COVER-STORY: Flexible, collegial and capable – NZ's IT channel looks ahead

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Despite Aotearoa New Zealand's small population and remote location, its digital economy, built on the backbone of innovation and delivery, punches well above its weight and shows no sign of slowing.

CRN NZ spoke with three Kiwi channel leaders about what makes the local IT channel and the industry it supports so strong. We also discussed some of the opportunities and challenges that they expect to arise in the coming year.

“I think our biggest strength is our ability to partner,” said Michael Russel, managing director of IT services provider The Instillery.

“We see a real community that wants to work together, that is comfortable with 'coopetition' (and) that sees that with the right focus and the right areas, we can all play nicely together."

Igor Portugal, chief growth officer at MSP OneNet, agrees that the 'make it work' attitude is a boon to the NZ channel, but warns that there is a risk of taking it too far. 

“Many managed service providers offer a catalogue of services so large, that if you dig deeper into their expertise, they only have one or two people who are experts in a specific area."

"One of the biggest areas for me, for the channel to improve, would be to develop some areas of expertise.”

The biggest challenge presented to NZ’s IT channel at the moment is the widely reported shortage of senior IT talent who can complete high-demand projects and mentor incoming graduates.

While it may be difficult to spare the time and money needed to get grads up to speed, Hallet says that it is an act of altruism that is desperately needed to keep the industry afloat.

“A lot of our clients don't want juniors, they only want senior people and are paying good money to have this problem solved today,” David Hallet, founder and director of software services provider Company X said.

“There is a real skill shortage. Yes, there is also a bit of an oversupply of graduates … You've got to take a bit of a hit in terms of your profitability to train these people, but that's what's needed, you need to invest and train and build people.”

Cyber security is at once one of the channel's greatest opportunities and one of its greatest challenges.

“Many boards of directors are recognising that potential cyber attacks are key business risk,” Portugal said. “it needs to be managed at the board level and mitigated with expert care and attention as any board level risk would.”

To truly be able to provide cyber risk mitigation in this new world of digital risk, Hallett explains, takes a deep level of understanding and significant technical capability. 

“Some of the fastest growing companies in New Zealand are in the specialist security consultancy space or cyber security space, because, the fact is that there are lots approaches where you can just throw everything at it, and that's not necessarily the best approach,” he said. 

Security is now a fundamental part of any digital solution, Russell added, and should be considered at every point in the process of development and implementation and always with the customer's needs and budget in mind. 

“If I look at a cloud transformation or if I look at a modern work program, you need to make sure that, security is considered and it's not something you add on afterwards, you design it and craft that as part of the start of that journey,” he said.

When it comes to opportunities for digital services providers, the rise of the data centre may be one of the biggest moments for the cloud scene in recent years. 

“Azure and AWS coming here is the boost of confidence that I think many of those businesses that are sceptical to move into the cloud need,” Portugal said. “The major cloud providers are legitimising the cloud in New Zealand, and this will enable everyone, both the sceptics but also those who care about data sovereignty, to start moving into the cloud.”

Watch the video above for the full interview, with all of the insights and advice on these topics and more.

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© CRN New Zealand

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