By Matt Newing, founder of Elite Group

To compete in a digital age, you must demand more from your technology investments. It’s no secret that when productivity goals and cost margins are managed, the scope for business growth is huge.

Previously, you bought IT solutions based on their features, functionality and cost. Today you need a shift in mindset. That means balancing value for money on investment against delivery of agreed business outcomes. Only an equal partnership with your service provider will guarantee success. The latest government advice around preparing for the impact of the coronavirus gives this relationship even more gravity. But how can you guarantee that your service provider is up to this challenge?

Technology: A driver for change

Technology is both the enemy and the enabler. There is a long-standing argument that businesses who are “born” digital pose a real threat to larger established enterprises as they have the agility to evolve quicker and adapt to market forces and the changing needs of customers. However, a report has found that large enterprises are adopting emerging technologies up to five times faster than small companies. The issue for businesses of all sizes is that they must stay ahead of the curve when it comes to digital transformation to compete and maintain a competitive advantage in the long-term.

As with most change, this presents a huge opportunity for businesses that can innovate and go on this journey, adopting the latest technology in a secure and compliant way to drive productivity and better serve customers. Those that digitally innovate will keep pace and win in their respective markets.

75% of CEOs currently feel this pressure to digitally transform. The truth is that only the most agile will be able to ride the digital transformation wave. To survive, one must look at technology as not only solving an immediate need but also on maximising the long-term potential.

Digital transformation

It’s no longer a case of buying a solution to meet a specific need. Technology needs to work harder to meet multiple needs, and deliver a larger return on investment over a longer period of time. Long-term success for both you and your solutions provider depends on what more they can offer you in terms of outcomes.

For the provider, it’s no longer a case of matching a solution, making the sale and ending the relationship there. Solutions providers need to be the driving force of change, helping businesses prepare to tackle challenges, from both close vicinity and in the wider world. It’s less about technology-led initiatives and more about solution-led strategies that future-proof and grow the value of a business and make them more resilient to risk and uncertainty. Driving incremental changes will allow businesses to do more with the same or fewer resources.

To achieve this, your solutions provider should adapt their sales process to your business journey with an interlinked growth strategy.

How to ensure a successful partnership

  1. Map desired outcomes from the outset
To compete today, the five key areas that will help businesses become more successful are; being more productive, resilient, secure, agile and collaborating better. The unified communications market is growing 5% per year as businesses recognise this. Global spending on IT services is also expected to reach a record high of $1.14 trillion by 2021. But many digital transformation projects fail because companies aren’t integrating their business and technology strategies from the start. If you are to transform your business operations, you must work with your provider to develop a clear understanding of existing pain points and long term goals.

Think about your current struggles and challenges. The most imminent challenge for businesses right now is the need to be prepared for the majority of the workforce to work from home following government advice aimed at preventing further spread of coronavirus. How feasible is this for the business? Are current IT systems adequate or could this factor pose a substantial risk to the productivity of the organisation? Businesses must start having these conversations with their service providers to address what can be done in the short term to help them prepare for a disruption in ‘business as usual’ activities.

What about long term business goals and ambitions? Maybe your customer call centre isn’t performing as efficiently as it could, perhaps multiple offices need to find a way of communicating better following a merger, or are you looking to gain better insights from your data? Be clear and take the time to really delve into the heart of the business challenges, providing as much detail to your solutions partner as possible.

  1. Ensure deliverables match desired outcomes
Poor IT will limit, if not entirely stop, a company’s ability to offer remote working. Whether it’s seamlessly integrating mobile devices into the network or enhanced communication tools the right technology should fit in with the current needs of the business, its goals and strategy. For example, things like cloud technology, the ideal server, VoIP phone systems and software packages will allow team members to work in multiple locations, with minimal disruption.

When discussing the solutions, focus on the benefits rather than the features – for example, how will this help us to save time? How can this boost our resilience and ensure that we can continue operating at 100%? How can this help us to collaborate better? Which solution will make us more productive? The best combination of tools for one organisation will differ massively to the next. Your solutions provider should focus on solutions that will help your business to be at its most successful.

And it’s essential not just to look at technology solutions in digital transformation projects. Often new technologies fail to improve productivity, not because of the technology, but because the cultural impact of that technology has not been thought about. It may be that you haven’t yet made the full leap to transforming the business’ culture, and this is where the solutions provider can offer up valuable people training. Workforce engagement has a direct impact on productivity. Hence, it’s also important to be mindful of the need to migrate business operations in a way that works for employees, so that they can implement change in a positive way.

  1. Measure outcomes and improve
In the relationship between your business and the provider, transparency, along with delivery, is crucial. You should work with your partner to develop KPIs that enable them to verify and further enhance the value that the solution brings. To measure this success, the focus should not only be on technological performance, but also the impact of your operational and business performance. To ensure that the solution meets the promise, ask your provider for regular updates and ensure that they can come up with corrective actions if any of it is not performing as it should.

Only an equal partnership will do

When it comes to growth, you must look at new ways to change things, and this is no more apparent than with digital innovation. Digital transformation is a technology-enabled tidal wave that is changing businesses every day. The one certainty is that only an equal partnership between an innovative solutions provider and your business will successfully navigate the predictably unpredictable challenges along the way. Preparing your business for any eventually needn’t be a problem you face on your own. Your provider is there to identify the best solutions to help your business navigate whatever scenario it’s facing. The current coronavirus threat is shining a light on the collaborative tools that exist to keep businesses operational. It’s about finding forward-thinking solutions that adapt to the growing needs of your business to ensure that you can compete, not just today, but long into the future.