The rise of the innovation center as a platform for digital storytelling
Enabling customers’ digital transformations has become the holy grail opportunity for companies across the technology ecosystem. In a world in which everyone from server and storage vendors to technical services providers professes to be a “technology solutions provider,” marketing alone is insufficient to convince customers to entrust their digital futures to just a run-of-the-mill technology company. TBR’s research on the private and public sector consulting and IT services providers that typically deliver the expertise necessary to enable transformation shows that to do digital effectively for customers, providers must be digital internally.
Being digital means engaging in self-disruption by integrating internally the same innovative technologies that customers demand externally. It means adopting cloud operating models, developing IP and embracing new monetization cycles. These are difficult tasks, and not all technology companies are up to the challenge. Those that let fear paralyze action face the prospect of becoming irrelevant as more adventurous competitors build credibility around customer zero use cases leveraging partner-developed technology and come to clients armed with their own digital transformation success stories. Customers do not always care about a provider’s platinum-level certification from vendor X, Y or Z, but they will likely find something compelling in a provider’s story about navigating their own self-disruptions.
If customer zero is the story that successful services providers tell clients, then innovation centers are the stage on which the story is told. Innovation centers, digital studios, design studios, centers of excellence: There are almost as many names for these centers as there are examples of companies integrating them into their sales and marketing efforts. While it began with the leading consultancies, the innovation center trend has proliferated across all corners of the IT sector. A key component of providers’ overall innovation programs, the innovation center is where technology providers make digital transformation tangible for their customers. Innovation centers offer a neutral space to discuss business outside typical office settings, bring stakeholders to the table to identify and find solutions to problems, and develop blueprints for a successful transformation, enabled by collaboration between provider and customer. Innovation centers, when run correctly, evolve the conversation from one between buyer and seller to one between equal partners co-invested in enabling a successful digital initiative.
TBR recently spoke with World Wide Technology’s senior vice president of public sector sales, Bryan Thomas, to discuss the technology solutions provider’s new innovation center in Washington, D.C., and its connection to the company’s Advanced Technology Center in St. Louis. The conversation focused on how these centers improve client engagement and enhance go-to-market performance, as well as the importance of expert talent and the shift toward a consulting-led model to meet the specific mission objectives of federal clients.