. 

But channel executives acknowledge that some customers may still be reluctant to buy, including small businesses and industry sectors hit hardest by the pandemic (hospitality and retail, for example). Among all countries surveyed four in 10 executives express concern about the continuing impact of COVID-19 on customers’ ability or willingness to invest in new technology solutions. 

The CompTIA report gauges executives’ views on other key factors that impact the IT channel, including:

What are you selling?

Canadian respondents predict positive revenue potential over the next two years from a variety of service offerings with data services leading the list. Other services expected to generate solid business include cloud, digital marketing services and IT solutions.

About those emerging technologies

Involvement with emerging technologies was yet another disruption that channel firms encountered in the past year, causing 38% of Canadian companies to pause  their emerging tech efforts temporarily or indefinitely or pull the plug entirely. On the positive side, 35% of companies stayed the course on what they were doing with emerging tech (actively selling, using internally or experimenting) and 20% ramped up their work in areas such as the internet of things, robotics, 5G wireless networks and artificial intelligence.  

The channel and cybersecurity

When it comes to cybersecurity services offerings a majority of Canadian channel companies say they are ahead of the game (8%) or on target with their plans (49%). But a significant number of firms (43%) say they are just beginning to formulate a cybersecurity strategy and portfolio, are behind schedule or are not involved in cybersecurity at all. 

Vendor-partner relationships

Channel firms’ satisfaction generally with their vendors remains fairly high, with 72% of Canadian respondents saying they’ve been either satisfied or very satisfied with their vendors in the last two years. Asked what they want from their vendor partners, the most sought-after items are business-oriented: sales, marketing and operational training and services. This is forcing vendors to re-evaluate traditional partner program resources and incentives to meet new expectations.

CompTIA’s “International State of the Channel 2021” report is based on a Q2 2021 survey of 880 IT channel professionals in Canada, United Kingdom, United States, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg), Australia and New Zealand. 

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