Our friends at the 2112 Group have a new report with intriguing findings that amplify some of our most recent thinking on channel evolution. Here’s what you need to know.

In its new report, “Understanding & Leveraging Specialized Channels,” the 2112 Group makes the case that IoT innovation requires new capabilities to sell and integrate. While many existing partners will no doubt develop these skills, some of the demand for these capabilities will be met by organizations not considered part of the traditional channel. Think human resource consultants, accountants, medical device manufacturers and more.

These “specialists” will partner with tech companies and embed digital innovations into their business models and/or customer deliverables. As they do, they will give rise to a new class of “channel companies” that will take their rightful place among other organizations including integrators, VARs, MSPs, consultants, agents and more.

In the future, the 2112 Group believes three distinct types of companies will emerge from the mish-mash of companies that belong to the channel today. They include generalists that will sell basic horizontal information and communications technologies (ICT) to customers; experts that will wrap digital solutions around distinct vertical market knowledge or exacting technology expertise; and specialists whose primary objective won’t be the successful installation or management of technology assets but the business gains and costs savings they produce instead.

We at Penton have been looking at the future of the channel and pondering similar things. Like the influential trade association CompTIA, we agree that mainstream channel companies will absolutely work with IoT innovations in the three ways:

  • Selling and installing gear and equipment
  • Monitoring and managing technology assets
  • And putting data to work

But what about satisfying customers with more precise or demanding needs? Take industrial customers or municipalities that require multi-disciplinary, cross-functional solutions involving scores of technological assets? What about smaller concerns that seek to transform themselves and participate in what IDC calls the digital transformation or “DX” economy?

Our hunch is that traditional channel companies will help a significant number of organizations put IoT innovation to use. Same with helping customers enter the DX economy. But we also believe that there is room for additional companies to join the channel ecosystem. They include everything from digital agencies, cloud services brokers, management consultants, software developers and more.

They might look different from traditional channel companies, but they all blend digital innovations in new combinations for end customers just the same. Moreover, 2112 Group Groups says, they will expand the market, not contract or commoditize it.

Among those trying to understand what this means long-term is Microsoft, which is looking at specialized channels from a go-to-market, programmatic and competitive point of view. Same with telecom distributor Intelisys.

“In the world of digital convergence, companies all types are eating at different sides of the apple. As they get closer and closer to the core, they’re going to find that they are in the same market together,” says Andrew Pryfogle, senior vice president of Cloud Transformation at Intelisys/ScanSource.

Whether they live together harmoniously remains to be seen. Rather than see the market as increasingly crowded, however, we believe it can be viewed as virtually boundless.

The difference lies in your imagination.