Getting your clients on the transformation path: CompTIA’s Thibodeaux

CompTIA’s Todd Thibodeaux laid out five steps that everyone in the IT business needs to do to overcome the many obstacles to getting customers to embrace transformation.

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Todd Thibodeaux, CompTIA’s President and CEO

CHICAGO – Vendors, distributors and solution providers all need to get on their own transformation path, as well as nudging their customers down that route, said Todd Thibodeaux, CompTIA’s President and CEO, in the opening keynote at CompTIA’s ChannelCon 15 event here this morning.

Thibodeaux intended to use some text polls among the record number of attendees in the room to assess the impact of whether the big changes that had been expected in the last five to seven years had come to fruition.

“We’ve been promised a lot of vast shifts, but have they really happened?” Thibodeaux said. The first poll, on the impact of the promised spending on digital transformation for broadband, found that only a fifth of respondees – 21 per cent – had seen a strong return. 34 per cent reported a ‘meh’ return and 44 per cent said flatly they had seen no return at all. Unfortunately at that point, the electronic tabulation system failed, and Thibodeaux was forced to resort to the time-tested show of hands. Those pretty much showed a similar story however, Very little impact was seen for the promised boom in health care spending, or mobility – with the latter being somewhat ironic giving the failure of the mobile voting to work. Cloud was somewhat better but not great. Only managed services, which showed very strong support among the audience, had really had the impact that had been hoped for.

“The bottom line is that there is no magic bullet,” Thibodeaux said. “Only one of those hit and some just fizzled away. It’s a very fluid environment, and it’s tough to latch onto a speeding train. Transformation does not just happen overnight.”

Thibodeaux then talked about a number of structural forces that discouraged transformation, including concern about business disruptions, fears about productivity losses, uncertain ROI in a time horizon that works for the individual company, and lack of financing, which is a major issue today in deterring embracing of transformation.

Given that transformation is necessary, but that companies are reluctant to do it for many reasons, Thibodeaux then laid out five steps that companies can do to try to precipitate change, whether it’s a solution provider dealing with a customer, or a vendor or a distributor dealing with channel partners.

“First, you have to give up on the idea you can get people to make massive changes overnight,” he said. “It’s not going to happen. It’s a fantasy in today’s economy. You have to talk about transformation as a series of steps.”

Secondly, Thibodeaux said that businesses need to get to know the succession plans of their customers.

“There can be massive generational shifts or consolidations depending on their situation, so your approach to them might need to change,” he said.

Third, Thibodeaux emphasized the importance of getting their customers on a timeline.

“Transformation is a continuum, not a final destination,” he said. “What’s important is to just get them on some kind of path so they understand what the next steps are.”

Next, the CompTIA CEO warned that you can’t count on churn.

“You have to mine your own gold,” he said. “You must be prospecting your customers all the time, finding their pain point and getting them on a path to transformation.”

Finally, Thibodeaux emphasized that companies have to practice what they preach.

“You have to make your own commitment to transformation,” he said.

Thibodeaux talked with Andrew McIntyre Chicago Cubs’ Senior Director of Information Technology on the problem he faced, having been brought in to lead the IT transformation following the 2009 acquisition of the club by the Ricketts family from the Tribune Company, which had supported the core applications around the club during their tenure.

“The back end was like a 100 year old startup,” he said. “There was nothing there in terms of being able to harness every aspect of the organization to drive revenue. There was also a huge disconnect between the executive team and where they thought we should be, and the rest of the organization. They thought of IT as a help desk. It was where you called when your phone didn’t work. They didn’t see it as a change agent implementing new solutions for them.”

McIntyre said that they have been able to develop key applications to implement new solutions, which span business applications, including CRM, business intelligence and analytics platforms, and data warehousing.

“Ticketing is our number one business line, with the health of our waiting list for tickers being both an asset and a great lead for single game and other types of sales,” he said. “The season ticket holder renewal rates and waitlist conversion were two major metrics, and we would do things like follow up with people in case they weren’t renewing.

McIntyre said another key element of transformation was embarking on a five year restoration effort for Wrigley Field.

“Every piece of tech needs to be evaluated and likely be upgraded, and of course everything put in place in year one could be obsolete by year five.”

The revitalization of the bleachers with video boards being added was one component of this, which will improve fan experience and possibly help the home team by making it a more engaging place to play.

“It will bring about a return of the bleachers back to their heyday,” McIntyre said.

Perhaps it will even help to bring about on-field results, since the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908.