Discussions about digital transformation are happening in boardrooms across the world at this very moment. We are now seeing almost a quarter of CEOs personally leading their company transformation programmes. Data from a survey conducted by BT and the Economist Intelligence Unit revealed that three quarters of CEOs think they will be able to meet their strategic objectives through these programmes. But it's also clear that many businesses are still facing considerable and stifling challenges as they seek to fulfil their digital ambitions.
Many businesses look to technology as the primary way to improve their methods and processes to keep ahead of the competition. This is business-critical. Yet executives still talk about inflexible technology, a lack of skills to implement it, and the risk of IT failure as major stumbling blocks which prevent delivery of the right infrastructure.
Some estimates tell us that by the end of this year alone, approximately $1.3tn (£998bn) will have been invested in digital transformation initiatives across the globe. But in as many as 70 per cent of them, the companies involved will not achieve the business outcomes they set out to. Staggeringly, this represents over $900bn of spend which has failed to meet the mark. With such enormous costs - and often consequences - of digital failure, there's an open question of whether businesses can continue to justify the high cost of technology investments without a better success rate.
As this is coming to a head, large global channel partners are playing a more diluted role in the wider ecosystem, and this is beginning to frustrate manufacturers and customers alike. Now more than ever, the channel needs to take on a more active and broader role, acting as more than just a point of product procurement.
Partners can take on more responsibility and fill a larger role within the supply chain. With the wider political climate threatening to make borders harder rather than softer, channel partners have an opportunity to take centre stage and become drivers of business growth through concentration on core strengths and technology. In this climate, the channel can shift from value-added reselling towards a broader role in end-to-end supply chain and technology integration.
As businesses seek to commoditise technology to stay relevant, protect margins and remain competitive, channel partners must focus on developing market-based insights to shorten innovation cycles and drive results quickly. Channel brands with a reputation for having a point of view and delivering outcomes quickly to their customers, rather than simply shipping the products that customers want to buy, have the opportunity to take significant competitive market share.
This might look like providing ideation, a moderated form of brainstorming which brings different voices and perspectives to the table and gives each participant an equal chance to shape the strategic outcomes of the session. Ideation processes are outcome-centred and support the entire life cycle of innovation, from the generation of ideas to the strategic and tactical plans that will realise their potential.
And this might combine with testing facilities, in which channel partners can virtualise the customer's system to test the technology through proof of concept, before tailoring the integration process to ensure the full potential of the technology investment is reached.
Such practices represent a crucial shift in the channel, helping to change the way organisations adopt technology. To support this, OEM vendors themselves must play a role by identifying the channel partners who can fully deliver against these promises.
Many firms provide frameworks to help equip partners with the skills and practices required to deliver optimal solutions to the end customer. Partners can then be regularly audited against these frameworks.
It's an exciting time to be a channel partner, but we must shift from simple value-added reselling and provide stronger front-end management consulting to help customers leverage technology better, moving from idea to outcome.
Ben Boswell is vice president of Europe at World Wide Technology
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