Ready or not, our lives and our businesses are going to go through a radical change over the next few years.
You’ve probably heard a lot about a so-called “digital transformation” lately, the trend towards using digital technologies to connect almost any device (including those traditionally not “connected”) to a network in order to enhance or improve a process. You’re certainly familiar with the backbone of this digital wave: mobile, social and analytics technologies have all become a standard part of doing business.
But we’re just starting to understand how to put all the pieces together to build specific, customized solutions designed to make us more productive, more efficient and more innovative. Frankly, we’re only going to be limited by the boundaries of our imagination.
Technology manufacturers, distributors and solution providers—the entire IT channel, as we call it—have started to invest millions of dollars to develop the infrastructure and the processes to bring new, innovative digital solutions to market.
As a channel community, we all recognize that perhaps the most important facet to adoption and acceleration of that adoption will be the customer experience. Simply put, if enterprises don’t see the value—almost immediately—from digital technologies, they’re not going to use them.
It’s our responsibility, as a global distributor of technology solutions sitting in the middle of the supply chain, to help manufacturers bring their products and services to market on one hand and our solution provider customers to develop and implement the solutions needed by enterprises and small businesses.
We’ve spent the last year talking with both sides and developing a long-term strategy around digital to in order to meet the anticipated acceleration in demand for digital.
The “DNA” of Digital
There are three main components to digital solutions: Devices, Network and Applications. Each plays a significant role in an overall solution, and finding an innovative way to put them together to solve a business problem is the credo for everyone in the technology industry.
When most people think “device,” especially as it relates to digital, they think a smartphone or tablet. But in reality, we’ll soon be able to connect almost anything to a network—a security camera, a temperature sensor, a household appliance to name a few.
Adding those new “smart” devices is a significant paradigm shift for those selling technology. Traditionally, solution providers might sell you a piece of equipment, say a router, and then not knock on your door for two or three years until that device needed to be replaced.
As conversations around digital solutions increases, so do the concerns about security that come with any new technology
Now, with the advent of cloud, managed services and complete, integrated solutions, you’re not running a network, you’re managing a networked video surveillance system that protects your inventory and notifies security of any unauthorized access.
As technology providers, we have to act more like a think tank, developing the processes that help identify pain points in a business and then solutions to address those issues.
It’s a big leap from setting up a network to helping a craft brewery remotely manage its holding tanks to ensure they remain within a precise temperature range and automatically generate an appropriate response if that is not the case.
Every day, we evaluate innovative new applications specifically designed for the digital age. Internally, we’ve built a global dot-com platform that localizes content depending on who you are. When you visit our landing page, we know where you are and—if you’re registered with us—whether you’re a technology vendor, a solution provider or an end user. We know, in real-time, what products you’ve purchased in the past and what you might be looking for. Then we customize your experience based on what we predict you might be looking for and make it easier for you to find it.
That’s what customers want and it’s what they should expect in the digital age.
Security is Paramount
The core business of the IT channel —both distributors and solution providers—is to develop the tools to help companies solve business problems and improve productivity and efficiency. That’s typically accomplished in two ways: first, through providing the education and training around technology solutions and second, by providing the platforms (hosted or otherwise) that make the tools work.
As conversations around digital solutions increases, so do the concerns about security that come with any new technology. And rightly so. It’s incumbent upon any enterprise to ensure that their employee and customer data remains safe and secure. Of course, hardly a day goes by when news of another data breach isn’t in the headlines.
For all intent, the security technology to keep your data safe exists today. The challenge is integrating disparate systems together and ensuring that employees—and anyone else touching the network— follow proper processes developed to maintain security.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but one of the valuable benefits of digital technology brings will be improved security. By automating processes and having machines talk to one another, we can reduce the possibility of human error.
There’s not a CIO in the world who doesn’t worry about security and the development of next-gen security systems, specifically designed to provide rights management to multiple systems will be an important facet of providing that trust and smooth customer experience.
The Customer is Always Right
Finally, when we talk about creating a positive customer experience, it’s important to remember what it is customers want. Business school professors often use Starbucks as an example of how important customer experience is. Why does someone pay $5 for a cup of Starbucks coffee? It’s not because Starbucks’ coffee tastes five times better than a $1 cup of joe. It’s the experience of watching your brew get freshly made while surfing on free Wi-Fi and listening to some cool music. People pay for that.
Every technology company I know wants to replicate that feeling for its own solution. The easier you make a technology process for a company and its employees, the better they’re going to feel about using the technology in the first place.
So as you’re starting to think about your own digital transformation, ask yourself: does this technology make me comfortable, does it make me feel safe, does it do the job I need and do I think my technology partners can get the job done? If you can answer yes to all that, that next grande latte will taste even sweeter.