The race to e-Christmas – will it be trouble free?

Christian Magirus, VP at Avnet Services EMEA

A recent IMRG study found the internet is expected to account for 27% of sales for multi-channel retailers during the last quarter of this year. eCommerce has been growing very strongly for more than 10 years, and mobile commerce have added even more impetus to this trend. Last year, Forrester predicted that European online retail sales will grow 11% a year up to 2017. The pace of growth will be fastest, at 18% per year, in southern European countries like Italy and Spain. eCommerce system performance will therefore be a significant source of revenue generation and an especially important area for retailers’ attention as the year draws to a close this year.

 

But how can we really prepare for this onslaught of consumers? Solution providers and value-added resellers (VARs) in EMEA need to turn to the most effective solutions to help their retail clients optimise eCommerce systems for this end-of-year increase in demand.

 

The busiest day overall in terms of internet purchasing is predicted to be the first Monday in December, although the peak day does vary by retailer. Some department store chains in Europe are predicting the busiest day in the run up to Christmas will be ‘Cyber Sunday’, when shoppers, armed with one of the final pay packets of the year, will hit the Internet to buy most of their presents.

 

Solution providers and VARs are in an excellent position to contribute to trouble free online ordering, transaction processing and logistics for their retail clients. These following practical steps are designed to help partners address their retail clients’ business challenges, such as eCommerce system slowdowns and failures:

  • Sort recurring website ‘issues’ now, don’t wait  Partners should work with their retail clients to baseline eCommerce sites before the holiday season begins, helping retailers immediately recognise if something abnormal occurs to the website functionality during the holiday season. Also, auditing sites allows partners and retailers to identify small and recurring errors that could multiply during times of heavy site traffic. Remediating these seemingly small problems before the holiday season, such as simply reducing errors written to logs, can significantly improve site performance during critical periods.
  • Assess sites to reduce risk – Partners should also carefully review retailers’ local and edge caching strategies, which often have not been updated since their sites went live. Any adjustments made should be tested to reduce the risk of a poorly performing site. Additionally, partners should examine retailers’ sites holistically. An assessment of items such as infrastructure stability, bandwidth usage, network backups and other back-end systems can help identify areas that could have a negative impact under increased holiday transactional loads.
  • Improve the omnichannel experience  In this digitally savvy world, customers now expect easy access to eCommerce sites through any device. Partners can work with retailers to incorporate solutions such as responsive web design (RWD), into retailers’ sites. This allows retailers to build one set of source code that can be adapted to any new device – smartphones, tablets, desktop browsers, etc.
  • Proactive site management leads to early detection of issues – Partners should also ensure that their retail clients have quantitative and qualitative tools to help IT support teams proactively manage the site during heavy loads. Actively monitoring user experiences can help retailers rapidly pinpoint issues, such as long-running pages and bad promotion codes, as they arise, reducing their impact to improve the customer experience during the e-Christmas rush.
  • Support for the support teams – As trusted advisors, partners should also discuss customer support team communication strategies with retailers. Customer support teams are often not as familiar with eCommerce sites as they need to be. By making time before the holiday season to gauge the support team’s confidence, retailers can help ensure support teams have 100% proficiency navigating and working on eCommerce sites. If needed, partners and retailers can create refresher training programmes to review overall operations, with an emphasis on explaining changes that have occurred since the previous year’s holiday season.

For more information please email: biz-sol.emea@avnet.com.

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Posted under E-Commerce

“In the channel we need to solve business issues, not just push products”

Wayne Gratton, EMEA SolutionsPath business development director

Recent market insights have shown that growth in the IT market overall is relatively flat. In Western Europe alone the market has only experienced one percent growth, worth €1.513 billion ($2.07bn). Today, growth in IT is about market segments where solutions are packaged up from multiple IT components into single, optimised computing solutions, such as converged infrastructure and virtualisation technologies. For example, commodity servers are growing at a rate of 1.3 percent whereas converged infrastructure is at 54 percent. Vertical markets are also becoming more important to channel market growth. Finance, healthcare, retail and government are presenting bigger opportunities for the channel. In Western Europe alone, government spending on IT is €53 billion ($72bn).

