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Securing digital transformation a key opportunity for channel growth in 2019

Digital transformation offers huge growth opportunities for the channel in 2019. But recent events have also highlighted the importance of secure digital solutions, with over 59,000 breach reports already submitted to GDPR regulators since May 2018. This bears out some of the key predictions for the industry made in a new report from CONTEXT. With the right market intelligence to hand, channel bosses should be well positioned to navigate the challenges that come their way this year.

Securing digital growth
In our Technology and Channel Predictions 2019 report we point to the secure management of data as a key driver of channel growth in the digital transformation push. New stats from DLA Piper released last week confirm exactly this: that organisations are now much more aware of data security. The law firm claimed there has been an average of over 7300 breach reports each month since the legislation was introduced.

Another new report, from Thales eSecurity, reveals not only that organisations are motoring ahead with their digital transformation plans, but that they are struggling to contain the increased cyber risk that these projects are exposing them to. Complexity — for example in managing multiple cloud environments — was highlighted as the top barrier to data security. This is where channel partners can offer a real value-add, in helping their customers embrace innovation-fuelled growth but in a secure and compliant manner.

Some industry watchers, like Accenture, even believe that we’re now entering a “post-digital” world, where success will increasingly be defined by how innovatively organisations can apply technologies like AI, distributed ledgers and even quantum computing. The consultancy’s new report also highlights the importance of cyber security to the success of projects.

Brexit and beyond
As we mention in our predictions report, Brexit is the great imponderable for 2019. As I write this, the British government still seems a long way off providing the kind of orderly departure from the EU which businesses crave. As we warn in the report, a no-deal exit would cause a serious impact on trade between the UK and EU, forcing the former onto WTO tariffs and no doubt resulting in a major drop in the value of the pound. That’s why distributors on both sides of the channel who rely on cross-border supplies should have a contingency plan in place including enough stock to cover any initial period of disruption.

One distributor heeding this advice appears to be Westcoast, which recently told CRN that it had bought 3,000 extra pallet locations in two storage warehouses to stockpile a “large amount” of product. However, MD Alex Tatham appeared less than convinced about the preparedness levels in other parts of the channel. “It is amazing how many vendors have not got their own Brexit strategy organised — they haven’t woken up yet,” he’s reported as saying.

It goes without saying that Brexit isn’t the only challenge facing channel players in 2019. But although year-on-year growth in distribution won’t match last year’s 6.7%, we’ll still see positive growth for the year ahead. By tapping secure digital transformation and Industry 4.0 trends effectively, firms stand a great chance of weathering the Brexit storm and other factors like slowing demand in EU economies.

by Adam Simon

 

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New partnership launched to improve IT analytics

Imperial begins Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with CONTEXT and Innovate UK to develop predictive analytics capabilities for the IT industry.

Imperial’s Mathematics Department is proud to announce their latest partnership with CONTEXT, a leading global IT market research and business intelligence provider, which will produce an industry leading predictive analytics platform.

The project is co-funded by Innovate UK and CONTEXT, through a KTP framework that is proven to produce benefits for the UK economy and to both partners.

The IT market research industry has limited capacity to produce accurate sales demand forecasts and future market performance indicators due to the volatility and complexity of the industry, as well as a lack of data.

As a result, currently available performance forecasts are heavily influenced by individual analysts’ inputs and educated estimations, leading to high levels of inaccuracy when comparing initial forecasts to actual sales performances historically.

The new partnership will work to create a more formal forecasting methodology.

Bringing CONTEXT to Imperial

CONTEXT, which manages the largest database of IT hardware transactional sales and pricing information in the world, hosts one of the few viable datasets that can provide the building blocks for a formal forecasting methodology. They are now investing heavily in new analytics and BI capabilities, which brought them to Imperial with this specific challenge to solve.

Beginning on 1 December 2018, the two-year project to build a flexible forecasting platform will be led by Dr Yang Zhang, an experienced associate researcher who has held hybrid industry-academic posts at Nottingham University. Dr Zhang’s experience and drive to apply novel research to real-world applications is set to drive the project to become an academic and commercial success.

