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PRINT IT Reseller Magazine Issue 93 – Spending on IT services set to grow

According to Gartner, economic recovery with high expectations for digital market prosperity will continue to boost technology investments in 2022. The analyst house’s latest forecast expects worldwide IT spending to total $4.5 trillion in 2022, an increase of 5.1% from 2021.

Gartner contends CIOs are now in a position to move beyond the critical, short-term projects over the past two years and focus on the long term. Simultaneously, staff skills gaps, wage inflation and the war for talent will push CIOs to rely more on consultancies and managed service firms to pursue their digital strategies.

Gartner forecasts that the IT services segment – which includes consulting and managed services – is expected to have the second highest spending growth in 2022, reaching $1.3 trillion, up 7.9 per cent from 2021. Business and technology consulting spending, specifically, is expected to grow 10 per cent in 2022.

With this in mind, PrintIT Reseller asked some of the industry’s leading vendors how they are changing go-to-market strategies and their offering to capitalise on the opportunity to help organisations pursue their digital strategies, and support them as they move into 2022.

Mike Barron, Managing Director, SYNAXON UK

“A skills shortage causes the same problems as a product shortage. If you can’t get the equipment you need to upgrade, your project has to go on hold. If you don’t have or can’t buy-in the skills you need to implement a new system, or migrate to the cloud, you have to delay your plans. Otherwise, there is more of a risk that your project will fail.

“The short-term issue is how to get those projects moving and that’s inflating the price of technical people in the market and causing a lot of movement between businesses at the moment. From a longer-term perspective, the challenge for businesses is knowing how far ahead and how much they should invest in IT skills and people. It’s not an easy conundrum and I suspect it will continue to be a major issue for some time.

“Taking a more positive view, it’s certainly driving more end-user businesses to look at handing over core IT functions such as print to managed services providers. The great thing about managed print for partners is that you don’t really need new skills to offer a service – the barrier to entry is quite low and there are simple propositions available from third-party players.”

Andy Brown, Technical Services Director, Tech Data

“This is a huge challenge. With the return to the workplace and projects reigniting, we’ve seen higher attrition rates amongst technical staff in partners. It’s something we are trying to address in a positive and pro-active way.

“As a value-added distributor, we are experienced in supporting partners and augmenting their capabilities with outsourced skills and services. We’ve made investments to guide resellers through short-term skills gaps, as well as helping with the training aspects associated with skilling-up new recruits.

“While that’s all great, in the longer term, partners will need to develop and maintain a sustainable culture that will prevent, or at least slow down, rates of attrition. There is a clear shift in the desire for ‘softer benefits’ – i.e. flexible working, private healthcare, and learning and development opportunities.

“In our own business, we have invested in individual development for technical colleagues – in areas such as hybrid cloud, for example. We’re extending that out and offering partners that same programme, and directly engaging with partner technicians to support their development.

“It’s really important to give technical people proper routes for progression and ensure they feel valued. At Tech Data, we operate servant leadership principles to foster a sustainable culture within the business where co-workers understand that their input truly makes a difference. Alongside this, we build organisation health through inclusive workplace policies and supportive structures.

“This is all about making our business more attractive to talent and giving them every reason to stay with us. If we have the right people with the right skills, we help partners fill the gaps in their own capabilities. At the same time, many if not most partners will want a degree of autonomy when it comes to technical capability and will want to make their own plans to attract and retain technical talent. Being able to deliver the high level technical services is vitally important in today’s market.”

Chris Bates, Business Unit Manager – Print and Supplies, Tech Data

“The skills shortage is a problem for end-user customers as well as partners. As Gartner has pointed out, this is driving up demand for skilled staff and compelling IT managers to rely more on external consultants and managed services providers.

“While print devices are fairly simplistic from a technical perspective, they still need to be managed and maintained – and frequently need to be replenished with ink, toner, and paper. The last thing you want as an IT manager is the time of technical staff being taken up monitoring and managing the printer estate. If they can place the management of print devices into the hands of an expert provider, that’s one less thing that the IT manager or SMB has to worry about. This is especially true now that many more company-owned print devices are being deployed in the homes of employees, as organisations shift to hybrid working.

