By: Norm Jefferies – Managing Director of Computer Merchants
You might have heard the words IT transformation bandied around a bit recently, but what is it all about? IT transformation means different things to different people, so it is little wonder that it can be hard to get to grips with the concept. At Computer Merchants, we’re in the fortunate position of seeing the world in terms of outcomes, rather than a vested interest in one technology or another. This means we can remove the filter and help our customers to clarity.
To understand IT transformation, we first need to consider the many reasons for business transformation. Even the most traditional of businesses know that to survive, they must find ways to stay relevant. In fact, the longest established organisations are masters of reinvention, which is why IBM is no longer dependent on sales of time keeping equipment and Apple is the darling of the consumer electronics space. Computer Merchants may be substantially smaller, but we owe much of our longevity to constantly evolving over the past 36 years.
Businesses can’t stay the same because the world around them changes which is often referred to as disruption. New technologies, different legislation, fluctuating economies and of course fresh competition all impact companies daily. When you cut through the details, business transformation is about three main objectives: growing revenue, engaging more effectively with customers and lowering costs. If you can achieve these objectives, there’s every chance your business will thrive.
IT can have a major impact on all three of these objectives. Given that technology is a major driver of progress, it makes sense that IT should be closely involved with business advances, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, limited resources mean the IT team is being asked to do more with less and it can be a struggle to support existing systems let alone resource innovation.
At Computer Merchants, we count IT transformation more as an ongoing, incremental process than a single major project with a start and end. Improving customer engagement has always been a priority, and I don’t foresee a time when that will end. We have mature systems of record, and we have made several incremental changes that allow us to use that information to make better supported decisions.
Rather than stop there, we took the decision to increase transparency. We’ve developed a mobile app that our customers can use to see for themselves exactly what is happening with their shipments or projects. This is not to replace the personal touch we value, but rather to give our people more opportunity to engage with our customer community about more interesting matters than consignment notes.
Even though we always have a long-term view of what we want to achieve, this incremental approach works well. Trying to change everything at once can have unforeseen consequences, where interdependent systems impact on each other, complications arise and deadlines pass by. We’ve been called in to help unravel a few such projects after budgets have blown out and users or customers have been inconvenienced. Working in manageable, bite-sized chunks means getting some quick, early wins that fuel the next step. It also builds in the chance to test, review and adjust.
Something I insist on keeping in mind is that technology should be used to improve the lives of our staff and our customers. We have a simple mantra: you talk, we listen. The first step of any transformation project, no matter how small, involves us putting this into practice. We include people from all parts of our own business, as well as customers and suppliers, when we brainstorm new ideas.
Changes can be scary, but IT people are adept at reinventing themselves and moving with (or ahead of) the times. For too long, IT teams have been the quiet achievers of most organisations. In the era of IT transformation, they are showing their true colours and taking centre stage as the stars of business success.