In the age of disruption and digital transformation, vendors need to enable partners to move up the value chain, providing professional services on an ever-shortening timeframe as the rate of disruption continues to narrow.
Instead of their traditional role as an enabler of technology, vendors need to move towards greater collaboration in providing value-added services to customers.
"Short-lived or transient advantages will become the new normal in deals,” said Gerald Leo, director of small, mid-market and corporate customers at Microsoft Singapore, when speaking exclusively to Channel Asia.
"Vendors need to become an enabler for partners to move up the value chain in providing professional services that can be rolled out in shorter timeframes so that organisations can address fast-moving market demands."
Digital transformation - in multiple forms and factors - has begun to have a positive and measurable impact on business, according to a recent IDC Asia Pacific study commissioned by Microsoft, including profit margins and productivity.
"Organisations are looking at ways to develop digital products and services that will elevate their business performance,” said Leo.
Digital disruption is a unique proposition in Singapore’s context because unlike other countries, where the private sector drives digital innovation, Singapore’s government drives much of this transformation.
In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, if all governments went digital using today’s technology, such digitalisation would be worth more than US$1 trillion annually.
A key part of Singapore’s effort to leverage digitalisation for the good of its citizens has been the Infocomm Media 2025 report that highlighted four crucial areas where digital technology can have a profound impact.
Specifically, this includes the creation of high-skilled jobs, productivity growth for businesses, support for an ageing population through health solutions and services, and lastly strengthening national identity through the collective pursuit of positive social goals.
There is something to be said about having clear national goals for digital transformation, with an all of government effort to achieve them.
For one, it provides an impetus for Singapore-based organisations to adopt a technology-forward mindset, and to digitise more quickly than they may have done otherwise.
“Organisations are looking at ways to develop digital products and services that will elevate their business performance,” said Leo.
However, challenges still exist in this journey and while Singapore may fair better than a lot of other countries, the road ahead is not a smooth one, with significant hurdles to overcome.
Generally speaking, however, cyber security concerns still persist, as well as the availability of skills and resources necessary for successful execution, with thought leadership still lagging behind market needs.
"All these challenges point to a need to work alongside a trusted partner that can help close the knowledge gap while providing advanced technological solutions on a trusted platform that can help accelerate their digital journeys,” said Leo.
"At Microsoft, we are committed to growing our partner ecosystem by enabling our partners to play a trusted and valued role in customers’ transformation journeys.
“Beyond technical enablement, we are also providing advice as to how our partners can drive holistic and stronger discussions with customers in order to drive business value, and also to manage security, privacy and regulatory concerns and requirements.”
Microsoft has in fact undergone its own transformation recently, growing its Azure platform rapidly across the region, and expanding its partner network.
Spearheading this transformation is CEO Satya Nadella, who recently said "we are all in on open source", after the recent US$7.5 billion acquisition of GitHub, illustrating just how far Microsoft has come in transforming its business.
“What is unique for us is that we have also undergone a massive transformation ourselves,” said Leo. “We are well placed to share our lessons with fellow partners on how we have transformed our company culture and business model to adapt to the digital age."
Microsoft sees its partners becoming an integral part of the customers' digital transformation journey.
“They will transit from selling exclusively to IT leaders and decision makers to closing deals with business decision makers,” said Leo.
However, the partners' mindset will need to change to adapt to this new reality, “a consultative mindset and focus on moving up the value chain,” is needed according to Leo, providing professional services rather than one-off deals.
Furthermore, partners need to look at co-creating intellectual property or services with other partners or even their customers, according to Leo, bringing solutions to customers in a much faster timeframe.
Digital transformation is a great driver of technology development and an excellent opportunity for vendors and partners alike, creating greater awareness and a renewed impetus to adopt technologies such as cloud and mobility solutions.
“This has resulted in volumes of data being created, which can create value for businesses when mined strategically,” said Leo.
“It is no surprise that we are seeing strong interest in areas such as big data analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and increasingly, artificial intelligence (AI)."
Furthermore, “emerging technologies such as AI (including cognitive services and robotics) and IoT are areas in which leaders of digital transformation are investing in, where data collected can be used to provide intelligent analytics and solutions for organisations to help ultimately develop new digital products and services,” said Leo.