As yet another year draws to a close, here’s a selection of some of the channel’s key industry players’ thoughts on what 2022 will hold for the print and IT sectors
Mike Barron, Managing Director, SYNAXON UK
“I believe 2022 will be a genuinely exciting year and one that will be very good for the channel. As we put the pandemic firmly behind us, I think we will see a return to much more interaction, engagement, and co-operation between channel businesses.
“The last 21 months have underlined the fact that we are, all of us – vendors, distributors, partners, and end-user customers – in it together, and that we all need to collaborate closely to get the best results. At SYNAXON UK, we are particularly looking forward to driving more interaction and use of our EGIS aggregation platform and firmly establishing it as the number-one stock checking and ordering platform in the channel. We’re also looking forward to stepping up our activity with MSP partners and helping them to grow and develop their business even more.
“In terms of technology trends, cybersecurity is obviously a huge and vitally important trend. Managed services – including managed print – will continue to develop, and we are also going to see a continued shift towards cloud and hybrid infrastructures. The adoption of faster comms technologies – full fibre connectivity and 5G will also be an important trend.
“We need to remember though, that many end-user customers will still be playing ‘catch-up’ with respect to the plans that they made two years ago. As the supply chain problems and constraints start to ease, there will be a big wave of investment in new products and upgrades. It could be a bumper year for the channel.”
Chris Bates, Business Unit Manager, Print & Supplies, Tech Data UK&I
“With respect to print, we see two major trends gathering pace in 2022. First of all, managed print services will become much more prevalent. As businesses start to adapt to hybrid working practices, they will need to find a simple and effective way to manage the devices they deploy in people’s homes. Our OpenMPS service has been launched to address this need and the wider growth in managed print. This will be a major opportunity for partners in 2022.
“The second big trend we see is the acceleration of refillable ink tank printers. These are eco-friendly, hassle- free and offer great value. And not just for consumers, we see a huge growth in the SMB market for these efficient, economical devices. This is the fastest- growing segment for print, I see no sign of this slowing down and we’ll be supporting partners in making the most of the opportunity.
“In terms of challenges, the issues that the whole market has experienced over the past year with product supply might not subside in the short-term. Perhaps a bigger challenge will be recruitment and retention of talented people. I’d expect partners will need
to rely even more on the services and support and the tools and processes that their trusted distribution partner can provide to help them drive sales, increase profitability, reduce costs, and increase customer satisfaction. We are ready to support our partners in doing all of that and getting back to real growth.”
Al Coyne, Commercial Director, Print, Exertis
“I believe that in 2022 we will see increased focus around the impact we can all have on CSR, and customers will look at which companies are actively promoting activity and products around this. This could encompass new products offering improved efficiencies and lower energy consumption, to extending product warranties up to seven years. Recycling of used toners and ink cartridges also support this messaging and will be a key focus for brands keen to support the genuine consumable message versus compatibles.
“I believe that we could see ASPs increase again due to increased transport costs and chip shortages. We may also see more A4 units being sold versus larger A3 units, as more workers look at hybrid working and require printing at home as well as the office.
“Connectivity of products to services based in the cloud will be more prominent so document sharing and retrieval is a key function of certain jobs.”
David Warrington, Client Services Director, Office Fox
“This year has seen a lot of trepidation from organisations as they want to get some new 12 month averages in place to base their decisions on. Now we have had some time in the ‘new normal’ we would expect to start seeing the confidence in that turning into new right- sized and appropriate contracts.
“Agile working and remote working is obviously more commonplace and we expect that trend to continue into 2022, but now with the benefit of hindsight. This will mean an increase in the need for secure cloud-based services and applications as remote employees need to be fully equipped in the virtual office. Temporary, short-term fix arrangements for office equipment are now coming to an end, so we also expect to see a blueprint of need for those virtual employees, and a shift towards making sure their technology is appropriate for the permanent workload.
