In stepping back from industry guesswork and hype, following a year of internal initiatives and pilots, organisations now realise that change is coming.
Backed by a global market expected to reach US$1.2 trillion during the next 12 months, increased investment in digital transformation technologies highlight how boardroom agendas are evolving.
In 2017, organisations — both locally and globally — are expected to make a concerted effort to integrate such initiatives across the wider business, leaning on the channel to help create a clear digital vision for the future.
Yet this isn’t an intense gaze into a crystal ball, rather a real-time observation of the increased appetite for digital technologies in Australia.
“Digital transformation is happening,” Telstra Head of Specialist Partner Channel, Charlotte Schraa, observed, during a roundtable event earlier this year. “But at different levels across different segments of the market.”
In terms of drivers, Schraa cited globalisation and access into new markets as key trigger points for increased digital deployments nationwide, alongside the “overarching need” to remove cost and drive efficiencies across the business.
“Large enterprises are well advanced and have some form of transformation activity already underway, but there’s also examples of small businesses such as hairdressers and coffee shops that are adopting strong digital models,” Schraa added.
Echoing Schraa’s industry observations, Outcomex National Sales Manager, Michael van Zoggel, acknowledged that from a partner perspective, digital transformation remains open to interpretation by end-users.
“Half of our customers have projects underway but some are at a level we would consider basic and necessary for the business, adopting an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach,” he said.
“But if organisations don’t have aproject already underway then they are going to struggle.”
As illustrated in Australia, changing competitive landscapes and consumerism are disrupting businesses and creating an imperative to invest in digital transformation.
“The market is reaching a tipping point,” JB Hi Fi General Manager of Business Telecommunications, Tony Nikolovski, said. “Everyone is talking about digital transformation, they are conscious of it and know that it will be important, but they haven’t all acted yet.”
But despite sporadic deployment, 2017 is widely expected to be the year when organisations take all the digital initiatives and pilots, and drive them into the mainstream of the business.
“Every company has digitally transformed to some degree,” said Jay McBain, a globally renowned channel expert and analyst. “They’ve got networks, emails and software which they view as digital. But that’s not digital.”
Yet with such a broad scope, and an apparent lack of clarity, can the concept of digital transformation be clearly defined?
“It’s not about technology,” Novo IT Director of Innovation and Strategy, Stephen Chapman, argued. “It’s about business processes and changing the customer journey from an analogue transactional process to a digital lifecycle.”
With the industry quick to throw Uber and Airbnb references into the mix, Chapman argued that innovation is also happening on Australian shores, as businesses understand the need to adapt and change.
“Yes, it’s happening in Australia,” he confirmed. “Organisations are chewing off their own arm to transform but again, it’s not about the technology, it’s about how they’re conducting their business.”
Driven by flagship brands, solid progress is being made across the country, as organisations understand that the time has arrived to unleash new levels of innovation both internally and externally.
“Customers are being disrupted by their competitors, on a local and global scale,” Telstra General Manager of ICT Channel Sales and Development, Mert Mustafa, said. “They need partners to take them into the new age because they know they need to do business better to become more competitive.
“The result is a greater reliance on channel partners that can enter an organisation, understand the customer requirements, consult with the business and provide real business outcomes.”
In parallel to the changing role of the partner in a digital context, new influencers of IT are also emerging across the business, with 72 per cent of technology buying decisions now made outside of the IT department.
Consequently, the uneven maturity of digital transformation by industry and country has created a complex landscape for sales teams to navigate.
NEW IT BUYERS
As explained by McBain, there’s now “another person in the room”, with the channel faced with new influencers of technology, those not traditionally linked to the IT department.
“Just look across an organisation,” he said. “Marketing departments are putting in lead generation and automation platforms, sales departments are on CRM missions and operations are driving ERP projects. They are all driving new digital initiatives.”