Digital transformation success requires that channel partners respond to a diverse set of challenges: the channel organization needs to be able to balance extensive consulting and executive customer management with product transactions, ongoing management services and tangible contribution to customer business success. Those that are able to align their capabilities with digital transformation requirements will be positioned for long-term success in IT’s highest-growth market. Techaisle’s digital transformation (DX) framework highlights six ways that channel partners can profitably connect with customers in their initial stages of the DX journey. At the beginning of the DX journey, channel partners should plan to deliver billable services in foundational technology areas:
- Deployment of discrete foundation technologies needed to enable pursuit of DX business objectives: The requirement for these technologies should be clearly associated with capabilities needed within the DX roadmap; the systems themselves should be prioritized in accordance with the benefits that they deliver.
- Provision of management/support for technology tied to the DX roadmap: In this step it is essential for channel partners to increase customer communication so that they understand the value associated with ongoing support and integration that maintains the currency of the DX platform by managing its discrete IT components.
- Development and delivery of incremental feature/function objectives: Some of the technologies deployed within the DX framework may provide all needed functionality ‘out of the box,’ while others may benefit from ongoing enhancements. In these latter cases, both channel partners and their customers will benefit from the addition of features that provide incremental benefit to users/organizations that have absorbed current capability and who are ready for, and have need for, additional functionality.
Once the foundational level is in place and immediate benefits of the technology have been identified and communicated as ‘success stories’ within the customer organization, the channel partner should help the customer move on to the next DX level: establishment of connected ‘Interwork’ systems. Here, channel partner opportunities expand to include higher-value activities:
- Opportunity identification: Midmarket customers will need help in understanding the areas where Interwork systems align with business objectives. Channel partners can play a key role in this process, defining IT delivery capabilities in terms of high-priority business outcomes and milestones.
- Deployment of advanced systems: Solutions like analytics, collaboration and security offer opportunities for channel partners to develop lucrative technical service revenue streams.
- Integration and optimization: Interwork solutions aren’t only connected at a technical level – they also are connected at a process level. Channel partners who build the capacity to map IT capabilities into process requirements become more than trusted technical advisors – they become essential business partners.
Plotting the best approach to a customer
The above list provides a solid foundation for channel partners looking to capitalize on demand for digital transformation – but as every sales rep will say, each customer has a different mix of installed technologies, business needs and stakeholder ambitions. Channel partners should use the following touchpoints to map the generic service opportunities into a specific customer relationship:
- Technology priority: which foundation, or Interwork, or (ultimately) digital transformation technologies are most needed within the customer’s environment? How should the needed capabilities be staged?
- Technology functionality: What is the level of functionality needed to support future DX stages? Is this adequate to the customer’s requirement, or does the customer’s business demands advanced functionality in one or more technology areas?
- Ongoing IT management: What level of effort is required to maintain (and over time, refresh) each of the technologies deployed within the customer’s environment?
- Benefit realization and optimization: How can deployed technologies be used to deliver tangible benefits within the customer’s environment? What support does the customer need to capitalize on new functionality? What is the best strategy for optimizing the benefit associated with each technology over time?
- Additive/incremental DX benefit achievement: How can foundation, Interwork and digital transformation technologies be connected to support digitalization and (ultimately) digital transformation? What ‘next step’ technologies will deliver the greatest incremental benefit to the customer?
Key competencies for the DX era
Digital transformation demands that channel partners develop extensive new capabilities, and offers in return a means of establishing a business-level customer relationship that will secure ongoing/escalating account revenue and influence, improving the business outlook (and enterprise value) of partners able to capitalize on customer need for DX support.
- Build, test and evolve roadmaps that connect incremental technology investments with the additive benefits derived from digitization, digitalization and digital transformation.
- Work with receptive customers to develop expertise in positioning DX effectively to both business and IT management.
- Invest in the skills needed to deploy, connect and optimize technologies that are important to the DX roadmap.
- Invest in relationships with vendors that are at the forefront of digital transformation
- Develop an end-to-end capability with access to vendors’ ecosystem partners who can provide complementary skills (consulting, architecture, deployment, maintenance, etc.) needed to create a ‘whole solution’.
- Invest in developing and evolving customer KPIs – metrics that customers can use to measure business outcome benefits.
- Consider developing and deploying an outcome-based revenue model, in which customer payments are directly tied to outcome benefits that helps de-risk accelerating customer investments, opening new opportunities for suppliers.