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Who calls the shots on digital transformation

Frank Basinski, Red Hat, digital transformation
Frank Basinski, Red Hat

Frank Basinski, director, Partner Programs and Enablement EMEA, Red Hat, examines, who should be responsible for a firm’s digital transformation journey.

Digital transformation has arrived, but the power behind purchases no longer lies solely in the hands of IT leads

IDC forecasts a worldwide spend on digital transformation technologies of $1.2 Trillion in 2017 – a 17.8 per cent increase from 2016. From this, it is clear that the hunger for digital transformation is rapidly accelerating.

For example, the rise of digital transformation is revolutionising how the healthcare industry operates. Bespoke mobile applications, whereby patients are able to input information and medical professionals are then able to access the data ahead of consultations are being deployed more and more and 3D bandages that use 5G wireless data and nano-sized sensors to transmit data about the patient’s wounds, location and activity are also in testing.

Digital transformation can be seen all around us. It is the backbone behind most smart city strategies, improving everything from public Wi-Fi access to traffic congestion. It is the facilitator behind improving cross-collaboration between government sectors, and the driver for revolutionising the finance industry and the rise of the on-demand economy. It truly is a cross-industry phenomenon.

According to IDC, 89 percent of organisations have identified digital transformation as a priority. This comes as no surprise considering the drive towards this journey stems from the belief that it will increase agility, revenues and profits and enhance the customer experience. Therefore, regardless of the industry you’re in – digital transformation is the focus in 2017 and it is finessing the way businesses of all shapes and sizes operate for years to come.

Joining the digital transformation dots

Interestingly, the acceleration of digital transformation is blurring the lines between who is calling the shots when it comes to technology. In a recent survey done by Red Hat, partners were asked who was most frequently responsible for the adoption of digital across their customer base. It might be expected that the person behind this is the CTO, yet only 29.5 per cent of partners stated this role was most responsible against 49.5 per cent that said it was the CEO’s concern. Furthermore, the research results showed that 8 per cent of partners considered the emerging role of Chief Digital Officer (CDO) as being the most responsible for digital adoption.

This indicates two things. Firstly, that technology is so critical to businesses today that the person at the top is involved – and in most cases – responsible for IT buying decisions. Secondly, that there isn’t one single individual overseeing all digital transformation purchase decisions. There are now many people involved in the technology decision-making processes, presenting a plethora of challenges to the channel.

Digital is being driven through almost every department of the business, including sales and marketing – as well as from multiple leaders. With this in mind, how can partners identify these people, the roles they play and reach out to them effectively?

Furthermore, CEOs are notoriously hard to reach and so it’s also important that partners learn to influence all of the personas involved that feed into those at the top of the business chain. Thus, the channel needs to put a greater focus on dynamic consultation. But how can partners expand on this?

Adopting new skills and languages

According to a CRN survey, almost a quarter of partners said most of their customers are making investments in digital technologies. Beyond this pressure, partners must juggle three major concerns: a skills shortage in certain technology areas, learning the language of the CEO and ensuring that lines of business aren’t working in silos.

Firstly, technical skills are paramount. Digital transformation projects require partners to significantly raise the bar in terms of state-of-the-art technology skills. Third platform technologies, such as mobile, social, cloud and big data will drive this innovation forward, and partners that seek out collaboration with specialist third platform businesses can ensure they have the right skills and knowledge on board to leverage emerging technologies to achieve better business prosperity, as well as offer value added services.

When it comes to digital transformation, it’s important for partners to focus on building up their knowledge of specific technologies, such as cloud and IoT. Importantly, having an understanding of how to sell, implement and architect these solutions will be critical throughout digital transformation conversations.

Another important focus for partners is that they must learn the language of the CEO and understand their top priority. Whilst technology has climbed higher up a CEO’s agenda, their overall concerns must be taken into account. For instance, growth, geographical expansion, risk and customer retention typically keep CEOs awake at night. Partners must learn to explain how digital transformation can address these big ticket items.

A cohesive approach right across the board is required to properly implement digital transformation projects. From CTO to CMO, and Line of Business Director to end user, partners need to ensure that digital transformation is synchronised and translates to not only those making purchase decisions, but also those implementing the technologies and using them on a day-to-day basis. Partners must be dynamic. Consequently, partners must adopt an appetite for innovation and re-shape cultural expectations amongst business leaders.

The pressure is on. Customers are ready and there’s untapped sales potential. It’s important now more than ever to become a digital transformation specialist for anyone involved in influencing, using or buying products. By improving knowledge on specific technologies, such as IoT and software defined storage and having access to the latest technologies, partners can fully embrace the digital transformation journey. Partnering with other partners to add real value will be a fundamental component of digital transformation strategies, as customers evolve along the journey. Critically, partners need to have access to training resources and sales materials from vendors that can support the business along the journey. If partners are able to include all of these ingredients, along with truly understanding buyers’ needs, they will deliver a well-blended digital transformation recipe.


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