What’s ahead for channel partners in 2021? Experts chime in with predictions

This year is coming to an end, and while that’s tough to believe, it also means it’s time to look ahead to 2021. Experts from across the IT channel community looked into their crystal balls and offered us some of their predictions. We’ve rounded up some of them here. Responses were given via email unless noted otherwise.

Rick Ribas, vice-president of global channel sales, LogMeIN

Profile photo of Rick RibasThe unexpected:

We are now seeing momentum for the channel as companies leverage their services to make continued operating enhancements, gain efficiencies, bring in new tools, and add more integrated products. However, as we move into 2021, both channel partners and MSPs will face an underlying challenge, which is to have a large enough portfolio of products and ensure they are well integrated, easily deployed and offer advantages to help clients move their digital journey forward.  

The MSP space:

Focus on MSPs is expected to explode in 2021. As budgets shift for next year, MSPs will become more of an extension of the company’s team instead of being thought of as middlemen. 

This year the rate of digital transformation that businesses had to make suddenly was dramatic. It was important for them to consider and deploy the right technology that fit their new needs and future goals. Choosing the wrong products and solutions could pose a bigger threat to companies, especially for smaller companies that do not have an internal IT team. This is the reason why working with master agents, distributors and MSPs, will become more a norm. To ensure organizations make the right choices and are looked after by partners that have experience and an understanding of what businesses need at this time. 

As we move into 2021, MSPs will also see changes within their organizations, more extensive product portfolios to provide true specialized knowledge that – for some – can only be viable if they outsource tasks.

HoJin Kim, vice-president of worldwide and North American channel sales, SonicWall

Profile photo of HoJin Kim2021 will be the year that partners will have to continue to reinvent themselves due to the business changes caused by the pandemic. Challenged to shift their business to meet the new digital workforce, we’ll see increased mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in the channel. The evolution will begin with partners acquiring smaller partners with specific expertise around verticals or new service revenue streams, and also larger, regional partners acquiring local companies to increase their geographic footprint or acquire more technical expertise. By leveraging M&As to tap into new markets, the channel ecosystem will continue to differentiate and add business value to customers.

Gary Green, vice-president of strategic partnerships, Cloudera

Profile photo of Gary Green

Gary Green is the first to acknowledge that if anyone were to ask him at the start of the year what was going to happen to Cloudera’s business as the pandemic touched down, the answer would have been “we’re not sure.”

But the past eight months have shown that customers are most certainly not pulling back investments. Instead, Green says they’re investing heavily in data and analytics, knowing that when the next pandemic – or other global disruption – occurs, a solid IT foundation will be needed.

We would have thought that, for example, in hospitality and retail and transportation there would have been a decline in cloud and data analytics,” he said.

Organizations have become overwhelmed with a new surge of data due to all business being conducted online, and Green says conversations about what to do with that data will require some surgical precision planning. Platforms that weave together IT and business practices are highly sought after.

What’s also surprised Green is the relationships he and the rest of the Cloudera team have been able to maintain with channel partners during lockdowns. He expects virtual experiences to only get better.

“I used to be a road warrior,” he told us, referring to the long hours travelling on the road or on a plane. “I haven’t been on a plane since February, but I’ve had more interactions over the last nine months compared to previous years when it was all face-to-face. Most companies would not have thought it possible to continue strong partnerships via Zoom calls or to collect net new logos.”


Cheryl Cook, senior vice-president, global partner, embedded and edge solutions marketing, Dell Technologies

Profile photo of Cheryl Cook

While breaking down some of Dell’s Q3 results, which included a decline in its storage business but wins in other areas such as client devices, Dell Technologies’ senior vice-president of global partner, embedded and edge solutions marketing told us that with everyone doing business remotely, there was a surge in online training among channel partners. Dell delivered nearly 14,000 credentials to individuals receiving certifications, says Cook. That represents just under 1,800 channel partners. With fewer opportunities to perform in-person demos and get hands-on, this trend is likely to continue.

“There’s a big appetite for training and credentials right now,” she said, attributing some of that appetite within the Dell ecosystem to the launch of multiple new Dell products in the middle of the year, including mid-range storage options like PowerStore.

Earlier this year, Jeff Clarke, chief operating officer of Dell Technologies, said the company rode “unprecedented” demand for remote work and learn solutions in Q3. With a second COVID-19 wave upon us, don’t expect this trend to slow down.

Dr. Werner Vogels, vice-president and chief technology officer, Amazon.com

Profile photo of Werner Vogels

Amazon’s vice-president and chief technology officer says 2021 and beyond will see a massive shift among small businesses as they take greater advantage of advanced cloud technology.

“It will be helping small business to do everything from spinning up a chatbot to help with answering frequently asked questions, to getting a dead-simple CRM system in
place and running within minutes. Small businesses get the benefits of sophisticated architectures and applications without having to invest in the time and expense of building it themselves,” Dr. Werner Vogels wrote.

He also cited a statistic that is likely similar, if not worse in Canada: In the U.S., only 47 per cent of small and medium businesses have their own website. Channel partners will have their hands full as the businesses that haven’t touched cloud before, or never optimized services like Microsoft 365, seek immediate help.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Alex Coop
Alex Coophttp://www.itwc.ca
Former Editorial Director for IT World Canada and its sister publications.

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