December 13, 2021

Article at Redmond Channel Partner

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2022 Channel Predictions: The 6 Paradigm Shifts that Will Force MSP Evolution

The "New Year predictions" article has always been my favorite to write because it's totally forward-looking and filled with enthusiasm for the future. Traditionally, on RCP, it has been titled "Marching Orders." I'm glad we're changing it this year because I have always felt the old title reflected a very Microsoft-like attitude toward partners, basically telling them what they need to be doing at any time.

The most successful partners have traditionally ignored that attitude and determined their own futures.

Everything else I'll talk about in this post will be based on a very specific definition of the seriously overused term, "digital transformation." What I've seen over the past several years has been gradual but tremendous change in the ways people use technology to improve their work and their lives. The people have transformed. How they approach life has transformed. Much of technology has adapted to accommodate them. In my 40 years as a citizen of the channel community, this is the most exciting, fulfilling development I've ever seen in tech. This makes it critical that we approach the future with eyes, and possibilities, wide open.

Going forward, the most competitive posture anyone can adopt is one of continuous digital transformation.

Your role as the technology thought leader for your clients could not be more important. To be in a constant state of transformation requires always being current on emerging technologies -- including the value and advantages they can deliver -- and innovating ways that you can deploy them to your own benefit.

For most clients, this is an enormous ask. Most lack the time to keep up with the continuous flow of new developments, new applications, new technologies and new techniques our industry produces. They have their own jobs to do. Think about how much time you yourself invest in keeping current with emerging tech. It's a full-time occupation!

But that's the whole point, isn't it? You spend a major proportion of your time learning about what's coming down the road. You fulfill your role in the lives and businesses of your clients when you take that new knowledge and apply it to each client's business challenges. You do the innovating and propose the next transformation (and the transformation after that) to each of them. As transforming becomes your clients' constant state, they absolutely need you to keep feeding the momentum with new ideas, new applications and new ways to improve their operations and increase their profits.

The fundamental way you look at technologies and how they integrate into businesses will evolve this year. Here are a few ways in which changes we've already seen begin happening will flourish in 2022 with your help.

1. Augmented Thinking
There's that famous old story about Einstein's teacher's thinking he was simple because he never remembered things. When then the teacher asked Einstein why, he explained that he didn't see the point in memorizing anything he could easily look up. As mobile devices and the SaaS that serves them become ever more sophisticated, and AI improves its ability to anticipate, we see mobile devices coming closer and closer to Alan Kay's original vision of the Dynabook, the personal digital assistant that could bring its user any information they needed at any time from anywhere, all transacted in natural language.

Bill Gates' original vision for Microsoft was "information at your fingertips." Please remember, that was 1975. In 2022, that's table stakes. "Google" has become a verb. When just about anybody needs to know something, they google it. That's Kay's and Gates' visions fulfilled. It also changes who we are and how we interact with our world, profoundly.

2. Placelessness
The COVID pandemic forced many transformations to kick into overdrive. A quarter-century ago, the CEO of Novell told us, "Work is now an activity, not a destination." Since March 2020, that has become overwhelmingly true.

The word "workplace" is already on its way to being completely redefined. In 2022, more people will come to realize they don't know where the person they're working with is physically located. And they don't really care! The entire nature of employment will change as hiring decisions are made without regard to physical proximity to any given office location. Technologies will emerge to make the work-from-home experience effortless and pleasant. Collaboration will expand to include AI participants. The content of our thoughts will become "king."

Nobody will know exactly where you're at. And they won't care!

3. Cloud Ubiquity
Up until now it's been a safe bet that everything is hybrid, mainly because everything has been in transition from on-premises to public and private cloud. For some, 2022 will be the year in which they achieve complete migration and find themselves fully in the cloud. In fact, many companies credit their sudden migration to WFH to the pandemic, with the switch being significantly easier thanks to their previous migration to the cloud. It also accelerated the completion of many such migrations.

The operational and financial possibilities are exciting. Cloud ubiquity -- the point at which cloud is a utility computing platform similar to gas, electric, telephone and water -- may not arrive in 2022 but we'll see significant progress toward it.

4. Automation Everywhere
There are still those who fear automation will replace humans and put many out of their jobs. Others are finding that the automation of things that really should be automated -- repetitive tasks or those requiring little thinking or decision-making -- is relieving them of many burdens and freeing them to do more meaningful work. Their satisfaction with their working lives is improving as a result. As more managers find more low-level work to automate, we're seeing a dramatic expansion of technologies and techniques.

Especially when all compute operations are executed in the cloud, the need for automation skyrockets. I anticipate seeing more and more MSPs also become automators of their clients' IT environments, applying sophisticated scripting and technologies to make more operations work by themselves. People get to focus on their work and not on the tools they do their work with.

5. DIY Low-Code/No-Code Apps
Putting more capability back in the hands of users, an astounding number of new platforms have emerged enabling anyone who knows their business processes to map them into applications without writing a stitch of code. Most of these are point-drag-click solutions that take a "building-block" approach to give users great flexibility and, again, much more power. Coding is becoming outmoded.

6. A Subscription Economy
Even now, you can subscribe to several different brands of automobile rather than own one. You can subscribe to a robot floor sweeper that will request replenishment of its consumable supplies as needed without your involvement. Computer ink-jet printers will re-order ink in a similar fashion. Ownership may start become an unwanted burden in 2022, or it might take a bit longer, but the potential for a more agile customer experience is breathtaking. That which you do not own is far more easily replaced when necessary, or desired.

This is totally consistent with the evolution of computing. The goal for so many of our newest technologies is to keep everything loosely coupled. That is, the failure of any one component should not cause cascade failure of everything else. We are living in a time of literal dis-integration, keeping the hardware, the software, the data, the transport, the storage, everything completely divorced from everything else. This makes everything instantly swappable and removes all the dependencies that have caused so much trouble in the past.

There is so much more transforming all around us, but let's focus down on what I suggest you enter 2022 doing.

Not a new concept, but totally necessary as our transformational velocity accelerates. One of my favorite quotations comes from legendary sales coach Zig Ziglar: "If you're doing what you've always done, you're probably getting what you always got."

Actually, I submit that you're getting less. For 2022, do new stuff.

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