“This is one of the factors driving the growth in managed print, and that’s going to be a huge opportunity over the next couple of years. From a partner perspective, the great thing about managed print is that it is relatively easy to offer. Tech Data’s own OpenMPS service can be switched on quickly and easily, providing an automated way for partners to monitor customer devices and pre order replacement cartridges. This takes the burden of managing print devices – whether they are located at home or in the office – off the customer and thus ensures that key technical staff are not diverted from more important and fulfilling tasks.”

Jonathan Wagstaff, Group Business Intelligence Manager, Exertis

“The Gartner forecast looks at global ICT trends, so it will inevitably be weighted upon regional trends, some of which are faster growing economies. Looking specifically at Europe and the UK in particular, it seems reasonable to assume that managed services present a solution to CIOs either struggling to recruit FTEs due to wage inflation, skills shortages, or a decrease in international candidates driven by both Brexit and COVID – the irony of the former being that some MSPs offshore parts of their operations, or are international with the main service centres outside the UK.

“Managed services also offer the flexibility of any XaaS model, with easier and faster scalability; given the critical nature of digital transformation for most enterprises to survive today and remain competitive in the future, being able to accelerate plans is key.

“Services including white-label for the channel are a core component of any value-added distributor, and a part of what Exertis offers across a range of categories and vendor partners. We can help our partners to meet end-user requirements faster and grow that business with them over time, helping them to win business they couldn’t do otherwise without support.”

Andy Ratcliffe, Managing Director, Key Digital

“I would expect IT spend to continue to increase over the next three to five years, with the majority of that increase in spend going to managed service providers like ourselves. Organisations are now looking for expertise beyond their own internal remit to negotiate challenges such as integration, user adoption, legislation, future-proofing and the sheer breadth of technologies available to deliver the most effective digital strategy.

“Our business has adapted over the years to offer a full technology-as-a service (TaaS) portfolio, as our customers turned to us as technology experts. Delivering a successful digital strategy cannot be done alone, it requires multiple specialities and technical proficiency – that is where we see our opportunity and growth.

“The disruption over the last couple of years has also created opportunities. In the scramble to provide workers the opportunity to work from home, many organisations were forced to take shortcuts and make quick decisions to make data available to employees. Now cybersecurity, compliance and legislation are at the forefront; a Gartner study published in October 2021 identified that ransomware attacks are the number one concern to business executives, beyond the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and supply chain disruption.

“By applying our expertise, we continue to support our customers end-to-end with as much or as little involvement as they need to deliver their digital strategy successfully.”

James Overton, Director, SOS Systems

“When you are looking at the MPS landscape, it is becoming more obvious that printing itself has become less important, whilst the methods of printing and the security concerns around it, are more of a focus.

“This change has created different conversations, we are now talking about endpoint security and cloud technologies as part of the discussion, which by nature creates opportunity for further soft services and professional services consultancy.

“Personally this is where I see the opportunity for growth, MPS vendors are being forced to educate themselves in these other areas and that gives them a new level of credibility from the client side, as well as a new range of software to provide.

“Most MPS vendors are reviewing or shaking up their approach to market at the moment and we are no different. Ultimately, with a possibly permanent forecasted reduction in click revenue, to stand still would be foolish. We are looking at new areas to diversify into, that complement our existing services and I see the take up in cloud technology being a massive area of expansion for us moving forward.

“We are finding the traditional print audit approach to be less popular and that businesses are more concerned around how they can be more efficient digitally. By highlighting the manual processes within an organisation and demonstrating how these can be automated, this will naturally help customers to achieve their digital transformation goals. Vendors could potentially help, by sharing success stories within the newer product lines, so that our sales approach is as modern and relevant as possible.”

Martin Roberts, Managing Director, Neuways

“The interesting thing is the way spending and budgeting has changed over the last ten years. A decade ago, it was more elective spending – people had a clear view of what they needed to spend over the budget period and they stuck to it.

“Across the last few years particularly, there has been a large spend on unbudgeted, unforeseen things. Not only has this been to protect companies from cyber threats, but during the COVID crisis they have had to make unbudgeted spend to just work, or make the work they do easier – to enable remote working, for instance. I hope, as businesses come out of the crisis, there is more opportunity to decide where money is spent on a strategic level in a proactive rather than reactive manner.

