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Helpful Hints on How to Hyperspecialize in 7 Hot Sectors

Struggling to find the right area of hyperspecialization for your business? Read on for tips on what industry leaders in seven verticals are looking for in 2018.

Kris Blackmon

October 10, 2017

5 Min Read
Helpful Hints on How to Hyperspecialize in 7 Hot Sectors

Analysts and channel experts have been hammering home the need for partners to hyperspecialize in order to succeed in the new channel ecosystem. Partners searching for the right niche might see promise in a series of industry use cases in a new report from Forbes Insight and Dell EMC. CIOs and CFOs from enterprises in seven industry verticals expounded upon the business outcomes they hope to achieve through digital IT transformation and the technologies they’re investing in to achieve those goals.

The VAR Guy has broken down the takeaways from each interview to give you a succinct guide to what some large organizations are focusing on in terms of IT modernization—and maybe provide a little insight as to how you can sell your services to business leaders in these sectors.

Insurance & Financial Services

  • Organization: Aviva

  • Desired Business Outcomes: flexibility, speedy go to market

  • Investment Areas: cloud solutions

  • “Digital technologies are fundamentally impacting the types of products we sell,” says Pete Marsden, digital CIO at Aviva, a worldwide provider of insurance, savings and investment products headquartered in London. “To bring new products to market very quickly, our digital systems must be flexible enough for us to change them every day — we can’t wait six to 18 months to respond if the business comes up with a fantastic idea. As a result, I have to build incredible flexibility into our systems to make sure we can react at that kind of speed.”

Travel & Hospitality

  • Organization: Royal Resorts

  • Desired Business Outcomes: expanded customer base, deeper customer insights, additional business units

  • Investment Areas: cloud-based CRM, IT infrastructure modernization, business & IT integration

  • “The all-inclusive project was a huge disruption at our company,” says Carlos Gonzalez Alvarado, CIO. “We now have four distinct business units, each of them very successful, but they’re pursuing different goals, and the [business and IT] operations aren’t well integrated. So, we proposed a way to align the business units in a single process around the customer journey, and that’s the transformation effort we’re working on now.”

Dining & Entertainment

  • Organization: Panera Bread

  • Desired Business Outcomes: streamlined e-commerce platform, expanded to-go sales operations, digital & mobile solutions

  • Investment Areas: Infrastructure-as-a-Service, marketing & web analytics, recruiting & payroll solutions

  • “If we have two sandwich lines running in a café during lunchtime, we use our digital systems to balance the order flow for each line,” Mike Bufano, CFO of Panera Bread, explains. “Once we built out our IT infrastructure, we’ve learned it can open up a wide variety of opportunities for us… We recognized pretty quickly that digital interactions with customers are some of the biggest sales drivers we have, so you have to give it room to grow and develop over time.”


  • Organization: GE Digital

  • Desired Business Outcomes: Industrial Internet of Things dominant market share, increased productivity, cost savings in supply chain

  • Investment Areas: IIoT sensors, big data analytics

  • “The intersection of business goals and information technology is essential to industrial firms today,” notes Khozema Shipchandler, global CFO for GE Digital, a San Ramon, California, business unit within General Electric that is promulgating the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Shipchandler notes that while productivity gains have plateaued at about 1% for industrial companies in recent years, the IIoT technology used internally has yielded gains of 4%, with related cost savings through more efficient supply chains, manufacturing lines and other corporate-wide activities.


  • Organization: Federal Communications Commission

  • Desired Business Outcomes: reduce cost of maintaining legacy IT infrastructure, IT modernization

  • Investment Areas: migration to the cloud, XaaS platforms

  • Thus far, the migration is about 40% complete. The result: In the past, 85% of the FCC’s IT budget went to maintaining the legacy infrastructure, a percentage that has now dropped to less than 50%, says David Bray, the CIO who led the project and who was recently named to the new role of chief ventures officer at the U.S. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. The cloud project achieved a significant reduction in legacy IT spend. Even though IT operations had a flat budget, the savings produced from its digital transformation effort will now help fund the FCC’s continuous modernization efforts to its applications, so that it doesn’t face a similar “legacy IT glut” in the future, Bray says.


  • Organization: University of California Berkeley

  • Desired Business Outcomes: increased student engagement, better & more streamlined teacher/student communication & collaboration, modernize teaching methods

  • Investment Areas: A/V & classroom technology, cloud migration, office application automation, collaboration tools

  • “Much of higher education still follows an old business model — the ‘sage on the stage’ lecture,” says Kevin Cornish, CIO. “But with digital technology, we have new opportunities to partner with faculty to better engage their students. Methods range from delivering lectures prerecorded in our studio so students can consume information before class and then use the modern classroom resources for interactive discussions and group problem-solving activities to the development of highly engaging online courses that enable students to create a uniquely tailored path through the course content that meets their individualized learning objective.”

Oil & Gas

  • Organization: Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex)

  • Desired Business Outcomes: boost internal efficiency, end losses from oil thieves, enhance customer service

  • Investment Areas: modern IT platforms, IIoT, data analytics

  • “Digital transformation is important because it enables us to partner or compete with world-class companies, which themselves are undergoing massive technology changes. We’d better be at the same level, otherwise we are going to lose… [gas theft] has been around for the last 10 years, but now we have analytics and the sensors to give us insights into the behavior of the thieves,” Rodrigo Becerra, corporate director and CIO, explains. “We haven’t fully solved the problem, but we see improvement.”

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About the Author(s)

Kris Blackmon

Head of Channel Communities, Zift Solutions

Kris Blackmon is head of channel communities at Zift Solutions. She previously worked as chief channel officer at JS Group, and as senior content director at Informa Tech and project director of the MSP 501er Community. Blackmon is chair of CompTIA's Channel Development Advisory Council and operates KB Consulting. You may follow her on LinkedIn and @zift on X.

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