[Column] Tracy Bolton: How partners drive digital transformation
It's true that the only constant is change. And in our modern post-pandemic economy, the rate of change has accelerated and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Today, companies are beset with a multitude of challenges and changes in their operating environment. From dealing with supply chain disruptions to adapting to new ways of work, companies have their hands full.
The question is no longer if companies should digitally transform; it's a matter of how quickly and in which areas that digital transformation would deliver the greatest value.
Partner ecosystem never more important
In this environment, the role of technology partners has never been more important. Companies and leaders need to be able to tap into a rich technology partner ecosystem to drive their digital transformation and ensure their business is geared for the challenges of a changing modern economy.
A strong partner ecosystem supports digital transformation, as each partner may have specialised services or knowledge that focus on specific industries, markets or competencies.
As a partner builds experience and proficiency in an industry, that knowledge becomes embedded in their solutions and services, and can significantly reduce risk and drive successful outcomes across a broad range of digital transformation priorities. That adds value to their offering and allows them to create revenue streams beyond the core technology.
For example, a tech partner specialising in the retail sector would have products, services and insights that can help retailers more quickly adopt new capabilities and avoid costly mistakes in their own digital transformation efforts.
Customers ultimately need to see their technology partners as collaborators in driving the lifetime value of technology investments to achieve greater business outcomes.
However, the partner ecosystem is in a state of change due to the changing way organisations buy, consume and utilise technology.
Shifting financial model of digital transformation
One of the biggest changes in the way companies adopt technology and drive digital transformation is the switch from physical - or hardware - deployments to a cloud or as-a-service model.
Today, companies want the flexibility to subscribe to and pay only for the technology components that they actually use. In response, tech companies have transformed their revenue models to a pay-as-you-use model.
This holds multiple benefits. Firstly, it opens up greater choice to companies wishing to adopt the best solutions for every business function without having to also purchase functionality or products that they don't want or will never use.
Secondly, a consumption-based model is more easily scalable, as the hardware that enables a rapid scaling - for example when a company enters a new market or territory - sits on the tech provider's side. If the company then decides to exit the market or scale down operations, they can simply scale down their consumption and associated costs.
Tech companies and their partners have also over the years invested in the development of technology templates for specific functions or industries. These templates are often developed with the knowledge of what worked and what didn't work in other similar tech deployments, allowing other companies to avoid mistakes or lengthy customisation processes, which can inflate the overall costs of the project.
This can speed up the time-to-value for new digital transformation initiatives and help build a process of continuous innovation and improvement that drives the business' success.
The partner ecosystem is not without its challenges, however. In some cases, partners are still focused on selling large deployments that carry huge costs to the company. While such projects can undoubtedly deliver transformative business value to the company, it's not entirely in step with the way modern businesses want to consume tech.
Instead, the focus should be on a form of value engineering where partners join forces with their customers for the long haul and consistently innovate and transform business processes to drive value.
Partner organisations need to evolve their business models around developing apps and IP that can be reused in similar industries and use cases, which can drive profitability for partners and cost benefits for customers. Traditional financial models also need to evolve: in a cloud-first world, there’s no need for lengthy advisory and implementation projects. The focus is squarely on quick turnaround and rapid time-to-value that drive business outcomes in priority areas.
It's less a matter of finding the correct technology mix and conducting a once-off large-scale deployment, and more a case of continuous innovation and improvement across a broad spectrum of business cases to steadily enhance the organisation's capabilities.
This can unlock untold benefits and establish a culture of co-innovation that enhances the organisation's innovation capabilities while continuously delivering business value.
Skill sets also need to evolve and shift away from infrastructure to advisory and business value generation, in addition to expert knowledge and capabilities in deploying cloud solutions.
Technology partners play an essential role in companies' ability to scale quickly, develop new competencies and unlock new market opportunities. As the modern business environment continues to change at an increasingly rapid pace, companies need the support and insight of trusted partners more than ever.