On the ‘digital first’ journey


SMB organizations need digital transformation initiatives that improve capabilities to compete and collaborate

For a Business, digital transformation is about enabling itself by adopting various disruptive, relevant technologies to leapfrog in terms of capabilities and grab the opportunity to be one of the industry’s best.  The opportunity is much more salient for an SMB to help it scale up and compete. While digital transformation may vary from company to company, there are some pivots around which the transformation hinges which are popularly referred to as 3rd platform technologies (cloud, big data/analytics, social, and mobile).

According to Ralph Hauter, President of Microsoft Asia, data, cloud and analytics are the three pillars which are driving the transformation wave. He refers to the impact as an unstoppable force enabling digital disruption, which will impact all organizations, all industries, all roles.

Digital transformation revolves around the adoption of IT transformation, by adopting tools of the 3rd platform. The Businesses that are laggards in adopting these new tools run the risk of falling behind peers. A recent study conducted by Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG ) and commissioned by Dell EMC shows 95% of survey respondents indicate their organisations are at risk of falling behind a smaller group of industry peers that are transforming their IT infrastructures, processes and delivery methods to accelerate their goals of becoming digital businesses.

Siloed infrastructures and rigid legacy architectures are seen as being barriers to undertaking a successful digital transformation. Embedding capabilities in the organization to leverage IT resources in accelerating product innovation and time to market needs to be part of the transformation objectives.

According to Mohammed Amin, Senior Vice President, Middle East, Turkey and Africa at Dell EMC, “These findings mirror how the vast majority of customers are telling us they need to optimise their existing infrastructures to take advantage of digital-age opportunities. However, the research shows that most respondents are falling behind a small and elite set of competitors who have cracked the IT Transformation code, and they’re competing more vigorously because of it. As organisations progress in their IT Transformation investments, they can overcome the conflict between legacy IT and digital business initiatives to realize their goals, speed time to market and increase competitiveness.”

IT transformation is indeed a key pillar in the transformation initiatives, towards helping streamline Business processes and enhance customer interactions and experience.

According to Shadi Salama, Channel Leader – Middle East, Cisco, “Technology has changed the way we work and live. Businesses are becoming more efficient, consumers are making better-informed decisions and whole industries are being transformed as the real impact of technology becomes clear. From healthcare to transport and beyond, the shift to digital ways of thinking is helping to streamline processes, remove inefficiency and create better experiences for patients, passengers and the general public alike.”

For mid-market companies grappling with the need to transform towards the new ways of doing Business, there is a need for having a scalable infrastructure in place and the cloud is the easiest way to go about having this.

Khalid Khan, Director of Midmarket and Cloud, MEA & APAC, Avaya says, “Mid-market companies face the same challenges from digital disruption as larger enterprises but too often vendors either focus on their larger enterprise customers, or provide consumer-level solutions that don’t deliver the scalability companies need. While very small companies are often able to take the plunge and leverage new trends such as the cloud, mid-market companies may not have as much flexibility and agility to adapt.”

He adds, “However, mid-sized companies are clearly moving to the cloud today with the objective of streamlining processes and restructuring their business models for the purpose of greater profitability and to gain that competitive advantage. The good news is that moving to the cloud doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. Cloud migration is not a black-and-white, in-or-out decision, it can be a continuum.”

Along with cloud technologies that have radically transformed the way IT is purchased and consumed, one of the other transformational drivers is the rapid increase in the number of connected devices. This is expected to continue expanding data volumes that is generated. Cisco forecasts that connected devices will grow to 50 billion by 2020. From buildings to buses, energy grids to wild life, everything is being connected and what that means is the massive, unprecedented rise in the number of sources of data intelligence that can impact Business operations and customer experience.

“Almost everywhere, opportunity awaits – not just in tech-friendly vertical sectors such as energy and retail but in arts and entertainment, manufacturing, agriculture waste management, financial services, real estate, and education to name some. The Internet of Things (IoT) is introducing a new era of technology which will transform nearly every industry including the SMB segment to change the way we live and work,” opines Shadi.

