Published on Channel Futures | Sep 30, 2020
Partners need to weigh up their current level of investment when it comes to new technologies. However, distribution is lending them a hand.
e92plus has created a new division, e92worksafe, to help launch the OneScreen GoSafe. It’s a safe access control system that incorporates body temperature and facial recognition scanning. The firm claims it goes beyond basic solutions by incorporating AI and free, unlimited help and training from live agents.
"Our experience in working with tech companies meant we were able to identify some new product launches and startups. This seemed a great opportunity," said Neil Langridge, e92plus' marketing director. "It addresses one of the most fundamental challenges for many businesses. How can we open our premises safely and securely, and give reassurance to our customers and staff?"
Elsewhere, Tech Data is helping partners build their expertise around technologies like cloud, IoT, analytics, AI, collaboration and cybersecurity. It has accelerated its development in its Practice Builder programme to help partners gain the technological and market expertise they need.
Heather Haworth is European programme manager for Practice Builder at Tech Data.
"The hope is to help partners that have relevant technology and expertise," she said. "But not necessarily the market knowledge and access, to provide customers with the technology they need to stay safe, connected and productive."
Partners may still be wary of expand their product portfolio at this time. Langridge acknowledges that partners are postponing projects or scaling them back. However, "GoSafe gives partners the opportunity to keep building their relationship with the customers. It helps add value to them and provide an alternative revenue and margin source."
So, is the opportunity to add a potentially profitable new revenue stream one that partners should take?
"Launching products or services during the pandemic which directly address key areas of demand is recommended, but must be done in a sensitive and careful manner." That's according to Wilkins, who warned that "charging a premium runs the risk of being seen as exploitative. [That's] something that could damage the reputation of the partner, not just in the short term, but in the medium term."
One channel firm that has diversified its offerings is London-based Transputec. It has developed Thermavis, a multiperson thermal scanner which can read the temperature of up to six people at once. VP of sales Rishi Sehgal says the firm expects new revenue streams in retail, construction, health care and transport.
"This technology provides customers and workers with the peace of mind that the environment they are operating in is COVID-19-secure. [This], while remaining discreet enough to not disrupt everyday operations. This puts the health of consumers first, whilst simultaneously ensuring that businesses can confidently proceed with everyday operations," he said.
Partners have an opportunity - if handled correctly - to help cement their relationships with customers during an anxious time. For this, they should rely on their abilities to understand not just technology, but people and processes.
"Any integration of smart solutions should be widely communicated and needs to be worked into HR and compliance regulations to protect people's privacy," said Lequin. "Are screening procedures discreet enough so that if someone does show signs of a fever, they can be pulled aside without undue attention for further testing or rescreening?"
In addition, he says some IoT devices like thermal cameras can seem scary or intrusive; therefore, making it approachable is important.
"We are using things like a 'panda cam' that are less daunting, especially for schools, doctor offices and theme parks. Communication and transparency with customers and workers are key, so they understand that measures are to prevent the spread of viruses," said Lequin.
There may be an opportunity to help ensure your customers get back to work safely, while generating new business. But moreover, customers are more likely to remember those partners that go the extra mile to help now, long after the crisis passes.
"Now, more than ever before, the channel's role as a trusted adviser to their customers is critical," said Haworth. "Reputations will be forged by how you support your customers through this crisis."