Ep. 22 – Janet Schijns: Everything is Digital

Janet Schijns is the CEO of the JS Group following years of channel work at companies such as Office Depot, Verizon, and Motorola.  Considered an expert in mobility, IOT, services and solutions routes to market, Janet joins the podcast with a hot take on digital transformation and how we need to stop compartmentalizing and understand – everything is digital.  With that in mind, this episode starts off as a discussion about how digital transformation has morphed into “digital normal” and the transformative effect it has on how organizations strategize and operate.

What is Digital Transformation, Anyway?

To understand the evolution of digital transformation (or, as Janet calls it, digital normal) and its effects on the enterprise, let’s have a quick back.

Janet figures there have been three stages of digital adoption to get us to where we are today.

Digital Competence – Think back to when organizations first started asking questions like “what is digital, and what does it look like for us?”  There were new terms and strategies to understand, implement or reject; things like omnichannel, e-commerce, IOT, and SaaS.  “It came down to companies asking themselves What is this thing of which we speak,” says Janet.

During this phase, people worked to understand how they could ever possibly buy software products that were delivered via the Internet and struggled with the notion that consumers might one day be comfortable entering their credit card numbers into strange website interfaces.

Digital Usage – This phase is also occasionally referred to as “the race to the cloud,” as vendors hustled to stand up and sell SaaS offerings and companies began buying tools and tech on subscription models.  In many ways, we are still living in this era where there is an occasionally overwhelming array of marginally-differentiated tools we can buy to enhance and enable our plans for how we work.

Digital Transformation – This is the phase where companies have accepted digital transformation as finally being digital normal.  With usage came an ability to transform your business by informing a level of digital literacy and with that came the ability to scale fantastic new initiatives enterprise-wide, from Finance to Marketing and Sales to Customer Support.  We’ve seen this right down to the front lines of business, and Janet gives the example of how many retailers have eliminated their POS and use their own websites as their POS systems.

Digital transformation is about changing the practices of your business to be digital-forward, and digital-encompassing and Janet figures this is the key to a digital normal and digital success.

One might reasonably ask what a newly-transformed company looks like, in light of all this change.  As mentioned above, there are new movement proficiencies and new pathways to tread from the C-suite on down.

At the top of the org, you likely have senior leaders asking themselves how they are going to build shareholder return by revamping their strategies to extract maximum return on investment in all the tech.  No company enters into digital transformation without the belief that doing so will accelerate sales and growth while conserving resources and now it’s time to reap the rewards.

If you’re in Marketing, you are most likely to start exploring how your org’s new capabilities enhance brand and CX, and help you to scale and measure your programs.  As a Marketer for a born-in-the-cloud provider, I am often equally amazed at how today’s tools enable our work (especially as a small team!) yet watchful about getting over-stacked.  The pervasiveness of cloud tools and subscription models has had the side-effect of enabling teams to stand up “extra big tools to do extra small projects,” a phenomenon commented on by Jay McBain in the 2018 Forrester Channel Software Tech Tide.

Who can forget our good friends in the Sales department?  Naturally, somebody has got to pay for all this investment, and so typically Sales sees their quotas go up to support investment in digital.  What’s in it for them, of course, is the entirely unprecedented scale with which they can go forth and lay siege to their territories and prospect lists, all in a way that is tasteful and perfectly bespoke, of course.

Digital Normal x Digital Chaos

Digital helps scale, but Janet points out that it also can reveal “unnatural” competition.  In the world of tech sales through the channel, chaos was introduced with partners competing on the same customers to sell the same products.  In the manufactured goods channels, customers accustomed to having their territories protected by their large vendors were up against any other dealer who could evolve a decent e-commerce program.

Janet gives a great example that straddles the two worlds: “On Black Friday this past year, it cost seven dollars to get a click on the word ‘laptop’ in a search engine marketing (SEM) campaign, and you needed seven clicks to get to a deal,” she starts.  The worlds started to collide when channel partners looking to sell software or managed services and who were using the laptop as a point of entry found themselves going head to head with each other to sell the same products, thereby driving the price of the SEM clicks upward in order to get a single laptop sold on Black Friday.  “If you think about what it was that drove the price up on a word that should be about a buck on an SEM campaign, it was channel partners competing with each other for those search words,” she concludes.  (Author’s note: Another factor can be that the partners are just not that good at marketing and are driving the prices up because they’re trying to buy their way around the lack of an engaging program.  For a thought-provoking read on this topic, click HERE.)

If you’re a partner in this situation, you might find yourself a tad disgruntled at the prospect of getting into bidding wars with other partners to sell the same products, and you might even consider it a failing of the vendor if they haven’t taken any steps to interdict and de-conflict through their policies.

The downside of the unnatural competition scenario for brands is this: your partner who is the best at SEM campaigns is not necessarily going to be the partner who is best at giving your consumers a great experience in buying, owning and getting support for your products.

LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE CONVERSATION NOW:

BONUS: During the discussion, Janet speaks about a partner-readiness willing/able matrix she has created for her clients.  You can get your own copy of the slide right here:

 

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