On a recent Zift Channel Chats webinar, industry leaders Juan Fernandez, Channel Chief of SuperOps.AI; Janet Schijns, CEO of JS Group; and Brandon Knight, Global Head of ZCX Channel & Ecosystem of Zoom shared a wealth of insights as to what’s coming down the pike for 2024. Their collective wisdom provides a roadmap for navigating the complexities of the IT channel in the coming year. From AI to data, MDF to partner engagement, and marketing plans to continuous education, the panel explored all of the trends shaping the channel today and made predictions about their impact going forward. Here are some prevalent themes they discussed.

Cybersecurity: The Resilient Guardian

“Cybersecurity… struggled a bit this year, but by the 4th quarter, it’s picking up again, and the outlook for 2024 looks really promising,” observed Janet Schijns. This resilience in cybersecurity reflects a broader trend in the IT industry: the ability to adapt and rebound. While Fernandez expected a sharper rise, he noted, “It grew, but not as steeply as I thought. It plateaued, but it’s starting to climb again now.” While hot new technologies like AI exploded and took over the technology scene in 2023, overshadowing cybersecurity to a certain degree, the panel was unanimous that next year will be a big one for the security space.

AI: The Game Changer

Brandon Knight captured the essence of AI’s sudden prominence: “It was like the most interesting person at a party – suddenly, AI was everywhere.” AI’s meteoric rise in the IT channel signifies a paradigm shift. It’s not just a technological advancement; it’s a new way of thinking and operating. AI’s integration into various facets of the IT channel, from customer service to data analysis, signifies a move towards more intelligent, efficient, and personalized solutions. As AI continues to evolve, it will undoubtedly shape the future of the IT channel, challenging traditional models and opening new avenues for innovation.

The Evolution of Distribution Models

Speaking on the changing distribution models, Janet Schijns emphasized the need for a data-driven approach: “The distributors that can leverage data effectively will stand out.” This shift toward data-centric strategies in distribution underscores a larger trend in the IT channel: the move from intuition-based to insight-driven decision-making. Distributors who can harness the power of data to understand market trends, customer needs, and effective sales strategies will have a significant edge. As the IT channel becomes more complex, the role of distributors as strategic advisors and data experts will become increasingly important.

Education: The Bedrock of Progress

Juan Fernandez highlighted the importance of education in the IT channel: “We ended up playing dual roles [in 2023] – both as educators and learners.” The IT channel is in a constant state of flux, with new technologies and challenges emerging regularly. This dynamic environment necessitates a commitment to continuous learning and skill development. For MSPs and consumers alike, staying informed and educated is not just beneficial; it’s essential for survival and growth. As we move into 2024, the focus on education will likely intensify, with a greater emphasis on upskilling, reskilling, and knowledge sharing.

Looking Ahead: Embracing Change in 2024

As we look towards 2024, the IT channel stands at the threshold of a transformative era. As Janet Schijns said, “The channel is the lifeblood of the tech industry and it’s not going anywhere.” This statement resonates with a sense of resilience and permanence, emphasizing the channel’s critical role in the technology sector. However, Schijns also cautions that the coming year will be “rocky,” citing factors like elections, wars, inflation, and interest rates. These external influences will undoubtedly shape the IT channel, creating a landscape where agility and adaptability are paramount.

Brandon Knight’s perspective offers a complementary viewpoint, focusing on the theme of evolution and maturity. He predicts that 2024 will be about “finding where things level off,” suggesting a period of stabilization following the rapid changes and disruptions of previous years. Knight’s mention of “a little pain in growing” acknowledges the challenges inherent in this process of maturation. This perspective is crucial for all stakeholders in the IT channel, emphasizing the need for strategic thinking, efficiency, and smarter operations. The ability to adapt to these evolving circumstances will likely distinguish the successful players in the IT channel.

Juan Fernandez provides a forward-looking prediction focusing on the significance of data and its utilization. He anticipates “a big shift in how partners and vendors view each other,” implying a more collaborative and data-driven relationship. This shift could redefine traditional business models, with Fernandez highlighting “business operations as a service” as a potential trendsetter. The emphasis on education also remains a key theme, with Fernandez noting that “AI, cybersecurity, everything’s changing fast.” This rapid pace of change underscores the need for continuous learning and adaptation among partners, consumers, and vendors alike.

The Bottom Line

The insights from this panel discussion paint a picture of an IT channel at the cusp of significant transformation. The themes of cybersecurity, AI, evolving distribution models, and the importance of education emerge as key focal points. As we step into 2024, embracing these changes and preparing for the challenges and opportunities they bring will be crucial for all players in the IT channel.

For a deeper understanding of these themes and more, the full panel discussion replay offers a comprehensive exploration of these experts’ insights and predictions.