There is a saying, usually attributed to Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, that ‘the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ While he could not have dreamed of some challenges facing modern business leaders, his words apply as much today as they ever did.

Businesses in all kinds of industries are facing competition from new angles. Traditional hotels are facing as much competition from Airbnb, a business that owns no property, as they are from the lower priced motels up the road. Uber is encroaching on passenger numbers for taxi businesses and even public transport providers.

The outcome of the new, digital-economy-led competition is that traditional businesses must innovate, and must become more accessible than ever before. And they must look to their skilled IT resources to achieve this. For many, it is a daunting prospect.

On the up-side, there is a growing awareness of the vital nature of the IT team. Smart business leaders have long moved away from the notion that IT professionals should stay chained to the server room. Who else, after all, has both the business knowledge and the technical abilities to understand new opportunities?

The down side is that the IT team knows better than anyone the enormity of transitioning from a traditional to a digital business. They know that when the CEO asks ‘why can’t we have an app like that?’ that it takes more than a few days coding something cool.

Aside from our own transformations over the years, we have been privileged to help many customers to make the changes that keep them relevant. Probably the most important thing that we have been reminded of, over and over again, is to make any transformation incremental.

The ‘one step at a time’ approach pays off because every development feeds into the next. It also lowers risk dramatically. There are very few unforeseen consequences, and none that cannot be managed.

For one customer, in the printing industry, that incremental approach meant getting the basics right and taming infrastructure problems. The first step was to create an environment that would support innovation – that meant reliability and much greater scalability. This was done with an eye on the next increment, building an online platform where customers could build self-service print jobs, 24/7. The customer shifted their mindset, and since embracing the digital economy, their fortunes have changed for the better.

Like many, our printing customer’s story served to remind us that changes do not have to be massive to be meaningful. The steps they took were relatively uncomplicated when broken down into manageable stages. The outcome, though, was one that had real customer impact.

At Computer Merchants, we’re always happy to share the experiences of our own IT and business transformations. We are constantly working on the next incremental improvement that will make life a little easier for our customers. We’d love to hear about your challenges too.


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