Julie Henehan, who joined Shire Leasing in February 2019 as Corporate Development Director, heads Shire's new Southern Office. With a background in vendor focused asset finance, Henehan holds over 20 years of experience in the business finance industry in which she has previously held senior leadership roles at Newcourt, GE Capital, CIT and PEAC in both the UK and the Nordic region. Here she shares her predictions for the future of the IT reseller market and how flexible finance could be crucial to access new technologies and to keep pace in managing rapid change. The big question? Why should we be ahead of the trend?
AI is developing rapidly and filtering its way through the commercial markets. The technology is becoming commonplace in offices but, currently, only in small ways – smartphones (Siri), live chat applications and analytics. But AI is predicted to become the next ‘big thing’ that we won’t be able to live without.
Businesses who make use of new technology before it becomes a trend can position themselves ahead of the competition and will also be far more prepared for when the trend catches on, already familiar with the technology while the competition is struggling to keep up.
The benefits of integrating AI technology into the workplace are already clear. While AI handles time-consuming, low-value administrative tasks, employees are left with more time to concentrate on projects that add value to the business, increasing productivity and profit margins.
In this competitive market, we’re all in a race to be more efficient, enhance the customer experience and generate more business, creating a real opportunity for those that are able to move quickly. The bottom line is that it’s vital to keep pace with new technology that is driving your customers’ efficiency, or they might just risk falling behind and losing their position at the top of the market.
But being the first to adopt, poses challenges
Having worked with IT resellers for more than 15 years, I am more than aware of the vast knowledge they have not only in technological advancements, but how to ensure their customers are receiving sound advice and are being future-proofed against obsolescence.
While it’s fundamentally important to keep pace with new technology, customers may fear it is both expensive and potentially outdated before its ‘written down’. It’s a journey many resellers have to take with their customers and it’s one that we are also posed with on a daily basis.
New technology starts its reign with an unstable period of rapid change. Take the evolution of the smartphone, for example. Although the first device to be considered a smartphone, the Simon Personal Communicator, was available commercially in 1994, smartphones only rose to prominence after Apple joined the race in 2007 with the first iPhone. Since then, smartphones have grown to be integral to the telecoms environment, with continuous advancements and rapid changes from 3g through to 5g and colour screens through to 4k video recording.
A decade ago, if your customers’ competitors had the latest smartphone, with a long battery life and fast internet connection, enabling them to pick up and respond quickly to their customers when travelling, it could have been considered a threat.
AI is still in its infant years, often useful but also often prone to error, and still has a long way to develop before it will become as integral as the smartphone is today. But it’s the pace of change that the smartphone underwent that we can draw comparisons with, and learn from.
Investing in connected technology now to support data collection from real world interactions is a key element to pave the way for an AI-enriched environment for the future.
Flexible financing is crucial to managing the rate of change
As new technology becomes more prominent, the need for flexible finance will increase as more businesses invest to future-fit their business and need an affordable solution. Flexible finance can manage the rate of change by allowing businesses to switch to the latest applications and software as soon as they are brought onto market, without having to make the difficult decision of replacing an entire office of expensive equipment from capital budgets.
But it won’t be just an increase in demand for finance that will provide opportunity to resellers; businesses will also need technical expertise and advice on the right AI solutions for their needs.
Technology is an area we are always pushing. As an award-winning innovator within the asset finance industry, we understand the need to deliver the technology our resellers would both expect, and demand. Online tools and automation aids the process; functions such as online portals or dashboards and mobile applications allow for sales to be completed outside of normal operating hours and the various stages of a finance sale to be progressed independently.
We often forget the massive skills shortage that accompanied the wide-spread use of IT systems, and that still exists, to some extent. The same is predicted for the emergence of AI, increasing the need for experts in the field. We need to be ready to offer our customers solutions to the fast-approaching ‘Industry 5.0’ revolution, albeit more prevalent in manufacturing but as we have seen, creeping into other environments.
As an independent lessor, we have the flexibility to assess and implement new products and services and be quick to deploy support. It’s not just the technology that’s changing - the cloud, AI and even robotics are making up the suite of resellers’ armoury, and while end users may fear change, our resellers can manage the pace.