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Cloud is the digital transformation keystone

The recent Ingram Micro Cloud Summit included a panel session that discussed the role that cloud plays in everything to do with digital transformation

The cloud is the key building block in driving a digital transformation strategy with customers looking for support from the channel in making speedier changes to their businesses.

Speaking at the recent Ingram Micro Cloud Summit a panel discussed the reality of digital transformation and the steps that the channel could take to make the process easier for users.

As well as underlining that there were plenty of opportunities out there right now there was a hint that more changes were coming and traditional approaches were being challenged as users looked for innovation and speed from their suppliers.

Where there was agreement was around using the cloud as the backbone for any digital transformation solution.

"Digital transformation implies you are looking to improve or replace an existing service, or you are looking to add a new capability to make it more effective. The key benefit cloud brings to that is speed. Whatever new capability you want software as a service means you can just turn it on," said Jon Milward, founder and director at Compete366.

He added that digital transformation could help firms attract customers, provide a better service and improve internal operations.

"All those tools you can bring in that make you more productive and make your employees happier," said Milward, who added that it was witnessing strong demand from customers.

"Typically we are looking to save them money and make them more agile and flexible and help them identify opportunities and move into new markets," he said.

IDC started talking about digital transformation back in 2007 and the analyst house saw combinations of technology, including cloud, mobility and data, as part of a wider solution that would help firms change their business processes.

Margaret Adam, program director for IDC's European Channels & Alliances program, said that along with cloud the topic of security was also a big channel play, because it was not possible to have a conversation around cloud and digital transformation without talking about next generation defences.

Echoing Milward she also saw plenty of opportunities out in the market for resellers with no single customer type cornering the demand for help transforming their operations.

"Digital transformation is not limited to large enterprises...we are seeing a huge amount of activity in Europe. It's not limited to very disruptive companies or large enterprise we see a lot activity in sub 500 staff companies. A lot of it is led by the type of leadership that they have," she said.

"In the early days of digital transformation it was very much being led by these innovation teams and IT had no relevance and there was a seperation. But it is starting to mature and people are doing more tangiable projects and it has become a lot closer to having teams that have representation from IT and lines of business," she added.

Adam said that another trend it had noted was new business models with digital agencies and start-ups entering the fray. Some customers were turning to partners to share with them potential scenarios and sketch out dreams of how their businesses could be run, without worrying too much about references and case studies.

"It is challenging the business partner to support that type of business model and it is having impacts in the way the industry operates," she added.

James Marshall, chief technologist for SMB at Microsoft UK, said that customers still needed education about digital transformation and it was aware it had a role to play there in supporting its business partners.

"As the pace changes so quick it is difficult to keep pace but we have made big investments in our cloud programmes," he said.

He added that it was encouraging its traditional channel partners to also embrace the opportunities and it had become easier for them to dip their toes in the digital transformation waters.

"The democratisation of all of these tools means that partners who maybe in the past had no desire to play with some of these technologies means that they suddenly can with very little up front investment," he added.

Looking foward IDC is expecting industry clouds to emerge, which could be a community of players to develop a collaborative cloud that could generate an ecosystem of specialists.

Manufacturing and logistics are some of the sectors which are showing early signs of heading down that route, which could be interesting for vertical market channel players.

Milward said that AI was starting to filter through with some cognitive services and that was set to grow in the future.

Marshall agreed that Ai and machine to machine were going to feature in the next wave of digital transformation technologies.

"Automation and how we improve processes and how we utilise that hyper scale of the cloud to start to do interesting things [are some of the themes]," he added "A lot of the future stuff already exists but its about realising how you can make sense of it and build solutions. Its about how the partners take some of these consistent themes and turn them into repeatable business."

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