There is a lot that has been said about how the channel is evolving, mostly predicting the demise, or at least the waning of the reseller Channel. Terms like “trifurcation” have been used to describe how the channel will supposedly cloth around three major areas influence, fulfillment, and post-sales services. Other analysis points to how disintermediation, and direct fulfillment through e-commerce and marketplaces will effectively erase part of that middle layer as well.
I digress though, and I tend to be much more optimistic around this topic.
Many of the outlooks for the channel are failing to put together five trends that have been undoubtedly accepted as happening today and that will affect channel evolution -and frankly, the way we do business-, in a major way. These five factors are the following:
The first one is REMOTE WORK.
Used to be that us in the technology industry where the few who were allowed by our companies, thanks to some forward thinking and the appropriate tools, to work remotely. I remember doing this as early as 2000. So I heard all the jokes about working from home two decades ago already. That’s why I don’t laugh anymore.
With the pandemic, the technology has been forced to improve and we have been “encouraged” to adopt it. Both the tools and the discipline around using them are today widespread. There are very few people in the business world who don’t know how to use these tools effectively.
Together with remote work we also Introduced other possibilities. It is not only that we can collaborate miles away with our coworkers without being in the same office. But we can do this across company lines as well. Collaboration with an external party feels almost 100% the same as with a coworker wearing the same badge as us. And if that wouldn’t be enough, we can do this fluidly, in half an hour increments, jumping from one organization to another. This wasn’t possible ever before.
The second one, is the UBERIFICATION of things and the Gig Economy.
Uber has been a factor of change, not only in their own market, but because they introduced a model where we can have people “on the payroll” instantly, doing what they are supposed to do, with effective proof of performance indicators, and a reliable escrowing and compensation structure. Additionally, other information about the parties involved, and the job to be done, gets transferred immediately. Hence the experience of “getting a ride with a buddy”.
The third one is THE ADVENT OF NEXT GENERATION FINTECH APPS.
These apps allow small businesses and even solopreneurs to deliver a “big company” experience to their -sometimes only- employee. I can personally attest to how well these services work today, and how affordable they are. A service like Gusto, processes payroll, pays for local and federal taxes, accrues for benefits, generates pay stubs, and accounts for it all. It also works together with the accounting software, making it all a seamless experience. This type of advancement takes off some of the burdens of running your own operation, and makes it less evident what the benefits of working for a larger organization bring.
The fourth one is the API ENABLEMENT of all services.
Most apps today come equipped with some type of an API that allows them to connect to other applications, allowing to create seamless experiences from disparate apps. For those who are clamoring for end-to-end solutions, I got news for you: we will probably never get there, mostly because we will be able to create the same functionality and experience with a few independent apps connected together through API‘s and satisfy the needs of every individual business, just like we did in the village, ages ago when specialization and division of labor brought progress to our world. Obviously, this is still a work in progress and there are still things that don’t work perfectly yet. We will get there.
The last one is what usually occupies our conversation in the channel these days: THE ADVENT OF THE ECOSYSTEM.
Taking the concept to the extreme it starts to look a lot like a business version of the API, and what we have to develop is exactly that, a way to interface businesses seamlessly, so that we can collaborate together. Some software that supports this type of motion, most notably Qollabi, PartnerStack, and Workspan are making inroads into a more “many-to-many” approach for partnering. We are still in the early days.
Once you blend all these five trends together, which once again, have been said to happen undoubtedly in the very near future, you cannot reach any other conclusion than the endgame looks a lot like the channel becoming synonymous of business. In a world where independent micro-entities operate seamlessly and on-demand with one another, in a beautiful cacophony, everything looks like a channel to me!