Focus on 2023: retooling the channel to serve the digital-native business
Date: December 2022
By: Anton Herbst, CEO at Tarsus On Demand
This was another challenging year, with small and medium businesses (SMBs) beset by issues such as load shedding, rising fuel prices, geopolitical conflict, rand volatility and political instability.
With fears of a global economic slowdown in 2023, business owners and leaders should probably not expect the year to be any easier.
Rapid change is the hallmark of our age — of consumer preferences and needs, of technology, of the political and economic landscape.
This demands that SMBs reinvent themselves as agile, customer-centric and resilient organisations that can rapidly shift strategic gears and transform their operating models as market conditions change.
To be fit to compete in this environment, an SMB needs to be a digital-native business. Digital-native individuals are people who have grown up with the Internet. Likewise, a digital-native business is one that has built (or rebuilt) its business on digital technologies. Transforming South Africa’s SMBs into digital natives is the key to accelerating economic growth and ensuring global competitiveness.
For such businesses, digital tech and the cloud are not a second thought. They are deeply embedded in how the business operates. For the most digitally mature SMBs, cloud-based as-a-service offerings are not just a way to pay for technology using opex rather than capex — they are a way to achieve the flexibility they need to win in a competitive and fast-changing environment.
Scale rapidly, innovate fast
Advantages of being digitally native include the ability to scale rapidly and innovate fast; the capability to use data and digital channels to offer richer, more relevant customer experiences; and resilient operations that can withstand market volatility. Digitally native companies know lack of capital is no longer an obstacle to digitalisation.
As SMB digital natives continue to emerge, one of the key questions that arises is who their technology partners will be. Right now, many of them find it difficult to navigate the complexities of a multi- and hybrid cloud world because they don’t have the in-house resources. Yet many of the ISVs and systems integrators that serve this market have also only just started their digital and cloud journeys.
SMBs understand that the technology has become commoditised. They know they can buy software-as-a-service (SaaS) productivity software or backup-as-a-service for a couple of hundred rand a month. But where they still need help is in packaging infrastructure, platforms and applications into use cases. They don’t want to talk about cloud, artificial intelligence or the internet of things.
Answering business questions
Instead, they want to talk about solving business problems. The questions they want to answer are: how can we decrease the costs of running our warehouse to create funds to invest in customer innovation? What can we do to keep operating smoothly through load shedding? And how do we find new customers and hang on to the ones we have already?
The value that the channel can offer to SMBs lies in creating solutions for their challenges and enablers for their opportunities. The technology building blocks should preferably disappear behind the scenes. This is an exciting and fast-growing market, which is why everyone from banks to telcos to big tech platforms are creating cloud-based solutions for SMBs.
To remain relevant, the traditional ICT channel cannot follow the transactional models of the past. Few channel players can deliver these sort of solutions on their own. This is why 2023 will see Tarsus On Demand continue to create an ecosystem that collaborates closely to understand what the client needs, and then provide the solution.
A cloud aggregator and enabler like Tarsus On Demand brings together solution providers that can deliver business outcomes to the end-user. Building this business model is complex and the challenge is compounded by the need to move fast to remain relevant in a changing world. 2023 will be a year of listening to SMBs and build solutions that solve their problems, this is how our ecosystem will grow and thrive.