Digital transformation is not a product or a solution. It’s a continuous process involving new technologies and ways of working to compete successfully through continued innovation.” -Red Hat

Digital transformation is really about fostering a culture within your company that adapts to the changing digitized landscape. We are in a crucial moment for enterprise business leaders. The Pandemic has only increased the speed at which digitization revolutionizes the way we partner. As Satya Nadella put it, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. From remote teamwork and learning, to sales and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security—we are working alongside customers every day to help them adapt and stay open for business in a world of remote everything.” It is imperative that we reshape our channel cultures now, so we don’t fall behind our competitors. 

The Ever-Changing Landscape

Digitization continues to mold institutions and their business practices. However, only a handful of companies understand how to evolve with it. This was reflected in a recent survey compiled by Red Hat and Harvard Business Review. 70% of survey respondents said that “over the past two years digital transformation has become significantly more important to business success.” However, only 20% of the same respondents “rate their companies’ digital transformation efforts as effective.” This points out the clear disconnect between the evolving practices catalyzed by digital transformation and business cultures catching up to the evolution.

The Cultural Keystone

Obviously, there is a missing link between the changing landscape and each company’s ability to adapt to it. The culture within a company has to enable employees to change the way they work. The problem is–company culture is hard to change. It requires a reshaping of the old business processes and workflows that have been used for years, oftentimes decades. However, it is the most important piece of digital transformation. Without it, it is almost impossible to transform your company.

Making this cultural transition requires:

  • Leaders who understand the new environment
  • Empowering employees to make decisions 
  • Working collaboratively with partners
  • Sharing data 
  • Leveraging automation and AI technologies

Leadership

It’s important to have channel and alliance leaders who know how to work in the digitized landscape. Namely, they need to be familiar with digital technologies and embed them within the channel department. They need to make sure tech is a value add and is adopted by their team. A 2018 survey by McKinsey found that “success requires both digital-savvy leaders and a workforce with the capabilities to make a digital transformation’s changes happen.” Channel leadership needs to create a work environment that capitalizes on new tech. Implementation is just the first step. It must be followed up with encouragement from the top.

Similarly, it’s important to encourage your workforce to be decision-makers. Management needs to let go of the reins a bit. This requires trust in your team and showing employees that their opinions matter. The survey from HBR found that “transformation veterans say, committing to a distributed leadership model—where effective leadership exists at all levels, not just at the top—will enhance important cultural characteristics, such as collaboration, transparency, and adaptability.”  

Collaborative Partnerships

More and more successful companies are moving away from a tiered partner program toward a more collaborative partner model. It is fiscally responsible to partner with companies that offer products and services that offer value to your customers. As a result, companies are moving to an ecosystem model that is filled with different types of partnerships to fulfill multiple customer needs. The legacy partner model consisting of departments working separately, data housed in silos, and not trusting your partners is quickly dying. 

Enterprise companies are seeing the value in having different types of partners that can expand their reach, automate processes, or whom they can build new solutions with. In Jay McBain’s annual tech stack article for Forrester, he recounts sitting in on various company meetings. Apparently, in those meetings, “the discussions were not about revenue-tiered models and gross-to-net margins but of driving value creation, leveraging network effects, and incubating co-innovation.” 

It is no longer as profitable to have partners pay to play. It’s more profitable to partner with companies that add value to your customers.

New Technologies & Data Sharing

You can’t have a successful partnership without sharing data. Digital transformation wouldn’t be complete without the adoption of data-sharing technologies. They improve workflows and drive more revenue for channel teams. To illustrate, Cassandra Gholston said it best during her Partnernomics interview. “We’re actually seeing more data sharing happening in an application. Number one, you can just do more. Number two, you’re not going to overshare because you’re only sharing what maps between you and your partner.” Therefore, new digital platforms are helping us convert our mountains of data into actionable insights.

Final Thoughts

Clearly, it’s important that we adapt the channel in order to stay competitive. Furthermore, adapting company culture is the most important part of the process. This requires having proper leadership, empowering employees to be decision-makers, collaborating with partners, sharing data, and leveraging solutions like automation and Artificial Intelligence. With all of these things working in concert, we will keep the channel competitive in our ever-changing digital landscape.  

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