Digital transformation is real and happening in companies across the board. In the IT distribution space, Westcon-Comstor is putting its money where its mouth is by launching its Blue Sky digital distribution platform.
“These are very exciting times for us,” says Steve Garrou, executive vice-president: development and strategy at Westcon-Comstor. “Digitalisation is happening, and it’s disrupting many business.”
The traditional distribution model works with the distributor in the middle between the hardware and software vendors, offering warehousing, financial services and consulting to resellers.
Today, Garrou points out, cloud companies have come into the market with a direct model that disintermediates resellers; while resellers also have their own products and services that could be part of the ecosystem.
“We realised have to make sure the channel stays relevant,” Garrou says. “And that’s why we invested in Blue Sky: to make sure the reseller stays in the middle of all of these transaction.”
Digital logistics involves taking the best of what the distributor doe sin the physical word, and bringing it into the digital space.
Westcon-Comstor has done this be investing in four areas:
* Customer-centric solutions. Technology has to make the resellers’ business more valuable, Garrou says. This means offering intellectual property, services and actual products in a relevant solution. “We have prepackaged some of the elements, and let resellers add their own services to this.”
* Analytics: the digital economy it is all about the data, and using it to add value. Technologies driving this are cloud, big data, Internet of Things (IoT) and mobility.
* Strengthening the resellers service portfolio: this means the distributor needs to help resellers to develop complementary service offering, and offers a range of standardised services as well.
* Intellectual property: In the digital world, its less about warehousing and logistics, but more around IP, Garrou says.
“Blue Sky, for us, is a pivotal moment. We think it’s going to become the centre of the reseller’s digital services lifecycle.”
The Blue Sky cloud-based global digital aggregation platform, offering cloud and service management. The business intelligence it provides puts resellers at the centre of the digital services lifecycle, providing a new level of visibility into and control over the entire cloud supply chain.
BlueSky radically simplifies order, delivery and management of cloud services and solutions. Comprehensive capabilities allow resellers to more easily monitor their end customers’ product procurement and usage, subscription renewals and services contracts via a single sign-on dashboard.
Merchandising analytics also track end users’ progress throughout the shopping experience, offering targeted, relevant buying suggestions along the way that give resellers cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.
“The future of distribution is here today with BlueSky,” says Leane Hannigan, Westcon-Comstor’s cloud solutions practice director. “For several months we have been talking about the benefits of digital logistics and now our resellers in southern Africa can be the first to experience a radical new way of managing their cloud businesses. It’s unlike anything else and we believe it will not only shake up the market, it will give our customers a distinct competitive advantage.”
The BlueSky engine is a global system that has been built from the ground up to simplify the aggregation and procurement of cloud-based solutions and services. The system boasts powerful real-time analytics capabilities that are able to offer unmatched insights into service usage and trends of users on behalf of resellers.
In addition, its automated processes enable better service performance management of the entire cloud services delivery lifecycle, including realtime event notifications, all of which enables partners to make better business decisions and complete their customer lifecycle management.
Hannigan adds that BlueSky will, in the near future, be delivered as a white-labelled online portal, giving resellers a branded storefront for their own end-user customers. It also offers extensive intelligence capabilities by way of its ability to efficiently manage the customer-service lifecycle from order and deployment to invoicing and renewal, alerting partners through each step of the process.
While the company is leading the charge with a series of cloud-based solutions, it is currently working with vendor partners to ensure that both physical and digital products on its portfolio can be procured through BlueSky as a single portal. The first local vendor to have already on-boarded is Microsoft, providing the vendor partner the first local digital aggregation partnership in the region.
“Digital transformation is underpinned by digital services which is exactly what BlueSky provides our partners – a single digital environment to better manage and execute all distribution procurement in the future,” adds Dan Connolly, senior vice-president and GM of the Westcon-Comstor cloud solutions practice.
“With BlueSky we are giving our partners not only a digital tool for their distribution requirements, but also a system that enables them to brand cloud services as their own, the ability to customise the dashboard for greater visibility of a variety of analytics and information to better manage the order lifecycle.”
The first cloud service available on Blue Sky in South Africa is Microsoft’s cloud software offerings.
Zoaib Hoosen, GM of Microsoft SA, describes the launch as a pivotal move for all cloud vendors in South Africa.
“A great deal of thought has gone into cloud computing and our customers,” he says. “There are so many new technologies that are available today, and are solving problems today.
“Every business today is a digital business,” Hoosen adds, describing this as the place where the physical, logical and biologic worlds come together to create new business models.
In South Africa, he says, digital transformation is moving very quickly. “Close to one-third of my business is now coming from cloud. Customers are talking to us about having up to 70% of their servers in the cloud already.
“So it is a huge game changer, with low barriers to entry – and it is really driving change for us.
Customers are taking the journey along a couple of dimensions, Hoosen says – and the reseller partner has a role to play in this area.
“The first is engaging with customers – how are companies doing this and how can they do it better?”
The second area revolves around empowering employees, and making them more productive.
Improving processes is another element, Hoosen says, and can have a major impact on the business.
“The fourth area is how we can transform the products, using digital content.”
“And how we service these customers is limited by our own creativity. The change is happening as we speak, and it’s happening at a tremendous pace.”
The fourth industrial revolution will change the work in ways we can’t comprehend, says Guy Whitcroft, interim-CEO of Westcon-Comstor.
This revolution ushers in the ability to combine technology with biology, blurring the lines between physical, digital and natural – and it’s happening very quickly.
“We are seeing huge areas of change,” Whitcrosft says. These include the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, 3D printing, quantum computing, materials science and more.
“Look at the services we just take for granted: buying things, watching movies, booking a restaurant table finding a hotel room, backing up our data, even taking a course online. All of this is assimilated into our word today.”
Whitcroft points out that the level of change in the IT industry is almost unbelievable.
“Central to big data, Iot and mobility is the cloud,” he adds. “And so we are poised for one of the biggest challenges and opportunities that the world has ever seen.”
Digital logistics allows resellers to capitalise on this, Whitcroft says. “With Blue Sky you can now deliver software and more to your customers, quickly and effortlessly.”