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The customer-centric channel: Redefining business models during Digital Transformation

The customer-centric channel: Redefining business models during Digital Transformation


Giovanni Di Filippo, Vice President Channels, EMEA, at Riverbed Technology, discusses the transformation the channel must undergo to be successful in the year ahead.

Digital Transformation continues to be the phrase on everyone’s mind in the channel. Regardless of size or industry, organisations are reaping the rewards of shifting their IT approach and using new technology to grow their customer base, scale operations and ultimately drive profit.

However, as Digital Transformation must begin at the core of an organisation, it is only logical that they rethink their business model.

Fundamentally, technology underpins processes throughout the business, so core operations will naturally need reviewing and in some cases, a complete overhaul. As this occurs, roles throughout the organisation will be both created and redefined, with new ways of working agreed.

Many businesses are using this period of transition to rebuild themselves as customer-centric organisations. Investments in technology must prove their worth by improving the human experience, and the ROI of an entire implementation is defined by this measure.

For channel partners, customer experience must be placed at the centre of their business models to adequately understand and service their clients. But, this is not easy and business leaders are having to adapt rapidly to escalating customer expectations.

Changing businesses, changing audience

Channel resellers have experienced a dramatic change in their target audience, and as a result have had to completely rethink their sales approach and how they are engaging with their customers.

Partners that traditionally dealt in hardware-based solutions are now finding themselves on the brink of disruption, with a new perspective of how technology adds value to their business. As a result, vendors are evolving their solutions to reflect new customer priorities, from the Internet of Things (IoT) to Machine Learning, Artificial intelligence (AI) and increasing productivity.

Casting aside hardware-based CAPEX expenditures, there is an expectation for cloud-based managed services built on consumption models that best fit the customer’s needs, be it a subscription, use basis or outcomes-based models.

As technology becomes a day-to-day board-level issue, channel partners have had to begin addressing the needs of new decision makers. Traditionally, selling technology to IT leaders was very much the norm.

These stakeholders had a full understanding of the company’s technical needs, existing IT estate and would be given full spending approval from the business and finance leaders. Rather than developing the direction of the business, IT expenditure was simply seen as a cost of existence.

As technology accelerated at a pace far quicker than businesses could continually adopt, the market experienced a pivotal moment when business and finance leaders questioned the value-add of new technologies and regular hardware upgrades.

As such, the decision making power shifted away from the IT stakeholder towards finance and business figureheads. This customer base has an altogether different set of priorities, and resellers have been under pressure to adjust their approach to focus on the high level and c-suite conversations.

Providing the ability to drive productivity and enable top-line growth are critical requirements that must be addressed by resellers looking to gain traction with this audience.

Alongside this, all newly implemented tech must remain consistently accountable, making the ability to measure performance and have full visibility over the IT infrastructure a must.

Furthermore, in the most successful organisations, the ultimate priority of the c-level is to address customer needs. Partners must understand and enable this if they are to resonate with a high-level audience.

Placing the customer at the centre

As channel partners reshape their approach to a new customer base, they must turn to the priorities of the end-consumer to provide true business value to their clients.

A recent report from Forrester highlighted how customer obsession is driving successful businesses. This model of operation involves placing customers at the centre of every business decision and informing every move with large amounts of customer data. Those operating within this business model are enjoying “higher revenue growth, customer satisfaction, and employee satisfaction”. The trend is only set to grow.

For example, organisations such as Amazon pride themselves on this type of customer-centricity, making every decision to bolster customer experience and improve trust. To keep pace, businesses need to examine how they are addressing their customers needs in their wider business strategy.

Consequently, channel partners must adjust their approach to ensure they are not only offering direct customer facing value with their implementations but are providing tangible proof to non-technical stakeholders.

Consider retailers, for example. Whether in-store or online, they can live and die by their ability to offer a seamless, efficient and secure service to customers that drives conversion.

Bottlenecks in the system that grind the business to a halt can have a devastating impact on the bottom line. Revenue aside, if checkout staff are unable to operate efficiently at peak times, the brand’s entire reputation could ultimately be at stake. Moreover, the longer it takes to resolve customer issues, the greater the impact, including the potential loss of customers, reputation and ultimately revenue.

To combat this, IT staff need the autonomy to handle issues as they appear. By having comprehensive network visibility, IT administrators are able to measure performance and quickly identify pain points – whether at the device level, in the network, the application or at the user interface.

At the centre of this sits measurement and the ability to understand and adapt solutions based on performance. To put it simply, if you can’t measure, you can’t manage – visibility is vital for every aspect of the business to continually grow and develop processes and allow a company to remain competitive.

This sort of intelligence allows a retailer to make changes – or invest in specific technologies – that focus on the issue at-hand. And the ultimate winner? The customer.

As the IT team develops a new side of the organisation’s offering supported by a network of channel partners, customer-facing staff are freed up and made far more productive. These team members are then able to focus their energy on providing a better human experience for the end customers.

Proving value across all areas of the business, not just for the IT team is important, but proving how the end customer ultimately wins is vital.

Changing tides 

As business priorities continue to merge with those of the customer, so too must the focus of channel partners. Being able to provide a measurable impact to the end-user through successful technology implementations is integral to a lasting, successful relationship.

As businesses undergo Digital Transformation at every level, channel partners must have the ability to adapt quickly as priorities shift and new technology and solutions are demanded. Ultimately, by understanding a customer-centric model and focusing on monitoring performance and investing in agility, channel partners will not only be able to support innovation, but also give the transparency to create real competitive differentiation, now and into the future.

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