Digital transformation: How far are we really in the journey?

Are customers really in as much of a hurry to digitally transform as the shrillest advocates of the technology would like us to believe?

How ready are you for digital transformation? It’s a question that is asked a lot of users, vendors and channel partners.

That’s not surprising, given that “digital transformation” is a phrase that has become almost as ubiquitous in tech circles as Brexit is everywhere else. And while the UK government is currently running an advertising campaign urging people to “Get ready for Brexit”, the IT industry has been urging customers to get ready for digital transformation for quite a while now.

If anything, the IT industry has been more forthright in its campaign because it hasn’t shied away from arguing that some businesses that fail to digitally transform could be irretrievably damaged. Compared to the government’s bland assurances that a no-deal Brexit will consist of a few minor bumps along the way, some parts of the IT industry have been happy enough to suggest that a failure to digitally transform sooner rather than later presents an existential threat to organisations.

Apart from customer reluctance to make disruptive changes to their business, one of the biggest potential inhibitors for the digital transformation process is the shortage of vendors and channel partners capable of helping customers make that change. This is a fact recently reinforced by a survey of more than 200 UK resellers and MSPs conducted for Westcoast which found that only 41% of partners were “ready to take the digital transformation journey in the next 12-24 months”.

It’s not as if partners are being hindered by any ambivalence they might feel over the value of digital transformation. Far from it. The survey found that 92% thought digital transformation was a chance to get closer to customers. So it’s strange that less than half of that number believe they will be ready for it within the next two years.

Think about that. The bulk of that 41% are not ready today. They won’t be ready tomorrow, but they will be ready some time between 2020 and 2021.

It was also notable in the survey that 89% felt distributors could help them with their digital transformation strategies, suggesting that many partners are relying on distributors to help deliver digital transformation for their customers.

What does this mean?

Here’s a heretical thought. Maybe it means customers aren’t in as much of a hurry to digitally transform as the shrillest advocates for it in the IT world would like them to be. Our industry is generally very good at building hype for technologies and trends. Digital transformation is one of those. But what about demand?

I’m not saying there won’t be a move to digital transformation, but only questioning how quickly that will be. If so many partners aren’t currently in a position to “take the digital transformation journey”, what help can they provide to customers? Or could it be that the demand from customers isn’t forceful enough for partners to feel a greater sense of urgency about their digital transformation capabilities?

And what does it say about the 59% who won’t be ready by 2021? More importantly, what does it say about their customers? Or are those partners hoping to be bailed out by their distributors giving them the digital transformation capabilities they require when the time comes? That might explain the 89% who believe distributors can help them with their digital transformation strategies.

Nevertheless, I can’t help feeling that if the respondents in the Westcoast survey are representative of UK channel partners, then – rather like Brexit – we may have a longer way to go on the “digital transformation journey” than some people would have us believe.

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