This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of The Record.
It was recently reported that we are more likely to get divorced than we are to change our bank account. We don’t like change, particularly if there appears to be hassle involved. In technology terms, there has historically been a similar reluctance for organisations to change network providers or technology partners. The perceived risk has been too high, the aggravation too great, the benefits too obscure. So, until recently, many organisations have stuck with an unhappy marriage – a partnership with their technology vendors that lacked sparkle and was mostly about price over value.
The danger for those tethered in such a relationship is that both parties tend to retrench. Dialogue is restricted to debates and gripes over billing issues, service credits, and mundane matters that have little or nothing to do with exploring business challenges together.
But 2017 brings with it a new energy – one that was tangible at Microsoft’s flagship Future Decoded event at ExCel in London a few short months ago. There, we met many hundreds of businesses and were told a consistent story regarding business transformation. The chronology is remarkably consistent: three years ago, many were shrugging off scepticism; two years ago, they started shaping digital transformation strategies; one year ago, they started looking for partners, and now they are moving towards implementation and focusing on the critical aspect of business outcomes.
These moves have been fuelled by the pioneering efforts and good results from some great and visionary organisations – Fieldfisher in the legal sector; The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme in the charity sector; Ealing Borough Council in the public sector, and many others. Across these digital transformation strategies, there have been some consistent themes: the progressive move towards the (hybrid) cloud; the transition from voice as a standalone application to unified communications; the growing demand for cost effective solutions to the challenges presented by GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) and the security risks presented by a mobile-first and increasingly BYOD workplace.
What’s clear is that technology advancement waits for no man, no business, no vendor. Eventually the ‘right tech comes together at the right time’ and when it does the transformational impact can be profound. Part of the trick is to see beyond the traditional vendor/customer relationship. Look for a relationship with sizzle and think about partnership in its most complete form and, above all, focus on business outcomes. The coming together of Gartner ranked leaders such as Microsoft with the decades of learning from a solid partner can be the perfect marriage.
Mike Constantine is chief technology officer at GCI