Vertical growth markets

These are growth markets that are pushing the channel towards selling market specialisations and ‘whole’ solutions rather than single IT components. Resellers need to focus on this if they are to stay ahead of the competition. For players in the IT channel to achieve this distributors also need to adapt to a new, more vertically focused consultative role as a key component of channel enablement.

It’s no longer about selling the latest product in the market; it’s about helping customers to achieve their goals facilitated by IT. Distribution has a big part to play to enable the channel to understand their customers’ businesses and IT needs in their vertical markets. How business is conducted and how people work today is completely different to how it was five years ago. The global workforce is more digitally savvy, brought on by more access to information and development of the Internet, social networking and the proliferation of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones in the enterprise. Such trends have forced a big shift in end customers’ needs and consequently, the IT channel is now being driven by having to address business challenges rather than simply pushing products.

Looking at addressing only one area of the mobility trend, for example, like security is a common misunderstanding which results in resellers overlooking areas of IT growth like virtualisation for mobile data storage. In addition, vertical growth sectors like healthcare, where mobility solutions need to be strategically tailored, are often ignored. It’s important for resellers to understand there are different drivers in vertical sectors such as: security features in healthcare are focused around data protection for digital health records over and above supporting trends like remote working.

More consultative role for distributors

All of this is not only changing a reseller’s approach to selling products but it’s changing the role of the distributor. To deliver optimised solutions rather than just standard commodity technologies, distributors now have a wider ecosystem at their finger tips where they deal with everything from large system integrators to managed service providers. A distributor’s enablement strategies should be geared towards how to target and position technologies to meet business challenges rather than just talking about what technologies do in a standalone way.

The value added services a distributor provides are now more about addressing growth markets – whether that’s vertically focused or technology focused like big data – and helping resellers understand these. Whether it’s virtual or physical IT assets, a simple upgrade or a capacity issue, today distributors should be at the centre of the value chain. They should take complex products and help resellers solve business issues their customers encounter. Distributors can help resellers look at how to apply technology rather than the other, more conventional way around of only looking at the technology features.

Channel resellers can leverage a distributor’s global relationships and local expertise in these growth areas to deliver an effective supply chain which is married with local insight on in-country trends to support end customer needs. For this reason, overall, distribution is more consultative as it’s about bringing knowledge and alliances together more than ever before. As consultants, distributors need to facilitate the training resellers requirement to learn more about these markets so they can sell best-of-breed solutions which address business needs, in each vertical sector. This also means distributors need to get involved in business planning to look at key IT trends for growth. This will allow them to take the time to show resellers, partners and end customers how to capitalise on the exciting, ever evolving IT marketplace.

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Posted under Globalisation, SolutionsPath

This post was written by on June 9, 2014

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Now is the time to consolidate corporate data

Miriam Murphy, senior vice president, enterprise business group at Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA

Miriam Murphy, senior vice president, enterprise business group at Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA

Now is the time to consolidate corporate data says Miriam Murphy, senior vice president, enterprise business group at Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA.

As data volumes surge, Miriam believes organisations need to implement a centralised data management system to handle the information economy.

Today’s C-level executives are working hard to deal with the challenges of new trends such as BYOD, Mobile Device Management (MDM) and cloud computing causing an explosion of data. According to IDC, the big data market will reach €11.8bn ($16.1bn) this year. To harness the power of big data, I believe companies need to consider enterprise-wide consolidation to address business demands, including cost efficiency, increasing productivity, security and flexibility. These market needs will lead to the transformation of the data centre which is something partners and resellers need to be aware of so they don’t miss out on growth opportunities.

