Now that 2016 is underway, I’ve had a chance to look back at what’s changed in the IT channel over the past 12 months and think about what trends will impact IT service providers in the coming year. Yes, there are some big changes happening, but I think it’s an exciting time to be an MSP as the cloud and other emerging technologies create new opportunities to improve and grow your business.
Here are the three IT channel trends that I think IT service providers need to be prepared to take advantage of in 2016:
1. Continued cloud adoption
By now, the cloud has become a mainstream concept, with companies of all shapes and sizes embracing the ways it can help them. That’s why I expect to see more companies choose to protect their business-critical data in the cloud in 2016, reducing demand for on-premise hardware. According to a 2015 IDC study of more than 3,000 IT professionals, 83 percent of respondents said it’s important to work with their IT providers to carry workloads in the cloud.
Cloud-based backup solutions offer companies a number of advantages including increased security from encryption technology that secures data both in transit and at rest. Cloud backup also protects critical data from disasters like fires and floods that can wreak havoc on onsite backup solutions.
As a result of this shift to the cloud, businesses are buying less hardware than they used to, particularly as companies rely less and less on tape or disk backup. I expect to see this trend continue, so IT service providers need to be prepared to offer their SMB customers the cloud solutions they’re looking for, in addition to the hardware most IT providers are used to selling. If you don’t adapt your business model now, you could be in danger of being left behind.
2. More as-a-Service offerings
These days, it seems like everything can be delivered as a service, and I predict that “as-a-service” offerings will become even more popular in 2016. For example, I think Compliance-as-a-Service will take off this year as more and more companies are looking for help complying with strict industry regulations like HIPAA. But it won’t stop there. IT service providers will get creative and develop innovative new “as-a-service” offerings that we haven’t seen before.
This mental shift in how MSPs deliver their services will help providers actively differentiate their businesses from the competition and demonstrate the added value of their services. Embracing new “as-a-service” business models will also help IT service providers focus on core competencies while efficiently meeting specialized customer needs or serving a specific vertical industry.
3. Resurgence in training
As technology and business models change, IT service providers need to keep up, and that means going back to school. In 2016, I expect to see an increased focus on training as MSPs work to make sure their technicians are up to date on the latest product integrations and the best practices for deploying different technologies. This includes offering training and certification programs in-house to their employees and seeking out vendors that can help provide these kinds of opportunities.
This trend will expand to include training and education for customers as well. Teaching customers and their employees about best practices for cybersecurity, disaster recovery, and bring-your-own-device policies will be an important preventative measure that helps reduce the number of more costly problems down the road. After all, well-informed customers make smarter decisions. Adding this type of training to your service offering will also help you demonstrate the value you’re providing in a tangible way.
Overall, I believe responding in a thoughtful way to these three IT trends in 2016 will help IT service providers grow their business and better serve their customers, and that sounds like a win-win to me.