As we approach the end of another year, taking stock and looking forward to the next 12 months is always a thought-provoking task. In particular, I like to reflect on the year that’s gone, the topics that were top of mind during those 12 months, and to anticipate what the important topics will be for the year ahead.
So, below are the top 10 areas that I believe IT solution providers should take note of for 2020:
1. The importance of getting customers modern.
This is number one for me in the year ahead, not only because it is so important, but because so many other opportunities to help customers flow from it.
Windows 7 reaches end of support on 14 January 2020, and Office 2010 nine months later, on 13 October 2020. With improving productivity and enhancing IT security at the top of business agendas - across industry and regardless of organisation size - this is a massive opportunity for partners, as end of support means no more bug fixes or security patches.
2. Which leads me onto security, and the prominent position this will continue to occupy for business leaders.
For IT providers, this is an opportunity to focus on the enhanced security functionality in Microsoft 365, such as the upsell to E3 and associated security add-ons, and to promote the benefits of further enhancing security with a layered approach, utilising products such as those from Mimecast and Acronis.
Secure Score within Microsoft 365 is a great place to start when looking to advise customers on how to improve the security of identities, devices, data, and people.
3. The importance of driving usage through adoption and change management services cannot be understated for both short-term revenue opportunities and long-term customer lifetime value.
Microsoft has identified Adoption and Change Management as one of the biggest growth opportunities for partners. Customers that use more of the capabilities of the services provided will stay customers for longer.
An example of the importance of adoption is to look at the bonus plans for all Microsoft sellers. Twenty five percent of every Microsoft seller’s bonus is tied to driving a 300% increase in Microsoft Teams adoption and usage.
4. And, of course, Microsoft Teams itself will continue to be a massive growth area for partners, with its features and functions enabling customers to change the way they work and move to a more modern and flexible workplace.
Incorporating chat, IM, meetings, and calling, this hub for teamwork, now has over 20 million active daily users and can significantly increase employee productivity.
5. For me one of the most exciting events in 2019 was the launch of Microsoft 365 Business Voice in November.
The Business Voice solution brings together IT and telephony into a single offering, and enables the SMB sector to benefit from the advantages previously open only to enterprise organisations.
Coinciding with BT turning off ISDN in 2025, there are over 6 million phone lines on old-fashioned PBXs, that represent a multi-billion pound UK opportunity.
6. A third Teams-related entry recognises the benefits partners can tap into through creating bespoke solutions with the Microsoft Power Platform - Power App, Power Automate (previously Flow), and Power BI.
The Power Platform gives partners the ability to create tailored solutions for customers - such as for raising POs, managing holiday requests, dealing with credit notes - simply and easily.
At Vuzion, we’re so convinced of the potential of the Power Platform that we’ll be running Power App in a Day courses, to join our programme of Power BI Dashboard in a Day workshops. Both will give partners the skills and expertise to develop customer solutions or dashboards, while we’ll also be offering a professional service to support partners currently lacking the capacity to do so.
7. The ongoing skills shortage remains both a challenge and opportunity for IT providers. Whilst making it hard to find great people to hire for your business, there is an equal shortage for customers, that will lead to the purchase of more services to help them achieve their goals.
2020 will be no different, and it is why we’re investing heavily not only in the skills development of our own teams within Vuzion, but also in our partner training and enablement programme, Vuzion EDGE, and professional services portfolio, Vuzion PRO.
8. AI will remain a hot topic in 2020. Research from Microsoft promoted at this year’s Future Decoded found that 56% of UK businesses are now using AI in some format, with the NHS in East Suffolk, for example, reporting 1000s of hours saved with their AI-based robotic process automations.
9. An option to help customers quickly and easily move to a modern solution is the new Windows Virtual Desktop.
This new service simplifies the deployment of virtual desktops and provides a lower priced licensing model. It is what customers have been asking for and enables IT providers to deliver Desktop-as-a-Service based solutions, along with the added benefit of driving Azure customer adds and revenues.
10. And finally, Azure Lighthouse - the single control panel that enables partners to view and manage Azure at scale across all their customers - is going to have a huge benefit for partners delivering Azure to customers.
This ability to monitor and manage cloud solutions has been a major ask from Microsoft partners for years, and the capabilities in Azure Lighthouse, combined with the new cost management capabilities, will be a major advantage in the year to come.
The very best wishes from us all at Vuzion for the festive period and the year ahead.