“Many organisations either extended or partially renewed contracts to see them through the period – which now, nearly two years on, are becoming less and less fit for purpose. So with that in mind, we are also planning for new flexible contracts to meet the dynamic needs of a brand new work set. We are also onboarding more finance partners to facilitate credit for businesses that may have been more impacted by COVID than others. All in all, the hope is that we start to see greater stability in the market and with the new ways of working, a growth in solution-based sales and entirely new areas of opportunity that we haven’t touched before.”
Anthony O’Mahony, Managing Director, Pay As You Go Print
“Gone are the days of businesses being tied into long-term lease contracts for their printers. In 2022, clients will be looking for more flexible printing options, no contracts and much more transparency from their provider.
“With climate change so high on the agenda, businesses are looking for more sustainable print solutions. In 2022, we predict that organisations will do even more to change their behaviour and set objectives to help them become more environmentally responsible. We’re already seeing clients choosing refurbished printers over brand new and recycling toner cartridges more, businesses just want to simply pay for what they print with no tie-in.”
Andy Ratcliffe, Managing Director,Key Digital
“The conversation right now has to be all about climate change and making sustainable choices. However, buyers and end-users still need to understand that a lot of small decisions can add up to make a huge difference. There is a huge opportunity in giving people the option to make the ‘right decision’.
“A customer choosing to change from a laser multifunction device to a heat- free device is just one piece in a much larger puzzle, but it is an easy choice to make and has numerous other benefits.
“Similarly with digitisation and digitalisation, the choice to make processes paperless, or at least paper- less, is already being implemented by many businesses. However, the sustainability benefits from reduced paper usage, is seldom discussed above productivity benefits, but the two go hand in hand.
“Sustainability and climate change is a hot topic now and will certainly be accelerated in 2022. I think a lot more conversations and decisions will be made based on climate impact and we’re ready for that, having championed sustainable solutions for many years already.”
Martin Roberts, Managing Director, Neuways
“I think that people are going to take the experience that they’ve had through the pandemic to recognise that flexible and agile systems are really what everyone should be investing in. When we as an MSP, had discussed business continuity in the past, it has always taken time for people to understand the need for it – people get it now as we’ve had the ultimate business continuity challenge with the pandemic.
“We helped many customers switch to more agile ways of working, by looking at new systems and new approaches. We’ve seen fantastic moves to Office 365 and Azure – and we expect that these types of moves will only keep accelerating, as well as moves to new ERP systems and business systems which help organisations to carry out processes with increased efficiency.
“There are businesses who have had a tough time over the last 18 months, who are now ready to make the switch to more agile systems. Unfortunately, it is coinciding with a skills shortage in our sector. The ‘logjam’ effect caused by the pandemic, means there are now a lot of businesses ready for their digital transformations, and the supply is struggling to meet demand, at the moment.
“Additionally, we are continuing to see major cyber security threats arise. Cyber criminals continue to develop new and smart tactics that test businesses, with a sole aim of exploiting and extorting victims that they manage to infiltrate.
“We actively try to inform and educate with a regular cyber threats bulletin issued via email. But the problem now is that cyber-criminal groups are selling their exploits and hacks to other, smaller groups. This means that the majority of businesses are being bombarded by cyber- attacks on a daily basis.
“I hope that more can be done to take down these criminals and bring a halt to the crimes they are committing. As a society, we have more resources than ever and they need to continue to be put into fighting cybercrime.
“But, yes, through investments in more flexible systems and ERP business systems, businesses can drastically improve how they operate. We have witnessed lots of supply chain disruption over the last year and a half, due to COVID and Brexit, but technology will be a massive part of the solution.
“Digital insights can advise businesses whether they need to hold more stock – because of potential supply chain disruption or slow down. This is why it is worth investing in proper warehousing technology, like barcoding or RFID scanning.
“To summarise, businesses need to establish how much they can afford to spend, and what they would like to achieve. Then, find the right IT partner and understand how you can meet those goals and objectives through an investment in technology.”