Throughout the project she will also host regular ‘Forecasting Research Group’ meetings, which will bring together some of the brightest analysts in the industry who tackle the issue of accurate forecasting availability on a monthly basis. Together, they will steer the development of the platform, to ensure commercial feasibility and application.

Benefitting research and the economy

The academic supervision and leadership for the project will be provided by Professor Niall Adams and Dr Din-Houn Lau of Imperial’s Mathematics Department.

Dr Lau was previously funded as a postdoctoral researcher by Innovate UK, so is perfectly placed to undertake the role of Knowledge Base Supervisor for the project. He is now a Group Leader in the Data-Centric Engineering programme led by the Alan Turing Institute. Professor Adams is Head of the Statistics section at Imperial and has extensive industrial collaborations across a variety of sectors/sizes, including cyber-security, banking, startups and UK government.

The Mathematics Department expects that this project will result in a valuable impact case study for a future Research Excellence Framework exercise. Further collaborative work with CONTEXT and the Forecasting Research Group may also develop, along with new Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.

This is a fantastic opportunity to advance this field of research further, whilst simultaneously benefitting the UK economy.

Guest blog by Mr Thom Brain, Department of Mathematics, Imperial College

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3D Printing – a year in review and a look at what’s ahead

2018 was all about the Industrial side of Additive Manufacturing. On the metals side, the industry saw shipments of new, lower priced multi-ASTM process printer technologies like Material Extrusion solutions from Markforged and Desktop Metal. Interest also gathered around forthcoming alternative multi-process metal technologies like the various Binder Jetting solutions from HP (Metal Jet) and Desktop Metal and for Stratasys’ LPM. “Green part” was indeed the phrase-du-jour at many a trade event this year as metal printer vendors explained the steps by which they envision lower priced metal parts being cost effectively mass produced in the not too distant future. Continue reading

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Displays: a glimpse into 2019

Desktop monitor sales are expected to continue growing in 2019, although not as strongly as over this year.

Business-targeted monitors may still benefit from the PC refreshes that are accompanying the ongoing transition to Windows 10. Moreover, as many companies move towards creating more productive and flexible workspaces, they are looking for ergonomic devices and this should spur sales of monitors with adjustable stands, high resolution and ultra-wide screens, but also thin bezel monitors allowing dual screen setups.

Many vendors still have consumer monitors on their radar, especially high-end and gaming monitors. Esports are projected to rise to double digits in 2019 and, with variety of revenue streams in this still-nascent market, there is significant room to grow. Indeed, announcements from some vendors this year suggest we will see more ultra-large monitors designed specifically for gamers and an increasing number of 27-inch-plus and ultra-wide screens. Even if this focus on premium monitors results in an overall decline in volume sales, revenues should remain relatively stable.

Large-format Displays (LFDs)
In 2019, digital signage and collaboration will continue to drive sales of commercial large format displays (LFDs). This product category is still growing because it remains innovative: every year vendors and customers find new ways of utilising digital signage to improve customer experience, speed up service, track and target demand or simply improve productivity. In the coming year, we should see a shift in focus from hardware and display features towards personalisation and new applications. Vendors will offer customers fewer off-the-shelf products and more full solutions that include LFDs with additional business-ready functionalities and models with embedded operating systems and Wi-Fi which offer more operational flexibility. However, such technologies and capabilities will elevate some risks, especially where displays collect customer data, so vendors will also focus on enhancing data security in 2019.

The increasingly mobile workforce, which is driving trends in the desktop-monitors market, is also likely to lead to increased demand for interactive LFDs designed for collaboration hubs in corporate environments. Fully integrated solutions will help to transform the workplace and engage employees by enabling seamless connected collaboration.

