Defining digital transformation in the channel

Defining digital transformation in the channel

Digital is an ambitious and complex term to interpret - but what are the implications within the context of the Australian channel?

Murray Sargant (Informatica); Brad Starr (Informatica); Simon Barlow (Brennan IT); James Henderson (ARN); Dean Robertson (Mexia); Robert Simione (Meridian IT); Chris Farrow (Tech Data); Richard Mitton (AtlasPlato); David Nicol (Citrix); Ed Phillips (Dimension Data); Brent Butchard (Hewlett Packard Enterprise Software) and Jamie Warner (eNerds)

Murray Sargant (Informatica); Brad Starr (Informatica); Simon Barlow (Brennan IT); James Henderson (ARN); Dean Robertson (Mexia); Robert Simione (Meridian IT); Chris Farrow (Tech Data); Richard Mitton (AtlasPlato); David Nicol (Citrix); Ed Phillips (Dimension Data); Brent Butchard (Hewlett Packard Enterprise Software) and Jamie Warner (eNerds)

“Qantas and the industry has taken what they have traditionally done, digitised it and made it a lot more pleasant experience. There’s a lot of merit in taking a process, removing the wastage and making it leaner, agile and a better end-user experience. That would fall under the digital transformation bracket in my opinion.”

In 2017, CIOs know they need to make businesses more digital, and many IT leaders are taking deliberate steps to get there.

Across the industry in Australia however, digital initiatives and pilots have yet to translate into mainstream demand for deployment.

“It’s still early days from our side,” Meridian IT practice manager of managed services and cloud Robert Simione added. “You have to define what digital transformation is and everyone has a different version.

“Are we already doing that today but it’s just called something different? We are seeing more demand around agility, we’re seeing that come from our customers who are wanting to do more with less.”

Delving deeper, Simione cited automation as a key driver for end- users today, creating challenges for traditional value-added resellers operating in the new digital world.

“As a traditional infrastructure company, that’s difficult for us because we’re used to selling boxes,” Simione acknowledged. “Now we’re having conversations with customers and they just want things to work simpler and to do X and to do Y but how can we enable that?

“We’re having lots of conversations internally and with our vendors and customers to maximise this opportunity.”

Going against the grain, AtlasPlato CTO Richard Mitton questioned the relevance of the CIO in the digital process today, claiming that its role in transforming businesses “has come to an end”.

“Collectively, we predominantly sold to the CIO and that role has bought transformation before,” he explained. “We didn’t call it transformation but it was an email system and it changed the way we communicated with each other and the rest of the world.

Richard Mitton (AtlasPlato) and Dean Robertson (Mexia)
Richard Mitton (AtlasPlato) and Dean Robertson (Mexia)

“When networking came it transformed how businesses worked and that came through the CIO, and the same happened with cloud. It was everything from an infrastructure point of view.”

But the question now, according to Mitton, is how much more change can an infrastructure driven position in a company bring to that company?

“The answer is going above the infrastructure, it’s no longer about connecting a user and keeping the data in the applications,” he explained. “It’s now about looking into that asset and asking how we can tap into that data asset that has been sitting there stagnant, and instead start to add value.

“The traditional CIO is challenged today to reinvent what their role is. They must stop thinking about sorting out back-up and security projects, they are just operational issues. They need to look at maximising their assets.”

With every organisation set to require a digital platform strategy, it will take bold, modern leadership skills by CIOs to develop business ecosystems to improve operations and create an environment for sustained innovation.

“Regarding CIOs becoming less relevant, I believe that’s a dangerous assumption to make,” Dimension Data general manager of end-user computing Ed Phillips said. “We operate in the mid-market and above and most customers have some form of a digital strategy, although it might take different names.

“And CIOs are central to this, with their role becoming even more relevant.”

As a leading system integrator within the local market, Phillips said the CIOs currently engaged with Dimension Data operate at the forefront of digital strategy building, with businesses starting to seek advice and guidance from internal technology leaders.

“A lot of this language that we use around digital transformation, it comes from C-levels within organisations that are realising that IT is a critical, if not the most important piece of their future,” Phillips said. “The biggest change in the way people work will be through technology.”

Chris Farrow (Tech Data) and Ed Phillips (Dimension Data)
Chris Farrow (Tech Data) and Ed Phillips (Dimension Data)

For Phillips, key focus points for businesses centre around creating a differentiated user experience, whether it’s customers, employees or both.

And irrespective of company size, businesses across the country are grappling with the digital transformation equation, with most looking towards technology providers as the first port of call to help build innovative road maps.

“From an SMB perspective, there’s a revolution happening around digital transformation,” eNerds CEO Jamie Warner said.

“If you subscribe to the notion that ‘software is eating the world’, and while that can be a true statement to make, for SMBs, they don’t have a lot of capabilities to start building things to disrupt their own market.

“But it’s happening where SaaS vendors are coming in and changing markets, that’s happening all the time. But it’s not from the businesses themselves in the industry, they are embracing Office 365, Dropbox for Business and a range of cloud technologies that start ticking the boxes of digital.”

Role of the channel

Of note to technology providers, one third of enterprises globally remain underprepared for the wave of digital transformation impacting the industry, creating new demand for channel partners as C-level strategies screech to a halt.

According to Ovum research, 33 per cent of businesses remain challenged by the process of replacing legacy networks and dedicated service platforms with a coherent digital environment.

“Now more than ever, customers are asking for help because to do anything that they want to do, they need the skills of a system integrator and technology provider,” Phillips added. “There’s an increase in relevance but the challenge is more around how to communicate with those companies in a relevant way.

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