“In terms of changing our go-to market strategy, we don’t think of it as capitalising on opportunities, but more about serving the needs of our customers. If demand grows in an area and we don’t react to it, then we are potentially not meeting their needs. It is not as simple as distributing some marketing to say: “We do this”. To react appropriately, we invest in our people, help them learn what is required. Provide them with any toolsets required and expertise. We spend time examining if each new trend that is thrown up is not just a buzzword or a hyped-up bandwagon, or a genuine need that our customers have or may have. One of our principles has always been that we will never try and sell something to someone if they don’t need it. We don’t incentivise our salespeople to sell certain things, as it might not be the right fit.

“One area we are constantly investigating is cyber security. We put it at the heart of everything we do, as it is representative of a safe way to grow a business. A key aspect for instance, is moving to the cloud and supporting customers with that. It’s not only about Microsoft Office 365 and becoming experts in the migration to that system from an on-premises systems. It’s also how we are also expanding our offering to deliver Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. This will allow customers to gain the advantages of SME ERP, with a focused and rapidly deliverable implementation, as well as the optimisation of suitable systems for those businesses.

“The important thing is that all investments in IT, by a company of any size, should be part of a strategic plan. IT spend that is reactive is not always the best spend. In the real world, sometimes it’s needed to deal with a problem – but, if it can be done strategically or tactically, then it can help get better value for your business.

“Organisations come to us and ask what we think they need. We can review their needs and requirements, and how technology can fit among their overall strategy and landscape. We love talking about business systems and IT, we’re not driven by shareholder dividends, but a passion for IT and what makes a business tick – we will talk about it all day long.

“We have a unique perspective, as our customer base goes from small SMEs, all the way through to largest corporates. As a result, we help give our customers the best for their business. We utilise our experience of working with SMEs and how that can help larger businesses, and vice versa, meaning all of our customers are beneficiaries of our collective business experience.”

Mark Bailey, Managing Director, EBM Managed Services

“Since 2017 we have been transforming our business from the typical print dealer to a managed service provider and we have seen an upsurge in sales across all three managed services we provide: IT, telecoms and print.

“The latest forecast from Gartner provides some interesting insights into trends we are also seeing in our target market and client base, mainly SMEs. From the report we can see that data centre system growth slows from 11.4 per cent in 2021 to 4.7 per cent in 2023. I believe this is due to the typical SME moving away from server-based software providers to fully cloud solutions. One example is the migration away from Sage Accounting to Xero. Whilst Xero is based in a data centre, the client doesn’t need their own hosted server, therefore there will be less individual SME installs within a data centre environment which will contribute to the drop in spend.

“Another trend we can see in the report is that devices spend is dropping consistently. This is quite surprising, and currently we cannot see this translating to affect our business. With the recent events of the pandemic, we have seen that SMEs have come to realise their reliance on their devices. Before, they were taken for granted. Now they are taken as a wise investment and keeping up to date is worthwhile.

“In the new world we live in where people have been in lockdown and remote working, we are seeing SMEs actively bringing their staff back into the office. This continues to present an opportunity for EBM. If they haven’t done so already, our clients are taking this chance to upgrade infrastructure, and are looking to generally get ahead of the curve. We have seen this especially ahead of the ISDN/analogue network switch off. Leaving infrastructure upgrades to the last minute or having out of date equipment with limited functions clearly caught lots of businesses out when flexible and dynamic working was required.

“It has been a good time to reflect on our own business strategy. For many years we have been advising clients to move into a cloud environment. We feel we have got it right, although you can always learn something new. During the pandemic we didn’t sit still, we looked at ways to increase our product offering and grow the business. Our main strategy going forward is the one-stop shop for all managed services. SMEs are moving away from employing an in-house IT department and outsourcing the skillset to a dedicated service provider, thus saving money and removing any skill shortages they are facing, and recruitment processes they must carry out. We’ve bridged our own gap in the current skills shortage by investing in our own team members and upskilling them to be customer focused and dedicated.”

