The U.S. B2B IT channel finished out 2018 ahead of expectations, experiencing six percent dollar growth compared to 2017. This growth rate surpassed the overall U.S. GDP, and will likely continue to do so into 2019… sans any cataclysmic event, such as my NFL divisional rival winning the Big Game in February. Success in 2018 was propelled by a stronger PC market, growth of all-flash arrays, cloud, collaboration screens, and many more. With 2018 in the rearview mirror, let’s take a look at the key areas of growth I expect to see in 2019.
- Office Productivity – PC & Office Productivity Software: Yes, the PC market continued to flex its muscle in 2018 and I expect it will remain one of largest categories in the IT channel. Why? Because we can’t yet blink our eyes with text magically appearing on the screen, nor is every company going to allow employees to use only voice commands to input into their devices… so, stop trying to kill the PC. In 2019, we will still be using office productivity software (e.g., spreadsheets, word processing, presentations) with a keyboard and others in the peripheral (e.g., monitors, keyboards) and component markets (e.g., CPU, HDD, SSD, memory) are banking on it, whether it’s in their data centers or loaded on PCs.
- Omnipresent Security: Ask any board member or C-level executive what keeps them awake at night and cybersecurity will be at or near the top of the list for many. There has been no shortage of cyberattacks in the past few years and it’s only going to get worse. Why? Well, for starters, hackers are some of the best marketers out there researching their targets and creating customized content to ensure you click on that spear phishing attack. If the large companies are having a tough time, you can bet the smaller firms have it even harder and are calling for partners with solid managed security service skills coupled with security appliances and software that protect endpoints, allows for secured remote access to assets, single sign-on, and more.
- ProAV: Product segments within the ProAV market such as digital signage, collaboration screens, and projectors will continue to be a key growth area for the channel for myriad reasons. Firms in verticals such as hospitality, retail, and state and local government, continue to add digital signage to enhance the physical customer experience, which is critical for customer entanglement as brick-and-mortar firms continue to face pressures from notable internet-based retail. Another growth area is the collaboration screen segment that has grown partly due to the open office trend, which is still gaining momentum.
- Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) & Hybrid Cloud: As much as the major hyperscale providers would like your entire infrastructure to be stored in their cloud, it’s often not the case. Many firms in the SMB market have opted for hybrid environments and are adopting solutions that make it easier to manage their “already” virtualized infrastructure along with solutions (e.g., hardware and software) that make it easy to work within a public and private cloud construct. Thus, SMBs want the similar SDDC benefits of the hyperscale providers, but also want the option to port what they want into the cloud. For example, the new release of Windows Server 2019 is incorporating features that allow administrators’ greater ease when connecting their on premise environments to Azure for back-up, etc.
- Analytics & Enterprise Content Management (ECM): Indeed, firms are upgrading their network infrastructure (e.g., access points, deploying edge devices) to take advantage of the analytics trend. However, I continue to see firms make the mistake of thinking analytics alone is going to get you to your nirvana, the fact is, it isn’t. In my opinion, firms that fuse both analytics and ECM as a part of their strategy to see patterns in the data, but also capture the stovepipes of tribal knowledge that add context, will win. Thus, we see both technologies as complimentary and the solution providers that capitalize on it will come out ahead.
All in all, I expect 2019 will build on the success of 2018, unless macroeconomic forces impact the market. In my opinion, the technologies that are going to win in 2019 are those that help organizations stay productive, protect their infrastructure, enhance the customer experience, and drive innovation internally.