Finally, another set of products which vendors will continue to promote are the direct-view LEDs used in outdoor and large venues. These panels allow customers to build videowalls for spaces of almost any dimension, shape or curve and have no signage-installation limits. Costs are high but the many advantages direct-view LEDs bring mean we should see slow but definite growth in this category.

by DK

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The UK’s most prominent retailers of smart home products are recognised through CONTEXT Go-to-Market awards

Last week, Smart Home manufacturers, retailers and distributors gathered at the 5th bi-annual Retailer & Manufacturer panel meeting of the Smart Homes & Building Association (SH&BA), and recognised those retailers which have the highest brand awareness for the sale of smart home products and services.

CONTEXT tracks the evolution of the smart home industry through its annual smart home research, which also unveiled a much-prized element of that research – the leading retailers of smart home products in the eyes of the consumers. The winners included:

  • For the retail channel: In first place was John Lewis & Partners, with Apple and Argos in 2nd and 3rd position
  • For the etail channel, Amazon has a strong lead in the number 1 slot, with Shop Direct in 2nd
  • For the DIY channel, B&Q maintained its leading position, though Wickes has steadily increased its number 2 place in the last three years
  • For the Utilities/Telecoms channel BT maintained a commanding lead over the other players in this channel

John Lewis through its steady dedication to the smart home category has emerged as the number 1 retailer consumers think of when buying smart home products. Their smart home demonstration areas in their shops, with the latest in the Westfield Shopping centre in Shepherds Bush, are leading the way in showing how retailers can develop the awareness and growth of this category.

Amazon has invested a lot in developing a broad smart home range and is where consumers research new products online: they, therefore, gained the highest recognition in the etail channel and overall from consumers as the place to go for smart home products. B&Q is growing its offering in smart home online and in-store, and benefits from strong brand recognition in the UK, thus securing the number 1 place in the DIY channel. Lastly, BT fresh from its recent launch of the ecommerce platform selling smart home products and trading on its strong brand recognition in the home, a powerful asset for the development of this category, won the first place in utilities/telecoms channel as to where they would go to buy smart home, and second place overall behind Amazon.

Johnlewis

John Lewis Retail award

As our research demonstrates, retail is a critical element in developing awareness of smart home gaining the highest of all scores with 36.5% of UK respondents learning about smart home in a store, and 40.8% on a retailer’s website. With Christmas coming up, and many smart home deals available online and instore, the coming weeks will be an important time for the industry, which is expecting significant year-on-year growth.

The CONTEXT Smart Home Survey 2018 is available on request by contacting marketing@contextworld.com.

by AS

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Trump’s tariff war – the challenge for IT procurement departments

As the tech world prepares to take on the threat of an increase in US tariffs from 1st January 2019, we look at how the procurement function deals with macro-economic events which impact the cost of IT products. 7 years ago it was the Thai floods which caused a worldwide shortage of hard drives. The Thai market was the second largest producer of hard drives after China, and the floods impacted the supply of 30% of global production. The result was a large hike in prices, and delays in the production of PC’s. It was not all necessarily bad news for the manufacturers who were able to reset expectations and raise prices in a competitive market. But how do procurement departments navigate in a time of increasing IT product costs and how they can assess how real and long-lasting these changes are?

There is no shortage of such issues. Currently there is a shortage of Intel processors due to unexpected growth in the PC industry, according to Intel CEO, Bob Swann. For the earlier part of this year, (as can be seen on the graph showing ASP’s) the cost of RAM has increased significantly due to shortage of supply only stabilising in recent months.

RAM

Source: CONTEXT SalesWatch Distribution – Europe + Russia + Turkey

And last year there was a large increase in the price of graphic cards due to the increase in gaming PC sales and the use of graphics cards in bitcoin mining in Russia.

ASP

Source: CONTEXT SalesWatch Distribution – Europe + Russia + Turkey

In each of these cases the root of the price increase was a shortage of components. So the parallel with the threat of tariffs is very relevant, as the major impact of the currently announced tariffs is on components and raw materials – leather (the new HP Spectre Folio), glass envelopes and fans used in computers, screws, stainless steel, printed circuit assemblies, certain monitors, and, the item which has caused Cisco and Juniper to increase their prices, switching and routing apparatus. What no procurement department wants to hear the IT vendor say is “Sorry, the tariffs are causing increases in the cost of components which means we have to put the price up by 10%”.