The consumerisation of IT, increasing numbers of users, more devices and increased mobility are affecting the way companies approach their data centre strategies, with the increasing volume of corporate data pushing the storage environment to a new level. During Q3 2013 the storage market generated 101% more storage capacity than the same quarter in 2012. This ever-increasing capacity of corporate data amount of data needs to be backed up and securely stored, so that it is easily accessible to employees. Because of these trends, companies are searching for storage solutions to meet real life business demands – it’s not simply “one size fits all”. According to Gartner, the importance, role and functionality of the data centre is set to change over the next five years. The questions we as a global value added distributor are asking are: which storage solution will be able to cope with both current and future storage demands? As data volume is only going to grow, which solution can most effectively solve key business demands?

Today, IT departments are being asked to do more with less, increasing availability and responsiveness while cutting costs. However, according to recent research from KPMG, 42% of executives admit that integrating data technology into existing systems and/or business models is their greatest challenge. On speaking with our partners and end customers, it seems that by consolidating data into one centralised database, you are assured a holistic view of global information, which is manageable from a single location. In addition, with so much information being accessed from numerous geographies, it’s ineffectual for data to be shared and duplicated across multiple databases. With one, centralised system, no redundancy is allowed; there is one place to add, update and remove data, maintaining data integrity and assuring simplified data administration.

By centralising corporate data, productivity can be improved and training is a much quicker and simpler practice. With all processes in the same place and format, users have just one system to understand, which saves time on training and improves efficiency in retrieving data. There’s also no time wasted waiting for synchronisation across different geographies and instant changes can be made to information which lowers occurrences of data duplication and inaccuracies.

Indeed, the data centre is the central point of an IT infrastructure, the place where all sensitive, confidential information is gathered. Therefore, it’s a place where security solutions need to be extremely efficient. By approaching data management with a single corporate database, not only are updates synced but so are all security measures, from one central location. By employing a preventive approach and only giving certain staff authorised access to update security measures, businesses can reduce the chance of successful hacking attacks.

Market and industry trends are changing the world of work, driving companies to not just improve but to transform their approach to business processes and data centre management. I believe that by implementing a centralised data system, companies will be able to address the need to store increasingly large volumes of corporate data, while meeting business needs such as increased productivity and reduced costs. Partners and resellers need to start educating end users about preparing now for the continuous surge in data volumes by putting an effective, reliable and flexible management strategy in place.

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Posted under IT infrastructure

2014 Tech Trends

Steve Phillips, our CIO, has provided his top trends for 2014. This should help provide you with best practice to address these trends.  

 

This year’s look at top tech trends from my perspective is more about evolution rather than revolution. While the list may seem somewhat static compared to previous years, the importance is in how these trends are being applied within Avnet’s business over the next 12 months.

 

Number #3

Mobile strategy/BYOD

As we continue to embrace BYOD and CYOD (choose your own device) across the company, our main question is this – how do we protect and back up company data and applications while also ensuring the integrity and privacy of the employee’s personal data on the same device? As tablets gain mainstream acceptance as daily business devices we need to have an answer to this question in 2014. “Containerization” is one approach we’re considering this coming year. The goal is to divide employee devices into two logical containers – a corporate container and a personal container. Data and apps on the corporate side can be secured, backed up and even wiped remotely like any Avnet-owned hardware. What makes containerization appealing is that all of this is that this can take place without disturbing an employee’s personal contacts, photos, apps and data.

 

Number #2

Predictive Analytics or “Big Data”

Today Avnet stores more than one and a half petabytes of data. This is tremendous value if we can present it in a way that helps drive better decision making. We’re currently in the process of implementing SAP’s HANA solution to help us do just that. HANA will give us the foundation we need to start rolling out the tools and technologies that can help us extract the full value of our data. But big data is much more than just a hardware and software roll out. In my last tech trends video I laid out Avnet’s framework of the critical elements I believe are needed to make the most out of any data analytics implementation. You can be sure our own big data journey is focused on addressing any of those elements in 2014 without them it’ll be difficult to deliver the accurate reports and business insights our leaders and partners are going to be relying on to make critical business decisions.

