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By Osama Al-Zoubi, CTO, Cisco Middle East and Africa (MEA)

The speed of technological change across industries is not slowing down. Even sectors that have been traditionally reluctant to embrace the full potential of digital transformation are transitioning in this direction.

However, as the desire to use new technologies has increased, the complexity of digital enterprise processes, related systems and the dynamics of connected ecosystems has significantly increased. As a result, as businesses move away from once siloed processes towards fully integrated operations, there is a growing realisation that talent is failing to keep pace.

Huge IT skills gaps are now beginning to emerge, which many companies are struggling to fill and this is where a specialised partner such as Cisco can play a pivotal role. After all there is little point investing so much into new digital infrastructure if you are not able to harness its potential and fail to achieve business value.

The trouble is that this shortfall in talent is coinciding with an increasing trend among customers towards better experience led interactions. As such the relationship between buyers and vendors must change to keep pace with this need. According to IDC’s IT Supplier Customer Experience and the Acceleration of Your Digital Transformation 2020 report, the Covid pandemic has sped up the process of digitisation as companies scrambled to put in place systems to enable remote working, collaboration platforms, security, and resilience. For this to be successful IT suppliers must put customers at the centre of planning and service delivery in a way that goes beyond regular zoom meetings. Something Cisco has been at the forefront of by ensuring the foundations are laid for exceptional collaborative experiences.

According to the IDC study, 47 percent of enterprises said a supplier’s ability to support in planning, implementation, and solution management was either very important or extremely important when choosing a supplier. While the track record of suppliers was important or extremely important for more than half of the enterprises polled in Europe.

The perception of digital technology among business leaders has dramatically shifted over the last decade with an “app for everything” expectation. An abundance of IT options means companies have shifted their focus from what technology can do to cost and how long it will take to implement. An IDC survey from 2018 found buyers saw very little difference between the products and services being offered. Increasing competition among suppliers has encouraged greater complexity of systems and processes, thereby highlighting the IT skills shortage. A 2019 study from the European Commission listed developers and analysts third overall in the shortages list with engineers and information workers also ranking high.

Enterprises want better customer experiences with their suppliers and that happens by fostering a sense of customer collaboration. This is done by providing DevOps capabilities, cloud-native skills, and supporting digital transformation projects. By leveraging the depth of their technical know-how through their pedigree, suppliers such as Cisco, can show businesses the breadth of their expertise across a wide range of technical areas and thereby highlight their ability to upgrade and integrate systems, databases, networks and software development.

IT suppliers must have a customer centric approach when working with clients and that means tailoring the support and services, they provide to the unique needs of the company they are working with. A great example of this is the collaboration solutions provided by Cisco’s Customer Experience team to Haribo. By working closely with the client Cisco was able to develop a strategic plan that integrated technology in a manner that met Haribo’s overall goals and objectives to maximise return on investment. It is therefore imperative that suppliers successfully connect IT solutions with a company’s vision and that is only possible with long-term planning and coordination.

The industry must move beyond a product or service delivery approach. The rapid pace of digital business transformation change means companies need far greater support from vendors to achieve their goals. The shortage of skilled IT professionals is certainly a challenge, but agile IT suppliers will see it as an opportunity to not only sell products but also build a long-term collaboration business that can help all interested parties going forward. Cisco has an extensive and successful track record of working closely with clients to ensure the technology helps to provide Innovative ideas to improve customer experience to improve business performance and deliver a unified experience.

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