Get ready, line of business purchaser of technology, because Microsoft Corp. and its reseller partners are coming for you, and the budget you control.

Microsoft has thousands of its global channel partners gathered in Orlando this week for its annual Worldwide Partner Conference, and the vendor used the event to present new research from IDC on the state of IT spending, and specifically how, what and from whom line of business users are looking to purchase information technology.

Line of business buyers will be involved in 80 per cent of new IT investments by 2016, predicts IDC, with 57 per cent of your budget spent on cloud and hosted services. IT spending outside the IT department is growing at 6 per cent yearly, 2.5 times more than within the IT department. And senior executives recognize this – 73 per cent of top executives said individual departments have a much greater role in technology spending than just two years ago.

According to the report, US$2.1 trillion will be spent on IT worldwide in 2015. Much of the growth will be in what IDC calls the third platform (cloud, mobile, big data and social) which for a compounded annual growth rate of 13 per cent over the next five years, while the rest of the market remains relatively flat.

That’s leading to a transition on IT spending – to the cloud. Some 55 per cent of spending is now on cloud and managed services, with 45 per cent spent on traditional IT. More than three-quarters of businesses are either in the cloud or are interesting in getting there, and IDC predicts 70 per cent of CIOs will have a “cloud first” strategy by 2016.

According to IDC’s research, you want to buy through channel partners – companies that act as trusted advisors, carrying technology solutions from a number of different vendors so they can recommend the right solutions for your business and implement them successfully.

“The research indicates that there continues to be a tremendous demand for partners, as a vast majority of customers purchase technology—including cloud services—through the channel,” wrote Darren Bibby, vice-president of channels and alliances research with IDC, in a blog. “In fact, 86 per cent of business customers indicate that they buy IT solutions through channel partners, with significant partner engagement across all size categories. Of course, many customers also buy directly from IT vendors also.”

Why the channel? Line of business respondents said because they want comprehensive advice, want to deal with some local and in person instead of over the phone, and want a trusted advisor to deal with all the vendors for them.

And you value good service first, ahead of price. Some 72 per cent of respondents said they’d pay a premium for good customer service; just 28 per cent would sacrifice service for a cheaper price.

“This spells out a big opportunity for Value Added Partners to really emphasize their ‘value-add,’” wrote Bibby. “Don’t feel like you need to match every low price offer you hear about, especially if you can show how your solutions will produce long term benefit.”

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