Customers are asking partners whether they drink their own DX champagne. Do you have a good answer?

January 10, 2018

4 Min Read


Grant Kirkwood

By Grant Kirkwood, Co-Founder and CTO, Unitas Global

Digital transformation, or the changes that occur in society when digital technologies are introduced, is not a new phenomenon. In his 1995 book, “Being Digital,” then-director of the MIT Media Lab Nicholas Negroponte wrote, “The change from atoms to bits is irrevocable and unstoppable. Why now? Because the change is also exponential — small differences of yesterday can have suddenly shocking consequences tomorrow.”

Though “Being Digital” was published over 20 years ago, Negroponte had already anticipated the profound impact that digital transformation would have on society and businesses. And thanks to hybrid cloud, big-data analytics and other technology drivers, digital transformation is happening faster than even Negroponte could have predicted.

Sandra Cheek, vice president of global partners and alliances at Ciena, commented on this exponential growth at the recent Channel Partners Evolution 2017.

“Digital transformation has been going on for the last 20 to 30 years,” said Cheek. “What has changed is the profound speed of technology and the impact of how the customer is in the driver’s seat now, and that impacts how you … sell and distribute technology.”

The speed and depth of disruption has put increasing pressure on businesses of all kinds to keep pace. That includes not only technology suppliers and service providers, but also channel partners who will be dealing more directly with customers. The good news: Analyst firm IDC forecasts worldwide spending on digital transformation (DX) technologies will be more than $1.2 trillion in 2017, an increase of 17.8 percent over 2016. Spending on DX could eventually reach $2 trillion in 2020.

So how do you capture some of that? By realizing that being positioned for digital transformation isn’t just about adopting technology. It’s ultimately about transforming customer businesses to be more successful.

A more accurate term to define this change is “digital business transformation,” a fundamental shift in the way businesses operate. Digital business transformation completely redefines internal and external activities, processes, competencies and models. One example is hybrid cloud. By helping customers combine public- and private-cloud computing, you allow them to deploy the new applications driving digital in a cost-effective and agile way. Rather than building and operating complex infrastructure, they can spend time developing new applications and new ways to serve customers.

Show, Don’t Tell

There’s no doubt customers require support from trusted and experienced suppliers and partners to enjoy the full benefits of digital transformation. But to truly add value, partners must also embrace digital transformation themselves. That means having a …

… coherent strategy to deal with future disruption.

Jim Chow, Google’s enterprise cloud solution evangelist and strategic partnerships/channels executive, stressed the need for businesses to get ahead of these technologies before they are fully adopted.

“If you are looking for growth in your business, and where your customers are going, you need to have a very proactive strategy rather than entering this space in a reactive way,” said Chow.

Here are a few recommendations to make sure everyone benefits from digital transformation:

  • Embrace digital technologies. It might sound obvious, but how can suppliers and partners expect to have credibility with customers regarding digital transformation if they are not using technologies and services, such as hybrid cloud, to run their own systems?

  • Specialize. Partners should look to specialize in a few verticals, or perhaps even a single vertical. Understanding the real impact of digital transformation requires sector-specific knowledge. If you can establish your credentials in a given market, you are more likely to get repeat business with existing clients and benefit from recommendations.

  • Engage senior management. The C-suite, from the supply and demand sides, should be involved in strategic decision making when it comes to digital transformation. As IDC put it, “Digital transformation is a board-level initiative and is at the heart of business strategies for companies of all sizes.”

  • Educate and coordinate. Given the huge market potential of DX technologies and services, partners may be tempted to just accrue enough information about a supplier’s products or services to begin selling immediately. But the more expertise partners can glean from suppliers, the better the outcome for all sides.

I believe 2018 will be the year that digital transformation truly takes hold, even in those businesses that have resisted change. The good news is that while many customers will have already embarked on a DX journey, few, if any, will have reached their final destinations. That means opportunity is still plentiful, but only for those suppliers and partners that have the experience and credibility to guide customers on their journeys.

As CTO of Unitas Global, Grant Kirkwood is forever on the lookout for new, innovative approaches to solving today’s IT challenges. Prior to founding Unitas Global, he served as CTO at PacketExchange, a global network service provider with 65 points of presence throughout North America, Europe and Asia.

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