Finding a New Iceberg – The Digital Channel Opportunity

Much has been written and presented about the eventual demise of the CIO.

In a world now defined by digital; with the cloud seemingly capable of consuming everything of value the IT department deliver, with new technologies such as IoT being specified and purchased by an ever more powerful Line of Business, and with the jeans wearing Chief Digital Officer having both the left and right ears of the CEO, commentators would have us believe that the analogue-speed CIO should now firmly be put on the endangered species register. One would think if you listened to the experts, the only digital engagement the CIO is likely to have is ordering an UBER when the fateful day arrives when they are no longer needed.

Worse still, I sense in many cases the CIO is in many presentations I sit through being subtly blamed for the likely demise of their entire business.  “20% of the Global 1000 companies won’t exist in 20 years because of digital,” goes the standard presentation pitch, “and because the CIO usually doesn’t digital they are killing the business who from within.” I paraphrase of course, but, OUCH.

The presenter then throws up the now mandatory UBER, Netflix and Telsa logos, a page of statistics that estimates that 50 trillion devices will be connected to the internet by a week on Wednesday (or sooner), and of course the news that a refrigerator will be able to order more lettuce while you sleep, and well, all of this inextricably leads to the conclusion that the CIO must not survive if their business is to survive.  I paraphrase again of course. 

In the real world, the average CIO is coping much better with digital than we as a channel or our OEM vendors give them credit for. Very few CIO’s I have met are blindly baking obsolescence into their career plan.  Most are closer to their business, more deeply ingrained in the opportunities and challenges their business or industry faces because of digital, and more aware of the digital choices their business has than most people in our side of industry have any idea of.

Most CIOs recognise they need to modernise their strategy, their team, their skills, the value proposition they offer their customers (the business) and the need to be a positive digital contributor.

Of course, some don’t get it or want to get it – but the question most are asking themselves is not if, but how they make the change.  They know they are probably only seeing the tip of a digital iceberg today, and below the water there is much yet to be discovered.  And they want their partners to help them identify and transform so their business doesn’t have to look elsewhere or become frustrated by their specific organisations adoption of digital.

But here is the question I ponder endlessly. If digital is going to disrupt every ‘industry’ in so many ways.  If business models are going to be ripped up and re-configured by innovation minded latte drinking entrepreneurs.  If the skills and thinking inherent within organisations that deliver old IT services is becoming obsolescent and irrelevant.  If this is all happening and more, then surely it will impact the entire supply chain of technology, and therefore we in the channel will not escape unchanged or undamaged?

So, perhaps the channel is in reality not just similar to those end user IT organisations, it is more eye of the storm than any of us care to admit?  Will we need those UBER cars before our customers do?

How are we responding?  Are we exploring and adopting new opportunities?  When we do explore, are we fully embracing some of the new models, or are we scratching the surface of digital, but quietly hoping that the model we have sat on for years will continue to support us?  Are we looking hard at our own value propositions and being as ruthless in transforming as we propose our customers should do?  Are we perching on the top of the same old iceberg we have inhabited for decades while it slowly melts unseen below us?

Are we genuinely looking for a new iceberg, and what will be it be built from?

  • Automation
  • Open Source
  • Infrastructure Programmability
  • Cloud
  • Analytics
  • Digital Experience Platforms
  • Cyber Security
  • Cloud Integration
  • Managed Services
  • IoT

And the never ending dilemma we all have; yes we know these new opportunities exist, but, when we do grab them, with how many hands, and when do we let go of the old models and bet fully on these new ones.  Our OEM vendors rightly present us with new icebergs on a regular and increasing basis, and urge us to leap fully onto them all. And while incubating new business models whilst we service the existing needs of our customers, while we also manage the long tail of the things we sold 3 years ago is an issue we have always tried to manage well, but the speed of change and innovation is now so fast (or seems so) that making those bets on when we move is ever more challenging and risky.

Of course, like the CIO who is modernising their offering, most of us are. But, we need to sit and listen to those presentations of digital doom for CIO, and do so with our eyes on the thing that most matters to us – the evolution of the channel and the relevance of that channel to our key stakeholders, whether they are end-user organisations, channel partners, or OEM vendors.

We have to re-configure, re-energise and re-new ourselves with as much zeal as we propose end-user organisations do to find our new iceberg, and discover new relevance in the growing digital opportunity.

And perhaps we should start by challenging our vendor partners to stop telling us why people like the CIO will lose in digital, and start explaining how they can help us be the ones that don’t just survive, but the ones that thrive through this digital change.  And that doesn’t mean just piling more and more new things on top of the things we have – but re-configuring what they do, and re-configuring the eco-system so we and they can ensure we are there in 5 years time.  After all, I always like to ask them when they throw up the UBER logo, ‘who is your UBER?’

Of course, they usually don’t have an answer, or have even have thought the question was relevant to them.