 

My number #1 technology trend for Avnet in 2014 is

IT Security

This year we’re going to be focusing on a few areas including data loss prevention. Data loss prevention is all about giving us visibility into what data is moving around Avnet and where it is going. That way we can better read and react to potential security breaches with the right plan of action. At the same time we’re going to be working on better protecting Avnet systems and data even when they’re off the Avnet network. As malicious hackers focus more of their efforts on targeting employees, rather than data centres, it’s imperative that we prevent our people from being exposed as much as possible when they’re on the go.” 

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Posted under Big data, BYOD; celebrating mobility

This post was written by on December 16, 2013

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The Four Keys to a Successful Software Vendor Agreement

 

Avnet TS EMEAAs companies grow in size, the streamlined individual software license model can morph into something larger and more complex: the enterprise software agreement. The variables to consider in these contracts extend well beyond the basics of price, performance, longevity and support.

Here are four additional dimensions of larger software agreements that you should take into account before releasing that purchase order:

#1 Enterprise Licensing Arrangements

Determining whether to buy in volume through an enterprise license or to purchase individually on a “per seat” basis starts with a good understanding of your company’s usage model.

  • For consistent usage, general purpose and/or large user bases – Some enterprise licenses are offered “buffet style,” meaning for one annual fixed price you can download and use as much as you like across your operation.

The goal here, of course, is to maximise the value of your investment by leveraging the software as much as possible.

  • For inconsistent usage, specialised purpose and/or small user bases – In this case, a “pay as you go” arrangement might be the best approach, with the software vendor conducting periodic audits to capture usage and true up with the client afterwards.

This works especially well with specific engineering software, financial or legal applications, or tools for designers.

The other aspect to consider with any enterprise licensing is the business relationship with the vendor. Are they a vendor, or are they a true strategic partner?

The larger the engagement is and the more mission-critical it is to your business, the more support, access and consulting services you may need from the partner to ensure you get maximum return on your investment.

#2 Substitution Clauses

As software new product rollout cycles continue to shrink, you don’t want to be tied to obsolete software through your enterprise agreement.

Before negotiating your software agreement, take a look at the vendor’s development roadmap first. Does it include options that might align with your own company strategy and future need?

If so, consider adding a substitution clause that allows you to swap out current licenses for those new products if they become available during the duration of the agreement and if they do support your strategy at the time.

Negotiating what is eligible for substitution through the enterprise agreement – and at what value – is highly advantageous in these situations. Be sure to find out:

  1. What products can be tagged for substitution eligibility? Which are not eligible?
  2. Is it a 1:1 substitution ratio, with every old product updated to the new product, or is it 2:1, 3:1 or higher?
  3. What happens if the initiative or software doesn’t roll out as planned? Will alternate licenses be offered, or will the scope of the contract be reduced?

#3 Portability

Businesses of all sizes are continuously adding (and removing) personnel based on individual and business performance as well as overall market conditions. So it’s important that your software profile can adapt to the changing needs of your business during the duration of the agreement. The key term here is “portability”.

Portability ensures that you don’t pay double if an individual in your company is let go in Month One of your enterprise agreement and another person is hired to fill that position in Month Two.

A “portable” software license allows that single seat license to be used by anyone who fills that seat, not only the person it was originally activated for.

#4 The Total Solution

Some software you purchase will require specific hardware to function properly, or specific platforms come highly recommended from the vendor for best performance.

Purchasing a full solution from the software vendor often leads to better performance and support overall, so it’s not always a bad idea.

However, don’t overpay for that total solution. You don’t have to work in IT distribution to know that hardware margins have been shrinking over the last 20-30 years, so as you negotiate focus on the software pricing.

That’s where the biggest costs will be. But at the same time don’t take your eye off the hardware costs either. If that system pricing doesn’t feel competitive, don’t hesitate to renegotiate.

While enterprise software agreements can be more intimidating than individual licensing arrangements, there’s nothing to fear.

By understanding your own particular use case and taking the four dimensions above into account during the negotiation, you should arrive at an agreement that meets the needs of your growing business for years to come.

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Posted under IT Software

This post was written by on December 11, 2013

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