Canalys Forums 2022: EMEA channel strategy for 2022 and 2023

Canalys Forums 2022: EMEA channel strategy for 2022 and 2023

Canalys analysts give their views on hot topics for the Canalys Forums 2022 in this series of interviews. Recent events in EMEA have raised lots of questions for channel partners. How will partners meet IT demand in the face of severe supply constraints, wide-reaching skills shortages, steep price inflation, rising costs, budget pressure, increasing IT complexity and growing geopolitical threats? Explore these issues, alongside major vendors and leading channel partners, at the Canalys Forums 2022 in our Expert Hubs.


The EMEA channel’s value is increasing in the hybrid world. This year’s key subjects for our Expert Hub discussions with vendors and leading channel partners will focus on finding the skillsets, and threat management and collaboration strategies to build simple and effective channel ecosystems for 2022 and 2023.

We talked to our analyst specialists as part of a Canalys Expert Interview series in the run-up to the Canalys Forums. Here, Alastair Edwards, Chief Analyst, Channels, answers the questions:

What is the most important issue for channels in EMEA in 2022?

The good news is that despite rising macro worries, customer demand for technology remains strong, as businesses become increasingly digital and prioritize technology investments. The biggest frustration for partners is how to meet this demand in the face of ongoing supply constraints, wide-reaching skills shortages, rising costs, increasing customer budget pressure and growing geo-political threats. The channel’s importance has never been greater: customers lack the skills to build and manage increasingly complex hybrid IT environments, they face an ever-growing wave of cybersecurity threats, and they need trusted IT partners who can help them deliver ongoing business advantage from their technology investments. At the same time, vendors cannot fulfill all their customers’ complex technology solution needs alone and they are turning to partners more than ever to manage customers through subscription lifecycles and drive the adoption of as-a-service models. But growth opportunities will be missed if the industry doesn’t find collective answers to the most pressing longer-term issues.

At the Canalys Forums 2021, you hosted Expert Hub discussions with partners and vendors covering marketplaces. Has anything fundamentally changed in vendors’ approach to these since then?

The trends we talked about last year have become more pronounced. Cloud marketplaces are becoming a more important channel for a wide range of technologies, from software to cybersecurity and even as-a-service offerings. But for all the hype, we need a dose of reality. Not every marketplace model will work and not every customer wants to buy from a marketplace. Sales of more complex technologies need some heavy lifting; this isn’t just a “self-service” model. Vendors are starting to wake up to the role that channel partners play in their marketplace strategies. Customers don’t want to engage directly with multiple vendor marketplaces; they want to simplify their purchasing, consolidate supplier relationships and work with trusted partners. This creates the need for more partner-centric marketplace models, including distribution and sophisticated processes to support an increasingly digital route to market. Finally, vendors that rely too much on hyperscaler marketplaces risk alienating their core channels, including distribution. A careful balance is needed.

What will the channel most want to hear about from vendors at the Channels Forums 2022?

As we head into a new phase of economic and geopolitical volatility, the channel doesn’t want to just hear vendors’ latest product pitches. Channel partners will want to know how vendors plan to address the channel’s biggest collective challenges. That means improving supply chains, reducing costs, closing the skills gap and relieving cashflow pressures. Channel profits face a real squeeze as costs spiral. Crucially, partners want to know how vendors will help them capture untapped sales opportunities from SMBs to enterprises through co-innovation, better alignment with partners’ professional and managed service models, targeted investments, differentiated solutions and stronger customer relationships. This is the perfect opportunity for vendors to show they understand what matters most to their partners and establish their leadership in creating truly collaborative partnerships.

What one piece of advice do you have for partners or vendors as they consider how to spark growth in 2023?

For channel partners in EMEA, my one piece of advice is to take sustainability seriously, even when more immediate economic concerns are likely to take priority. We are on the cusp of a sustainable technology revolution. The demand for relevant skills will be massive. Channel partners that invest now in building business practices (consulting skills, solution offerings, etc) and becoming sustainable organizations themselves ahead of the curve will be at an advantage. Helping partners address the opportunity ahead will be a big focus at this year’s Canalys Forums. For vendors, my advice is whatever you are investing in channel training and enablement, you need to increase your budget for the year ahead. There is a real risk that vendor budgets will be cut to save costs. But skills will be one of the biggest growth bottlenecks in the next 24 months. Don’t put all the financial burden on your partners. Training staff is one thing but retaining them is even harder. Get smarter and build ecosystem models that work better. Most vendors are not making the most of the resource pools and innovation sitting in their partner communities.

As an analyst, what are you looking forward to from the hybrid Canalys Forums this year?

That’s an easy one to answer – the Canalys Forums are the best opportunity anywhere to engage with the most important decision-makers in the IT channel. They are an incredible source of shared experience, knowledge, innovation and vision. But this industry is also about relationships. After more than two years of largely digital interactions, I’m most looking forward to connecting in person with friends, making new connections, learning and sharing Canalys’ insights on where the channel is going over the next two years.

Expert Hub discussions will take place physically and virtually at the Canalys Forums 2022. They are panels for the channel to discuss the channel and to help advise the vendors on what’s real and what’s not. Attendees can watch, comment and ask questions.

Partners and vendors wanting to secure places at the Canalys Forums should register their interest or contact their Canalys account manager now.