Reimagine The New Next Together: Digital Transformation

In our “Reimagine the New Next” video series, Michelle Ruyle, Intelisys’ VP of Marketing and Digital Transformation, joins channel industry experts to discuss how the “new next” sparked an industry evolution. In this episode, Comcast Business‘ Craig Schlagbaum, Evolve IP‘s Scott Kinka, and Mitel‘s Kristi Lakich join Michelle to share advice for partners around digital transformation and using your digital footprint to stay front of mind with customers.

Michelle Ruyle: Hello, I’m Michelle Ruyle, Vice President of Digital Transformation here at Intelisys. As we “Reimagine The New Next Together,” our conversation is about digital transformation.

Today, we’re talking with Craig Schlagbaum, SVP Indirect Channel Sales at Comcast; Scott Kinka, CTO and Founding Partner of Evolve IP; and Kristi Lakich, RVP Channel Sales, Mitel.
Hi Craig. Glad to have you with us today.

Craig Schlagbaum: Hey Michelle. Good to be here and Happy New Year.

Michelle Ruyle: Same to you. Hey, McKinsey & Company says that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation adoption by six years. Is that what you’re seeing?

Craig Schlagbaum: It is. And in fact, I just opined on this; I wrote a blog yesterday in LinkedIn that talked about the golden age of the channel. And what it’s done is customers are now going to our partners saying, “Hey, I’ve got to pivot and I’ve got to pivot immediately.” And that happened obviously earlier this year, it continues on. But I don’t think there’s ever been a higher demand for the needs of our partner and the skills that they can provide to these customers to make the pivot over to digital transformation, and obviously working remotely is part of that.

So, I see a rapid change happening and particularly see it in remote workers. But in our case also, we’re selling a lot of SDN and that’s become a big transformation element as well, from legacy MPLS networks over to digital networks. And so there’s a lot of acceleration. I totally agree with that statement.

Michelle Ruyle: Hey Scott, what do you think?

Scott Kinka: Yeah, I like the six number, I do. The six years. Gardner was saying three to five in the numbers that we’ve been working through at our sales processes, but let’s just say it’s a pretty hefty increase.

I think back to 2019, at Channel Connect. Our solo session was: what is workstream collaboration? And we were packed. It’s amazing to think that that was fall of 2019. And you consider that today, we’ve enhanced it to a scenario where those workstream collaboration tools really got most businesses through the pandemic. If you take Microsoft Teams as an example, roughly 140 million daily active users by the end of ‘20. Really just crazy. So our entire conversation has changed in one year. And I agree completely with Craig. What a watershed opportunity for our partners.

Michelle Ruyle: Yeah. Wow.
Kristi, what are you seeing?

Kristi Lakich: For years we’ve talked about how technology would enable people to work from anywhere, anytime, over any device. And now here we are in the future we’ve created, solving problems we couldn’t have imagined that we would be confronted with. So yes, definitely.

Michelle Ruyle: Wow.
Hey Scott, so what has your company, Evolve IP, done to actually digitally transform?

Scott Kinka: We embraced all the new tech, and we’ll sort of talk about what that is. But I think that the primary thing that a business needs to determine at this point is: what’s the perimeter of the business. Right? And I think in this world, we’ve built IT infrastructures around four walls, right? Let’s get people to the office where our applications are. And sure, every business has a remote strategy, but that remote strategy is generally considered the alternative, right? Somehow substandard to being in the office. And I think that’s the biggest mental change you need to make.

We were thankfully in a position wherein late 2019 we had already begun making some moves. As an example, you weren’t allowed to get on a meeting without video in mid-2019 inside of our business. And we had already integrated our own voice stack into Teams, and were moving down that route. But from our perspective, we just embraced the tech that we had. Right? We sent everybody home. We fully embraced Teams. We very quickly in March worked with our HR department to move our entire intranet into a channel in Teams and shut down a bunch of legacy properties. We insisted all the meetings were online.

And then, we were very well positioned to … obviously, because of our work in DaaS and digital workspaces. But the key was really around building governance around how you act.  Like, be dressed for a meeting even though you’re at home, be prepared to do your meetings online, have appropriate lighting, think about things like lighting and devices and home bandwidth. Just really embrace that technology.

I don’t want to speak for Kristi or Craig, but I think our businesses all went through the exact same thing that our partners and customers have gone through: how do we just move super quickly?

Michelle Ruyle: Yeah. Your example is exactly what every other company is doing. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Kristi, what advice do you have for partners around digital transformation?

Kristi Lakich: As a partner, we need to stay front of mind and provide them with the solutions they need today, as well as things that they need in the future. So what you need to be is a true consultant, a true trusted advisor for your customers, and to utilize all of the solutions that Intelisys offers for you. And to look at the bigger picture and just really stay front of mind.

The only other thing I would say that I think is really important today is, your digital persona is your new brand. So your LinkedIn profile, what you post, your virtual events, your presence; everywhere that you can be digitally is very important to stay front of mind.

Michelle Ruyle: Kristi, I think you really gave some great advice there about our partners’ digital footprint and what that looks like. And that’s very new for our space, right? It’s something that the partners need to start embracing and realize it’s here today and they’ve got to make it happen.

Hey Craig, tell us how COVID, the new normal, has impacted your go-to-market strategy?

Craig Schlagbaum: Well, it’s had a profound impact. And the good news for us is we started down that road even before COVID. And one of the biggest things we’ve done is made a multi-million dollar transformation of our back-office systems, a project we call Orion. Which, in the end for the channel will mean a lot more ease of doing business in the way that they work with us. It’ll be APIs into Intelisys that we never had before. And we transformed twenty different applications we used to have down to four, which will translate into a lot easier experience for the partners to deal with customers.

And so, we were down that road anyway, but we put it on steroids in 2020. You have to do unique things to capture their mind share, because I think there’s a lot of video fatigue out there right now, and we’re trying to change that as we work forward. And then give our partners the social media content they need from Comcast, to populate their social media properties with information they can use and easily make that pivot themselves. We obviously put millions of dollars into this at a corporate level but we’re trying to provide that, especially to our top partners, to give them that ability to scale and do the same things that we do.

So those are a few of the transformation elements, where you’re even looking at conversation analytics tools like Gong and Chorus to change how we talk to partners and what we can learn from those conversations, because they’re all remote.

Michelle Ruyle: Gosh, Craig, that’s some good stuff. It definitely sounds like there’s a theme here, and digital transformation is about our partners and them looking to get their digital footprint kind of settled. And it’s great to hear that you’re having some tools that can help them strengthen that.
Craig, Kristi, Scott, thanks so much for being here today, with us today, and having this conversation. We sure appreciate it. You can find more information about these Intelisys suppliers on MyIntelisys. Bye for now.