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2022 Channel Predictions: The Age of Hybrid Work, 5G and Hyper-Focused Cybersecurity

It's now time to close 2021 and look forward to 2022. Our industry -- and our channel ecosystem -- has re-innovated itself during the pandemic, and we can take pride in having helped people change the way they work.

For 2022, the digital transformation will continue. In many ways, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, but the opportunities are still endless. We have only just skimmed the surface; beneath are whole industries that need to transform, and partners with not only technical knowledge but also the right business acumen will become heroes.

Here are my predictions for what partners can expect in the coming year.

  1. I predict we will see people return to their workplaces but probably not for the entire business week. There will be continued demand for hybrid work environments and online collaboration platforms that give an equally great experience for people working remote as for people sitting in a traditional office. From Microsoft, we will see a huge momentum for Teams, Power Platform and Dynamics to support the transformation, and partners should make investments in these areas. Power Platform, in particular, will continue to build momentum, and partners that bet on building a verticalized practice using this set of tools will become hugely successful.
  2. Partners will be able to deliver solutions to their customers much quicker than ever before, but it will be important to have deep knowledge of the needs of certain industries (verticals). Customers are increasingly demanding ways to transform their operations from manual to automated through artificial intelligence and machine learning -- that's a game-changer. There is a need for partners that can come up with ideas for what to automate.
  3. We will most likely see the rollout of mobile 5G, enabling new scenarios where devices are always connected. IoT will get a boost from this, which will benefit ISVs. It'll be well worth watching how Azure Edge Zones will gain traction in the marketplace and take advantage of the 5G boom.
  4. Microsoft partners that have made a living out of the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program will continue to do so, but transacting licenses will not be enough. Partners need to come up with innovative services that add value and differentiation, where the CSP licenses are only a small part of the overall offerings. Microsoft's New Commerce Experience (NCE), which is being rolled out in 2022, has many characteristics similar to Azure Plan and Enterprise Agreement, and it harmonizes the way Microsoft transacts licenses. As with everything new, it'll take a while to learn the ins and outs, but I am sure that partners will learn how to use NCE to their advantage -- just as they have always done with every new licensing evolution.
  5. The market for cybersecurity is unfortunately growing, as more attackers are orchestrating ransomware and other types of attacks. Most have a commercial angle, and it looks like it's a profitable business (if highly illegal). There's a strong demand among customers for help in preventing attacks. We need more Microsoft partners to focus on building cybersecurity practices around this so that the "good guys" can become stronger and -- at some point -- the attackers become more likely to give up, as the cost of doing business will be too high.
  6. Hosters will continue to face problems with their existing business model unless they evolve and become modern MSPs that don't try to hold on to legacy datacenters. They should stop their investments and plan to decommission existing hardware and move to the Microsoft Azure cloud. The core asset for a modern MSP -- or virtual hoster, as I love to call them -- is to manage workloads. Owning your own datacenters is a thing from the past.
  7. The trend of using other partners and individual contractors will continue. Partners appreciate having the ability to build virtual teams with specialized individuals regardless of location or employment status. This makes partners able to move faster and adapt to changes in customers' needs quicker. Hiring gets easier when you can be more flexible with location and care less whether the hiree is on your payroll as an employee, an individual contractor or employed by one of your partners. Flexibility will give you more options to work with the world's top talent. This is a new dawn for partner-to-partner (P2P). More companies understand that P2P is a great way to grow business and build stronger bottom-line profits.
  8. Leadership is evolving. We have taken giant leaps in the past two years, and we will continue to do so for the years to come. Modern leaders with less prestige, less ego, a genuine interest in diversity and inclusion, and are fans of flexible hours will thrive and attract top talent to work with them. I use the words "with them" instead of the traditional "for them" as that sends an important signal.
  9. Lastly, I hope that we will go back to physical large conferences again like Microsoft Inspire. Of course, conferences will take learnings from the pandemic and offer hybrid experiences, where people can either travel and meet in-person or participate remotely from the comfort of their homes.

Posted by Per Werngren on December 22, 2021


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