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Digital Disruption: Every Company Is at Risk, Says Red Hat’s Dawson

Digital Disruption

A company might think it’s successfully transforming into a cutting-edge, data-driven, AI-wielding digital business, then wake up one morning and find itself disrupted. For partners, the ability to identify customers at risk of being displaced is good for their longevity and your own.

We asked Margaret Dawson, Red Hat’s senior director of global product marketing, how to identify potential casualties. Dawson also weighed in on the urgency of digital; the CIO versus CMO issue; whether organizations really need a chief digital officer; and what key process, staffing and technology steps organizations must take to be successful with their digital business journeys.

Red Hat's Margaret Dawson

Red Hat’s Margaret Dawson

Key takeaways for partners: A chief digital officer might not be the answer since disruption can be a slow drip — and companies with no vision of where they want to go are unlikely to get there.

Channel Partners previously talked with Dawson about the challenges women face in a male-dominated tech industry — and why progress seems so hard to come by.

Channel Partners: How can a company know if it is at risk of finding itself disrupted?

Margaret Dawson: What’s interesting is that you’re not going to know before it happens. That’s the irony of disruption, is that you have so many companies that until it happens, they were pretty blissfully unaware that they were about to be disrupted. So the thing that I always talk about when I’m speaking to CIOs or organizations is, just assume you’re going to end up getting disrupted by something you can’t see, that it may not be and usually isn’t someone who is a competitor today.

So rather than saying, “How do you know if you’re at the risk of it?” you are at risk. Every single organization – and in every industry of every size – is at risk right this minute. And so the question is, how do you get ahead of that? How do you look at your market, the technology, the way you’re running your business, the way you’re treating your customers? And if you act as though you’re already being disrupted, what are the things you would do differently?

Do that now. Don’t wait.

CP: What are signs you’re being disrupted?

MD: The things that we’re seeing are kind of the initial cuts or hurts … loss of customers, obviously, which is loss of revenue, or it’s just loss of velocity. Like if you’re a commerce company and someone comes out and has a new way of doing something. Maybe you still have your customers, but they’re now spending $5 per order as opposed to $20 per order because it just becomes so much easier with this other company. It can be a slow drip, or it can be a complete cut in the throat like we saw with an Uber situation.

The point of this is, and the reason we say digital disruption and digital transformation, is that so much of it is happening because of technology. And how it can hurt you is, all of a sudden, a competitor or another organization is using technology in a digital experience to reach customers to deliver services, to provide something that is in your market segment that completely changes the way that market is moving and delivering, communicating or servicing its customers. That’s what’s unique about this disruption: It’s all technology or digitally driven.

CP: Is it a good idea for organizations to have a chief digital officer? Would having one help in preventing disruption?

MD: I think a chief digital officer is an important role in a modern organization for a lot of reasons, from understanding that end-to-end digital journey for your customers to …

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