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Wayne Gretzsky, one of hockey’s greatest legends and goal-scorers, was once asked why he was so successful. Gretzky gave the advice to “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” As we head into a new year filled with challenge and change, this is great advice for channel partners: get your business to move to where the market and your customers are going; not where they are today.

In this spirit, we see four key items driving change and challenge for solution providers in 2013:

1. New Business models: Solution providers need to build business models that are designed to deliver services and solutions to their customers, not just sell products. Gone are the days when customers just want a channel partner to fulfill a product need. They truly want trusted advisers: someone who can guide them through the technology industry changes and help provide them with competitive differentiation in their market or industry. This will be increasingly important as we head into the new year and its economic uncertainty. Similarly, we anticipate continued consolidation among channel partners as they team up with other solution providers to meet these challenges.

2. Cloud: Closely related to new business models for solution providers is new business models for their customers, namely the adoption of Software-, Infrastructure-, and Platform-as-a-Service (SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS, respectively). Many enterprises are looking to build and deploy services via clouds. Cloud is no-longer a buzzword; it's a reality and solution providers have a huge opportunity to help their customers migrate to the cloud.

3. Big Data: Real-time analytics and decision making are making big data a big reality. The amount of data being produced by enterprises is staggering and providing ways to make better decisions using this data is all about providing your customers with differentiation and competitive advantage. They are looking to you to show them the way. Fast growing enterprise organizations looking to glean the most useful information from their growing data sets will seek out solution providers with big data capabilities.

4. Enterprise Mobility / Application Strategy: The sophistication of mobile applications is set to explode in the next few years. Solution providers and ISVs need to build applications that best align with their target marketing and deliver the style of application that is best suited for the task at hand. We expect cloud and big data to be two core elements of these applications and solution providers need to develop skill sets and practices around application modernization tools so they can help their customers migrate existing applications to where their markets and industries are headed.

For many solution providers, 2013 is going to be a year of challenge and change. Many have already embraced change, adopted new business models and are thriving despite the global economic conditions in which we operate. They have already created their competitive differentiation and have already moved to where their customers want to be in the future. As Gretzsky’s advice implies, move to where you want to go, and you’ll be well positioned for success.

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