Distribution’s new role in the age of disruption Distribution’s new role in the age of disruption
For the channel, disruption and digital aren’t threats to the future, they are opportunities, says Tarsus Distribution CEO Gary Pickford. Distribution’s new role in the age of disruption

In the past, there were two things that could be considered certain in this world: death and taxes. Today, there is one more item to add to this list: disruption.

The constant evolution of technology has had a significant impact on the business, shifting how organisations engage with employees, customers and markets. Emergent technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robot process automation (RPA) and blockchain are changing the foundations of the business, and disruption, enmeshed within the elegant confines of digitalisation, is inevitable.

Redefine Purpose

To thrive within this mercurial landscape, the organisation has to redefine its purpose, re-look its strategy, and develop an agility that will allow it to evolve alongside disruption and digitalisation.

TTG's CEO Gary Pickford on Disruption and Distribution

TD CEO Gary Pickford.

“Change isn’t fast until it is suddenly upon you,” says Gary Pickford, CEO, Tarsus Distribution. “You can see it coming in the distance, you know it’s going to happen, but you’re never quite sure when exactly it’s going to hit. For the distribution market, change has arrived and, with it, opportunity.”

Updating and Refining

Tarsus Technology Group is in the process of updating and redefining its purpose and strategy so it is precisely placed to take advantage of this opportunity. This is further driven by the need to establish a clear role in a complex market while ensuring that the business delivers a clear value proposition to its partners and its employees.

“In the past, the value proposition on offer from the distributor was the traditional credit lines, distribution availability, technical pre-sale skills and varying levels of delivery and logistics efficiency,” says Pickford. “These remain core elements of the business, of course, but they shouldn’t be what differentiate it – now they would easily be described as vanilla. Simple, basic, tasty, but not enough to really add value to partner, channel and customer.”

Distribution’s new role

The new role of the technology distributor needs to extend far beyond the traditional lines of credit and efficiency and into enablement, beyond logistics and operational efficiency and into a comprehensive IT ecosystem and journey. For Tarsus, the most important part of its mission to redesign its offering and purpose has been to redefine itself as an enabling partner.

“We all know that the new style of IT encompasses a broad selection of technologies, many of which haven’t physically materialised as yet,” adds Pickford.

“They may yet bring in massive amounts of revenue through innovative streams that haven’t quite yet been defined, so the industry remains in transition and vague. We all know that the Internet of Things (IoT) is coming and with it a proliferation of devices, but we aren’t sure how it will impact and what this impact will be.”

Technology Influx

The same principle can be applied to business intelligence (BI), AI, automation and RPA. Companies wanting to remain competitive will have to upgrade their technology infrastructure so they can cope with the influx of these technologies but nobody is quite sure how they will influence the business or investment decisions.

In other words, nobody knows how to answer the question of ‘Why?’. Everything is in flux and the answers aren’t clear cut.

“South Africa is currently exposed to these massive themes around the new style of IT but the channel doesn’t know how this will be translated into an operational perspective or onto the balance sheet,” says Pickford. “This is where the distributor should play an increasingly important role, bringing in experts and industry leaders who can provide the insights that resellers need to understand the market fluctuations and the impact these technologies will have.”

Upskilling Is Critical

For Tarsus, it is critical that the reseller is provided with the tools and support required to upskill themselves. This will allow for them to engage with their customers with greater foresight and understanding, ensuring that everyone benefits financially from the oncoming IT storm. The company travels the world to meet with partners and market leaders, gathering insights to support the channel and its ability to actively engage with new and emergent technology solutions.

“The need to stay efficient is going to become a common corporate conversation,” says Pickford. “The technologies that drive these efficiencies have to become part of the channel conversation and this is where we come in. We bring our suppliers into the conversation and they recognise the role that we play in ensuring their offerings go to market and customer. We are the bridge between the reseller and the new type of supplier that’s emerging today.”

As-a-Service Enhancing Distribution’s Role

The as-a-Service evolution isn’t ending the role of the distributor, it’s enhancing it. It allows for Tarsus to create new conversations and bridge the pathways between technology and innovation, giving the channel access to a vast array of mid-market corporates and suppliers.

This places the company directly into the role of enabling partner, one that is set to grow alongside the changing and disruptive nature of the market.

“The reality is that if you stay true to your strategy and your core culture as a distributor, then your business will remain alive and well,” concludes Pickford. “We have moved from the exclusively traditional models of operation to digital ones, adapting our core purpose and vision alongside the digital world. We grew up in the age of hardware and boxes, we have matured in the age of digital and on-demand and disruption.”

Not Threats But Opportunities

For Tarsus, disruption and digital aren’t threats to the future, they are opportunities. They are the qualities that define its new culture and strategic vision of a company that plays the role of aggregator and enabler, delivering value at every touchpoint in the channel chain.

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