Clive Hamilton, Managing Director, Pinnacle
“Post pandemic has given real technology issues in terms of acquiring and delivering some parts of the portfolio, especially from the hardware side of things. Other challenges have been to rethink, retrain and redevelop the skillsets of staff, the go to market strategy and of course new services and solutions to offer to our clients.
“All this drives opportunity, in the short-term it allowed us to approach the marketplace and clients with new services and products that we may have only been talking about or planning for pre-COVID, so there was a real need to change what we were doing and how we were doing it to get improved coverage in all areas of the business. Print slowed right down so we needed to look at different ways to support that annuity revenue within the business. Print will recover to an extent and the volumes are already creeping back, albeit in a different way than it used to be accounted for. The opportunity is not so much about the printed document anymore, but the whole journey of the document from creation, mobility, flexibility, security storage and accessibility.
“Future trends must lean toward, in our sector, with us being more collaborative with other sectors bringing together bigger skills, disciplines and services for all our clients and new business opportunities. Where each partner at the table brings and adds real- time value to the customer by working together whilst having a share of the wallet. This will I believe following on from the recovery stage of the pandemic, open the doors to a possible increase in the mergers and acquisitions of businesses.”
Richard King, Channel Partner Manager, iTS
“A decade ago, the MPS to hardware attachment ratio was pretty low, however, over the last ten years we have seen a seismic shift with in-house print management solutions now included across the hardware contract as standard.
“That said, are the MPS solutions out there being fully utilised to help deliver digital workflows? If not, they will soon need to be as organisations are looking to resize their printer fleets to support a more flexible and hybrid workforce whilst also reassessing what office footprint they need.
“The paperless office hasn’t arrived yet, but one thing COVID has taught us is that organisations are now demanding a complete solution that can intelligently and efficiently move digital documents around their business. No longer a value- add or a differentiator in 2022, this will become the norm. Oh and by the way businesses will expect to have it in the cloud as well.”
Aidan Kehoe, Founder & CEO, SKOUT Cybersecurity
“As more small and medium-sized businesses become aware of growing cyber risks, MSPs will be able to capitalise on opportunity by continuing to acquire new clients. With the increasing number of emerging threats that we’re seeing in our Security Operations Center, security-centric MSPs (or MSPs that are ready to help growing organisations with a potential cyber crisis) are at the forefront of our current landscape. However, there are many challenges for MSPs looking to be cyber first. There’s a massive talent gap, which can make it difficult to manage multiple vendors when you assemble a cyber offering. That’s why we project that MSPs that standardise their cyber packages will see lower operating costs, because they’ll have to respond to fewer incidents, and generate more MRR/margin.
“We believe that every MSP will have to go security first in the coming years. Right now, SMBs have no one to call if they have a cyber problem. If there’s nobody or no infrastructure to rely on in the breach, MSPs will be the only people that workers can call in an emergency. We’ve seen increased awareness about security risk, and we predict that MSPs will only see more calls about breaches or security concerns.
“Ready or not, MSPs are the only organisations with the connections and the equipment to help SMBs address their cyber problems.
“We foresee the cybersecurity skills shortage getting worse in the future. The demand for individuals with years of experience in cyber (like CISOs and InfoSec Directors) is increasing at an exponential rate, but not enough people entered the industry ten or fifteen years ago to meet the demand today.
“A lot of people don’t understand what this means. But in short, this talent gap means that businesses can’t get the help they need, even if they want to. If businesses are unable to find and hire cyber talent, MSPs and their cyber partners (like Barracuda) are the only solution and will have to work together to find an answer to existing cyber problems for SMBs worldwide.”
Nicola De Blasi, CEO, MPS Monitor “Opportunity: 2022 is the chance to bring print back under control after the disruption of COVID, which accelerated the hybrid working model. Print ‘fell between the cracks’ during the pandemic, and while many companies have taken measures to ensure that remote print is now covered by their print policies, there are a fair number of companies that still haven’t tackled the security, cost and environmental impact of remote print. In 2022, this is an opportunity to change.