Tom Scott, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer,Aura

“Our interactions with customers suggest that the estimates may even be conservative and never before have we had a landscape where every organisation is evaluating how and where they do business combined with the new challenges of remote working on masse.

“Aura, whilst only formed in March 2020, had been developing for two years prior to this, focussed specifically about how to make a workplace feel more connected. We believe the process of assessment and discovery has to be done in a consultative way. The old adage that you don’t know what you don’t know, has never been so relevant, as very few people now really know what you need to know, and customers have typically never prepared for these significant shifts in behaviours.

“Technology plays a key part in all of this and in the hybrid world we have quickly evolved to a point where it is vital we keep everyone connected and engaged regardless of where they may be working that day. It is also vital that all of the technological solutions play well together, and that the customer offering is intuitive and adapts to many different ways of working.

“Furthermore, it is simply not enough to gather vast amounts of data, this needs to be translated into meaningful insights that inform the chosen audience. I hear a lot of talk about the single pane of glass as a way of bringing all this together, however without the intelligent analysis, too much data can obfuscate the real issues.

“Vendors have a responsibility going forward regarding inter-operability and creating a framework to create seamless user journeys. A well-developed API for their solutions are the first step to creating simple and intuitive workflows across vendor solutions.”

Mark Williams, Chief Operating Officer, Complete IT, a part of Sharp

“With the pace of technological change across all industries, there is always a direct correlation to increasing IT spend. There has seemingly never been a sustained downturn in the past 20 years that has affected our industry in a negative way. To keep ahead of this change, at Sharp we continually invest in new technology and our people to keep ahead and ensure our clients don’t have to invest themselves.

“Wage inflation and the resultant skills gap that we are seeing across the industry has a major impact on this and this, subsequently, means that our clients look to us more for guidance. The pandemic didn’t allow our clients and their internal teams to focus on training and their own development to the extent they would have liked as it was very much all hands to the pump. We see this as an opportunity to support those internal teams to allow them space to train and focus on their IT project delivery whilst working with us to take on some or all of their day to day tasks.

“We have a very clear direction within the sectors that we support and that is to provide quality IT services that are right for our clients. With the massive upsurge in commercial cloud services throughout the pandemic, those clients are now looking to us to help them capitalise on those platforms and understand how best to use the technology they now have access to.

“The amount of services that they are now able to access and the challenges that they can better solve through technology is huge. The advancements in two years for some businesses is more akin to a decade of change and it is that change that is driving our investment in people and new skills. These new skills will further drive our portfolio of services around business systems which encompasses the wider Microsoft Suite outside of basic email and office (Dynamics, Power Platforms, SharePoint and the wider security platforms).

“It is very clear for us that a huge focus needs to be on the support that we can offer our clients throughout 2022, such as helping them realise the investments they have already made in technology. As a go to partner for our customers, we have the people that can support them with that, and it is a conversation myself and our teams have every day.

“However, that said, cloud isn’t always right for every business which is why we help our clients assess the relevance to them and ensure that the next technology change is the right one.”

Dave Prezzano, Managing Director, HP Inc. UK & Ireland

“Technology is more central to people’s lives than ever before. The transition into a hybrid world is serving as a catalyst for change, which is resulting in huge opportunities for digital services and new workforce solutions.

“People are finding that digital technologies suit their needs in a hybrid world better than expected, and so, a preference for digital-first interactions is likely to dominate in the years to come.

“While our hardware will continue to play an essential role in the lives of our customers, we are additionally seeing opportunity and investing in software led digital services and data science to meet a wider range of customer needs. We plan to go after this opportunity by integrating and expanding our existing services offerings, like managed print services and device-as-a-service offerings, and additionally are investing to develop new services for customers, such as managed video conferencing and remote computing solutions.

“Services have long been a part of our strategy; the opportunity today is fundamentally different than it was prior to the pandemic – the market is bigger, growth accelerating and the role we can play is greater than ever before. For example, approximately 69 per cent of global IT leaders expect to heavily invest in security software this year in anticipation of the continuation of hybrid work. For channel partners this means that products offering seamless built-in protection, like HP’s Wolf Security, will increasingly become a market expectation to ensure always-on defence for remote work environments.