IoT is a game changer as it takes networking technology to places where it was once unavailable or impractical and allows Businesses to extract intelligence for operational benefits from different sources of data. However, the challenge for companies is to build the right infrastructure, says Shadi and adds that small businesses face changing requirements of scale and data management, and need standards-based infrastructure that is highly secure and interoperable.

Shadi says, “The connection of devices, machines, and things allows small businesses to dynamically generate, analyze and communicate intelligence data, increase operational efficiencies, and power new and greatly improved business models. The IoT is creating value by lowering costs, improving employee productivity, generating new revenue avenues and enhancing citizen benefits. For SMBs, the benefits include improvements in innovation, supply chain and asset utilization.”

SMB entities are ramping up capabilities to compete and collaborate. UC technologies play a key part as well in these efforts. According to Khalid, in the communications and collaboration space, they are witnessing strong interest in hybrid deployments – with companies looking to maintain their legacy investment while looking at moving new applications such as voice, video, and contact center, into the cloud.

“With Avaya IP Office, we offer a solution that can fit the needs of 98 percent of all businesses out there, and we can offer it in on-premises, hybrid cloud, or pure cloud models. That means businesses can move to the cloud at their own pace and path, adding new features and capabilities to the cloud as they become needed, or while leveraging their existing investments,” he adds.

With possibly covering the largest number of Businesses in the country, the SME segment is often seen as the key segment contributing to economic growth and employment. The need to boost the competitiveness of the Businesses in this segment is therefore an urgent concern, which the path towards a digitalization of their businesses can greatly address.

Khalid says, “The SME sector has the potential to be one of the key drivers in the country where the Expo 2020 is rightly believed to bring massive opportunity to the sector. The sector in this region is one of the fastest evolving sectors and has become crucial in promoting competitiveness and introducing new products or techniques to the changing market dynamics around the world.”

Accompanying this growth and evolution are issues that were previously considered only in larger enterprise organizations. Security challenges, customer experiences etc are factors coming to the fore that need to be addressed.

“New technologies are today powerful drivers of middle market empowerment and the SME sector today is looking to have enterprise-grade solutions that provide the right kind of security and agility they need. While the government is equally supportive of the growth of this sector and actively encourages innovation and enables productivity, costs remain a key concern.  In order to shoulder this responsibility of innovation, this sector is increasingly recognizing the importance of the adoption of digital transformation as a must to deliver the customer experience that tech-savvy consumers in this region expect with cost-effective, scalable solutions that can evolve as the SME grows.”

According to Shadi, IoT is offering a whole new level of opportunity in technology leadership for SMB sector companies. IT is in the spotlight to enable actionable information, build new connections and open new revenue streams for SMB organizations throughout the Middle East region. As SMB’s continue to invest in technology today and in the future, the implications, he says will be transformational and he elaborates on how Cisco is enabling SMBs on this journey.

“Cisco helps SMB’s develop business agility by providing solutions to manage and store data in the cloud and data center that can improve productivity and operational efficiency today, while laying the foundation for tomorrow’s IoT opportunities, Cisco takes care of it all.  With our IoT products, organizations can expect new operational efficiencies, improved safety and security, distributed intelligence and control, faster and better decision making and new business opportunities and revenue streams.”

The opportunity is quite ripe for Businesses to move rapidly towards adopting new ways of doing Business. And partners who themselves need to accomplish digital transformation milestones in their Businesses would have a larger role in enabling the large number of diversified SMB/SME companies travel on this journey towards digital transformation.

“To better enable our channel partners to meet the needs of their customers for this migration, we’ve recently launched the “Powered by Avaya” cloud offering. The “Powered by Avaya” cloud offering enables channel partners to deliver Avaya’s unified communications (UC), contact centre (CC) and video conferencing (VC) solutions in the way that best meets their end-user customers’ needs.”

In sum, the need of the hour for SMB companies is to identify objectives and target milestones in achieving a digital transformation in the ways they transact Business or face the threat of being left out of the reckoning to be among their industry’s best.