The pandemic has brought about swift and unprecedented changes as to how business is conducted between vendors and channel partners. Stephen Young, Director at disaster recovery and cloud backup provider, AssureStor, looks at the challenges and how businesses are looking forward to meeting up again.
Pick up any newspaper, read an article online, or check your LinkedIn feed and you are certain to see the latest comments about ‘working from home’, the expected return to the office or the option of a hybrid mix of office and home working.
The fact is that within the technology industry, many of us were geared up to work remotely, or from home, with systems and processes already in place or planned. Many organisations have been transforming towards a much more agile and flexible approach with mobility key to their business strategies.
But however or wherever we work, what we do like to do in the industry is get together, make plans, shake hands. It’s integral to our business model to meet with partners and customers face to face. This has sadly been lacking over the last few months. Given that it’s such an important part of the vendor-partner relationship, how have these relationships been affected by the shift, and what is the impact in the long term?
A video meeting was certainly not the go-to option pre-pandemic and face-to-face still reigned as the number one choice for vendor-partner meetings. Move forward 12 months and video conference calls are now standard practice. Some have called it the ‘Zoom boom’ (other video calling providers are available) and while some see it as a blessing, others see it as a curse. Whatever your position on this, video calling has become engrained in our business (and for many personal) lives.
Fortunately, it has allowed vendors like us to continue to engage with our partners and channel managers, hosting regular calls, without the restriction of needing to travel, book meeting rooms, or think about the consequences of our actions.
Talking to one of our key channel partners, Zerto recently, Mark Adams said that, “video conference calls are a positive change that I see is here to stay, not exclusively, as face to face meetings still hold significant value, especially for a vendor-partner relationship, however removing the geographic barriers and time constraints of traditional meetings has increased productivity extensively”.
He is correct of course, but while many vendors have adapted and put in place a digital alternative for managing and speaking to partners, there may still be that underlying desire to reignite the in-person aspect in all of this. Developing a symbiotic relationship is key to every type of partnership, being able to listen and understand the challenges both sides face, and understand what is important in order to move forward together.
These relationships can be galvanised through meetings, social events and shared experiences, enabling vendors and partners to develop trusted relationships over time.
On this note, another noticeable absence over the last 18 months has been conferences, as well as vendor and channel partner events where technology is physically demonstrated, shared and discussed.
These much-needed physical events have been replaced by online webinars and virtual conferences. But many vendors have seen this as a real challenge; trying to engage with viewers virtually, whilst simultaneously competing with a wide selection of material already available on demand, which can be accessed by their audiences at their own convenience.
Virtual events will continue for some time to come as we see more industry conferences postponed or go online. But certainly from our perspective, there’s a real appetite for vendors, partners, resellers and customers to engage face-to-face again.
What the pandemic has done is to make many in the industry, both vendors and partners, review their digital assets and the way they disseminate it, improving accessibility. While a lot of information and support – technical, sales, marketing, training and so on – was already delivered online, many will have looked at their websites, partner portals, training materials and other information to evaluate how they can improve them to provide easier access.
The pandemic has accelerated what was already underway and moving forward we will see are far more diverse array of options to connect and meet with people. Being able to arrange a meeting between four separate individuals relatively quickly, without the need to travel, book meeting rooms and lose a significant amount of time across all four people has been recognised as a noteworthy benefit from a very unfortunate situation.