“Delivering on this new customer relationship dynamic in 2022 will require channel partners to show up for customers in ways that showcase their ability to predict consumer needs and deliver quick, flexible turnarounds by leveraging predictive analytics. HP is supporting its partners through this new landscape through its robust channel intelligence platform HP Amplify Data Insights, allowing partners to enhance customer experience, shape long-term growth strategies and drive recurring revenue. By adopting a digital-first mind set, partners will find vast opportunities to create new value propositions geared towards hybrid.”

Mike Mulholland, Head of Services and Solutions, Brother UK

“IT roles are in huge demand. Firms are scrambling to hire top talent as they accelerate digital transformation to adapt to the new world of work. But businesses are struggling to fill these posts, and leaders and CIOs are turning to IT consultants for the knowledge and capacity that they lack in-house.

“This is a major opportunity for the channel. Many firms stand at a crossroads for their IT strategy, where resellers and consultants alike can provide value in steering businesses in the right direction. For example, hybrid working models require fresh thinking and consultation on workflows, security, document management and controlling a fleet of technology at distance – and the skills shortage means the ideas and answers are unlikely to be found in-house.

“To capitalise, resellers should be completely in tune with their customers’ needs. An in-depth assessment can help paint a detailed picture of print use beyond the view of just the CIO.

“Vendors need to work just as closely with the channel, so that resellers are offering customers the right solutions – no square pegs for round holes. For example, we’re looking at new ways in which our managed print service can become more scalable to suit a small user looking for low commitment, up to the large corporate user with complex printing requirements.

“We’re also refreshing our inkjet line-up to meet the requirements for the new world of work. Our new A4 Mini Business range was launched to help partners equip customers moving to a more decentralised model of working. And we have exciting announcements to come on our flagship inkjet range, which will better meet companies’ sustainability and productivity goals.”

Mark Ash, Chief Revenue Officer, Konica Minolta

“As the world economy begins to settle down into the new normal, IT investment continues to be a critical area for businesses to adapt and grow. The global IT market remains buoyant, and we anticipate the UK growth of 5.1 per cent to be sustained for the next three to five years.

“Konica Minolta will be focusing on our ability to efficiently and effectively deliver IT services to support our core markets of SMB, enterprise and public sector. Our extensive experience of delivering digital transformation in many enterprise organisations allows us to leverage these methods and approaches with the vital and often overlooked SMB market. SMB represents 99 per cent of the number of private organisations and contributes £2.3 trillion turnover (52 per cent of the market).

“Whether it be a fully digital process automation, an outsourced IT helpdesk for example or blended approach of outsourced heads/departments and process automation. There are many benefits such as reducing employment costs, accelerating processing capabilities, the ability to free staff time to focus on their real priorities – all of which helps to accelerate revenue generation and bring further benefits to employees’ wellbeing and work/life balance – an area which has become much more prevalent and vital in retaining talent.

“We strongly believe that digital transformation is going to be a defining moment in the shifting business landscape and there is no better time to start the process.

Colin Blumenthal, Vice President of IT Services, Sharp Europe

“Many businesses will face increased challenges to attract and maintain talented IT team members. Managed services businesses, such as Sharp, have an advantage in so much that being technology-based through and through, they can be attractive to prospective team members who want to learn and work with a variety of IT configurations and technologies.

“An MSP provides variety, allowing the team to draw on, develop and learn new technology skills. This can be more stimulating than working at a non-technology business where you are working with the same technologies and users’ day in, day out. Subsequently, this will mean that a large proportion of IT talent will be driven to consultancies and MSPs. The impact of this is likely to be a growth in the demand for their services throughout the UK business sector.

“At Sharp, our focus has been on SME businesses and they have tended to outsource most of their IT and digital strategies as they do not have the scale or need to build up internal IT resource(s).

“So, our core go-to-market strategy of positioning ourselves as a pro-active and business-enabling IT partner for our clients will remain the same. However, in addition to our core support services, we are increasingly focussing on leading with some of our other service covering; ERP, telephony and SIEM backed cybersecurity services.”

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