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Now is the time

 The channel must prepare for the future.


The future is coming at us so fast, it's sometimes easier to batten down the hatches and pretend the storm isn’t happening than to go out and face it head-on.

After all, many businesses, consumers and organisations will strive to continue doing things the way they always have. That means they can be served in the same way as always, with the same kinds of products. The problem with that approach, however, is that, at some point, the penny drops that the world has moved on, the competition has moved on, and they’ve been left behind.

At the Cisco Live conference in Barcelona earlier this year, the company presented eight distinct categories of technology change that it had distilled from the World Economic Forum proceedings a few weeks before. From robotics and AI to IoT and data analytics, any one of these represents a shift in the way business will buy technology. Taken together, the eight categories represent a tidal wave of change.

This was also an overriding message at Dell Technologies World in Las Vegas at the beginning of May. Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell told delegates in his keynote address: “At first, the power of digital transformation was a secret that only we in the IT industry knew. But now the secret of digital transformation has burst onto the public consciousness.

“Every customer I meet is reimagining how they use technology. Tech is now at the very top of the agenda for business leaders everywhere, because today, technology strategy is business strategy.”

Later, he told a media briefing that business globally is in a technology-led investment cycle. He’s seeing an explosion in use cases for AI, which includes neural networking, machine learning and deep learning.

“We’ve seen a rapid acceleration in our server business, and when we dig into what’s happening, AI is the big use case. What we don’t find is horizontal AI. AI gets very vertical very quickly, meaning that it’s entering every industry.

“To be competitive in the future, you have to use AI and data and do it at record speed and at scale. It all starts with a company’s data, and the data helps make a product or service better. This allows a company to attract more customers, which creates more data, and the cycle repeats itself.”
 
All of this doesn’t even take into account the massive changes that will become possible when mobile network operators start rolling out 5G networks alongside the existing 2G, 3G and 4G infrastructure. While the legacy networks are heavily voice-focused, 5G will be a data play. But this will be data on steroids, as capacity and speeds reach levels that make entirely new categories of technology product and even business model possible. Ironically, while 5G was the word on almost every vendor’s lips at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, very little equipment is yet available that complies with the formal standard. That’s about to change, and we can expect 5G-ready, 5G-compatible and 5G-compliant to become new buzzwords as manufacturers scramble to join the bandwagon.

This, in turn, will see new capabilities in products ranging from virtual reality and smartphones to connected cars and smart assistants. These will not be incremental changes, but will represent a radical shift in the way technology is used. That, in turn, means a shift in the way technology is bought.

As a result, anyone in the business of selling technology will soon have to learn not only new skills, but almost entirely new product languages. 
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