So, we expect that there will be standoffs and all parties will try to work round these issues.

  • IT manufacturers will get creative in the coming months to plan as effectively as possible for the next round of tariffs and return to practices from another age which in an era of ever increasing free-trade may have been forgotten. Tariff engineering is one such term – the “adapting of an item [being imported] so that [the importer doesn’t] have to pay any levy.” Is this the time to engineer out the need for fans in a computer and to find another way of achieving the same goal?
  • Switching the place where a product is manufactured may also be a choice, but this needs long-term planning, and in all likelihood, the endgame of President Trump is not to create a long-term trade war but to get a new deal with China on their level of imports from the US, and with Mexico and Europe for revised car trading deals. Apple is one of the companies potentially under threat as 100% of their smartphone production is based in China. So far, through successful lobbying they managed to get the Apple Watch out of the first wave of tariffs. But will they be as successful with the second wave in January 2019 or will they have to consider relocating smartphone production?
  • IT procurement departments will be pushing for more and more visibility into underlying component costs. This will involve both open book cost visibility of vendors sharing their own procurement data, as well as recourse to 3rd parties who provide independent verification of price indices.
  • IT procurement will also want to track closely the impact of price movements over time – increases do not flow through the supply chain immediately whilst there is inventory at the old prices. Visibility into the supply chain is vital from sell-in to distribution (for those products which go through the channel) and then to end-user. When new prices flow through, the impact should be clearly identifiable at each stage. Then in the case of tariffs, which are likely to be short-lived, transparency about the removal of the price constraint is necessary for procurement.

One of the unintended consequences of the Trump tariff war, may be a greater collaboration and transparency between procurement departments and the manufacturers of IT products, and a consequent increase in efficiency.

by MK

For more insights, please join our webinar on the 6th December, titled Technology and the trade war – navigating your way through the tariffs

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The PC is dead; long live the PC

Quietly, almost without many realising it, the PC that most pundits had written off as an engine for growth in the IT markets has been making a comeback. And it’s not the sort of comeback with massive volumes, queues out of the door at Aldi or PC World as consumers snap up bargains at even decreasing prices. No, this is a story about businesses, large and small, buying increasingly better spec’d PCs to handle the increasingly complex digital revolution. Average unit prices are on the increase, and chipmakers are struggling to keep up with demand.

CONTEXT figures for the first two months of Q3 2018 tracking distributor sales of PCs to resellers throughout Western Europe illustrate the trend that industry forecasters say will push the market out of decline and into growth for 2019.  PC unit sales were up +3% year-on-year while revenues grew by +5%. Average selling prices (ASPs) were also up by +2% in early Q3 2018 to €573. But same as in Q2 2018, growth came from the commercial segment. While (despite the back-to-school impetus) consumer PC sales were still in decline, businesses bought  +7% more PCs than in the same period a year ago. This demand from business buyers was boosted by companies making the transition to Windows 10, the increasing shift to mobile devices, the general need for product refreshes, and there is no sign this demand is slacking off.

The PC resurgence seems to have caught chip manufacturers by surprise. J.P. Morgan reports that Intel isn’t making enough processor chips to meet demand and the Intel processor and chipset shortage will hurt fourth-quarter 2018 PC shipments by 5% to 7%. AMD, of course, is set to benefit and has had an amazing share price run of almost 200% this year, becoming the top-performing share in the S&P 500 index for 2018.

So expect to see more devices such as HP’s sleek, leather-clad and impressively slim new Spectre Folio. While from a price and specification point of view it is well placed, it’s not cheap. Alongside PCs such as Microsoft’s Surface, it’s just the sort of device today’s businesses are looking for as they gear up to tackle the digital age.

by JD

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