How do we start a successful digital transformation journey?

It’s a question we often hear among channel customers. As the tide around digitisation rises higher and turns into a sink-or-swim scenario for many companies, the enormity of this task has become apparent. I could quote numerous studies that note the high failure rate of digitisation projects, relating to each transformation effort’s numbing complexity and unique nature.

Yet less is said about the pressure channel companies are under, even though it arguably matters more. End-customer companies cannot successfully transform unless they partner with channel companies that are already on that trajectory. Channel providers, especially SMEs, need to find a path that lets them enjoy the benefits of what has taken years to build and still have the direction to evolve for modern market needs.

Axiz embarked on its technology transition journey specifically to change how we operate and to provide our customers with that path. And our channel customers often ask – where do we start?

Let me answer that by first saying, it’s not a field of dreams. Contrary to the 1989 movie, if you build it, they will not come. Technology is not the first step, and talking to your customers is.

Ask a customer about a business problem. From that conversation, develop something that you and your customer can jointly realise. Have both parties bring the right resources to this business problem and solve it between yourselves.

Why is this approach necessary? Why shouldn’t you look for that killer app, service or product? There are three reasons:

First, every channel company in transition must find their tipping point. When should you slow down on your existing offerings and push the pedal on new offerings? Should you ever relax on current offerings, especially if they represent healthy revenue lines? What new opportunities best fit your people and operating model? Do those need to change? Customers are your best guide on where those sweet spots lie.

Second, you are not in the business of making your customers’ lives harder. Digital transformation is full of risk, and they don’t need a leap of faith. They need a consistent partner and collaborator. You are touching the customer’s business outcomes and processes, people’s careers and your customer’s customers. By walking the same path as them, you keep that in mind and don’t sacrifice their stability for your success.

And third, speed can be overrated. Ideas such as ‘fail fast’ are enticing and do have their place. But other than market pressures, this isn’t a race. It’s an evolution. Speed will come, but only after the decisions are made and the risks have been calculated.

When customers are your transformation catalyst, it keeps things in focus and builds a smoother transition. You reduce uncertainty through collaboration and shared ambitions. I speak from experience: Axiz has been on this path for several years already. We have expanded from our well-established reputation as a distributor to include cloud services, business development, and a proprietary platform that offers transformation choices to our customers and their customers.

The above story is the Axiz story: we can’t fully transform unless our customers – the channel providers – also transform. We collaborate with them, chasing business outcomes and design services that make sense to them. This philosophy has helped the Axiz business model expand from procurement to partnerships.

Behind every successful digital transformation is sound business. You can maintain that focus while making the right steps to modernise what you offer by bringing your customers along.