“Challenge: A challenge is how do you make print a C-level issue when organisations are already grappling with digital transformation, cloud migration, hybrid working strategies and mega-trends like 5G, the Internet of Things and smart cities? It’s hard to push print to the top of that list, yet it has to feature, because we all know of the consequences of a data breach, and unmanaged print can often be the cause of data leaks.
“Future trends: I think we’ll see more consolidation in the print market. Does this reduce choice for customers or is it a benefit when two best-of- breed companies merge? Only time will tell. I also think we’ll see print volumes continue to fall as companies show real commitment to meeting their sustainability goals.”
Elise McFarlane, Global Product Portfolio Marketing Manager, ECI Software Solutions
“It’s been really interesting to see how technology continues to transform the industry, especially as we emerge from the pandemic. At ECI, we’ve been focused on expanding our product offering throughout 2021, and have a number of exciting developments already scheduled for 2022.
“With most businesses adopting a hybrid working model, many are seeking a print management solution that can offer complete visibility of the performance of their print devices – no matter their location. I expect this trend will continue into 2022, especially with the continuation of hybrid working and the majority of businesses looking to make efficiency savings wherever possible.
“As the market is still very much in recovery mode, many dealers are still looking for subscription or just-in-time delivery models to keep their costs low, and this is something that we’ve been supporting at ECI. Now, with the right systems in place, humans no longer have to worry about physically ordering supplies themselves, as the devices can automatically process these orders and send notifications when stocks get low.
“With data security a hot topic, I believe we will see more and more businesses investing in technology that can protect their network. Our turnkey hosted printing service allows businesses to make their network printers available to those working remotely in a secure fashion and having listened to customers, this has given them real peace of mind.
“From a logistical point of view, the ability to add jobs to a printing queue from home and then print when they are next in the office, is an increasingly sought after feature from MPS software providers. As well as the functionality to assign every employee and client with their own unique PIN number and generate different project codes.
“Other visibility features such as ‘cost recover’ mode can help businesses keep a better eye on costs, tracking spend against each user’s account – even with staff working from home. This provides managers with a better overview of the business, as well as ensuring spend is justified.”
Steve Holmes, EMEA Regional Director, PaperCut
“There are some parallels between the pandemic and the preparations companies made for the GDPR. Both were drivers for change, causing organisations to look very closely at how they operate and function, and what needed to be done to optimise efficiency, productivity and security. The pandemic caused organisations to sharpen their post-GDPR focus even more. This means that organisations will enter 2022 leaner and more agile than before – in part driven by the added flexibility realised by moving core services and applications to the cloud – with employee wellbeing and sustainability taking centre stage. We believe 2022 has the potential to offer the channel close to hitherto unseen opportunities to support new and existing clients through this period of dramatic transformation. All of this will happen against a backdrop of evolving tech mega-trends, like 5G, the Internet of Things and Smart Cities.
“Perhaps one of the biggest challenges when it comes to embracing the new opportunities is change management. Employees have been put through so much of late – from furlough, to working from home, adapting to video calls while missing out on the all-important social aspect of work – but there’s one more big push coming; asking them to think and adopt more sustainable ways of working. It’s important that they see the value in it and that they are supported in their efforts to do so. The channel’s role here is, first, to work with vendors who prioritise sustainability and, second, to work with their clients to encourage it. The challenge for the channel is whether it can show that it has changed its ways too and it is prepared to lead by example. More broadly speaking, the problems relating to the availability of raw materials and components like semi-conductors are being compounded by problems in the supply chain and the shortage of HGV drivers. The knock-on effect of this will continue to be felt into 2022.
“There’s still a lot of post-COVID dust to settle, and given the turmoil of the last 18 months, 2022 may be a year where we embrace stability rather more change. However, around the edges, I think crypto currency and blockchain will feature prominently as tech to watch, along with the technologies that underpin the delivery of goods and services to our front doors – from food to furniture – as making that ‘last mile’ ever more cost- effective and efficient is vital for online businesses selling physical products to customers.”