DX Trends for Big Tech – Strategic Collaborative Partnerships — Futurum Tech Webcast

In this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast, Futurum analysts Shelly Kramer and Sarah Wallace discuss digital transformation trends in Big Tech and how strategic, collaborative partnerships is a trend we’re going to see more of. Collaborative partnerships allow vendors to leverage one another’s strengths and serve customers in more effective, more meaningful ways.

In our conversation, we explored some strategic collaborative Big Tech partnerships including Cisco and ServiceNow, Siemens and Salesforce, Workday and Salesforce, Siemens and HPE, IBM and Adobe, SAS and Microsoft Azure

Our conversation centered on the specifics of some of these collaborations and our predictions around digital transformation for Big Tech and how strategic, collaborative partnerships are good for business and good for customers.

You can find our conversation here, with additional notes below the video:


Or listen to the audio here:

Strategic Collaborative Partnerships that have caught our eye recently include:

Cisco and ServiceNow. Cisco’s indoor location services platform, DNA Spaces, integrates with ServiceNow’s contact tracing and workplace safety application, and this partnership is at improving COVID-19 contact tracing efforts. The Cisco/ServiceNow offering is all about location services – offering companies real time insights about how employees move about their physical offices and to identify potential exposure with an effected employee. Our discussion in the webcast revolves around the challenges that exist specific to this collaboration between Cisco and ServiceNow, including privacy, WiFi network limitations, and the fact that customers have to be customers of BOTH Cisco and ServiceNow to get this, which could be a challenge. Will it fly? We’ll see.

Siemens and Salesforce. Siemens and Salesforce have partnered for a new Workplace Technology Suite, designed to help facilitate companies sending employees back to work in physical offices. The partnership combines Salesforce’s Work.com, powered by Customer 360, and Siemens’ Smart Infrastructure solutions, including Comfy and Enlighted, to orchestrate office processes and provide a safer work environment for employees.

Workday and Salesforce is another offering designed to help organizations get back to the office. Workday and MuleSoft introduced a workplace accelerator for Salesforce’s Work.com, designed to give leaders integration tools to import and synchronize employee data to inform return to work strategies. This is important, because it allows customers to pull and integrate data from any system into a suite of solutions. This platform includes pre-built connectors, templates, and data mappings that helps with contact tracing, shift management, development of command centers, etc. When paired with Workday’s Human Capital Management platform, Workday customers can get easy access to the data they need to support the workforce and align talent as needed.

SAP and HPE Partner to Deliver Enterprise Cloud On-Prem
We explored the announcement from SAP around the availability of SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, customer edition, which will make private cloud service SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud and license subscription available to customers that want to keep their SAP software landscape and data within their own data center environment. To deliver this new offering, SAP tapped HPE and its GreenLake team as its strategic partner.

This is all about cloudification and the critical role infrastructure plays (which is where HPE comes in). We see this move by SAP to “cloudify” its solution by migrating toward a SaaS model, allowing them to compete more effectively against the Salesforce/Tableau offering. This is a reality of vendors seeing the need to make their solutions cloud-friendly, as well as the critical nature of having the right infrastructure to support them. SAP doesn’t have a big infrastructure as a service business to lean on, and that’s where HPE comes in. This allows SAP to compete more effectively against the likes of Oracle and Microsoft.

IBM and Adobe partner to delivery customer experience and data management in the cloud for regulated industries
Adobe and IBM and Red Hat announced a strategic partnership to help accelerate digital transformation and strengthen real-time data security for enterprises, with a focus on regulated industries. The intent of the partnership is to enable companies to deliver more personalized experiences across the customer journey, driving improved engagement, profitability and loyalty.

SAS Partners with Microsoft Azure to bring analytics to the cloud
Microsoft Corp. and SAS announced a partnership that enables customers to migrate SAS’s analytical products and industry solutions onto Microsoft Azure as the preferred cloud provider for the SAS Cloud. SAS’s industry solutions and expertise will also bring added value to Microsoft’s customers across health care, financial services, and many other industries. This partnership builds on SAS integrations across Microsoft cloud solutions for Azure, Dynamics 365, Microsoft 365 and Power Platform and supports the companies’ shared vision to further democratize AI and analytics.

Digital Transformation of Big Tech: What’s Ahead?

What’s ahead? We believe that digital transformation for Big Tech includes more strategic collaborative partnerships. Specific to return to work, which is where many organizations’ focus is right now, putting people at the center of a return to work strategy is critically important. People need to feel safe, and data is the way that both they and employers can feel, and be, safe. Management of data, often from disparate sources, has really never been more important than it is now, and the infrastructure needed to support the cloudification of everything has moved from “nice to have” to “must have right now” — and we’ll continue to see that moving forward.

This was a great conversation and one we’ll be having more of, for sure.

Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.

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Data Suggests Amazon’s Retail Prowess May Often Be Overstated


Shelly Kramer: Hello, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast. We’re glad to have you. In this episode, my colleague, Sarah Wallace, and I are going to talk about tech vendors and how they’re collaborating, and how that is a trend that we see moving forward and increasing in the future. Sarah, great to have you, can’t wait to have this discussion. I think it’s an interesting one.

Sarah Wallace: Great joining this webcast with you today, Shelly.

Shelly Kramer: As I said, we’ve talked about this a bunch and how we’re really seeing vendors collaborate together and bring offerings direct to the customer. I think that’s good for vendors and I think it’s good for customers, and really I think that’s what it’s all about. Some of the things that we’ve been looking at recently is, some major brands and some partnerships that we’ve seen on the horizon I think are interesting and certainly part of this discussion. Sarah, you want to maybe kick off one of the vendor partnerships that you’ve been paying attention to that you think is interesting for the future?

Sarah Wallace: Sure. One of the major collaborations that we’ve seen announced this summer, and this is very pertinent according to what’s been going on with the global pandemic, so we’ve seen Cisco in ServiceNow. They’ve recently announced that they now have an integration on Cisco’s indoor location services platform called DNA Spaces. And with this collaboration, DNA Spaces now integrates with service desk contact tracing and workplace safety applications. And this is a collaboration that, the main goal here is to improve contact tracing for COVID-19 tracing efforts. And especially as we see companies starting to have employees go back to work. So basically the main integration here is that Cisco’s location based data will now be imported into ServiceNow’s contact tracing app, and this will help to identify potential interactions with an effected employee.

So some caveats here, users of the contact tracing integration, they will have to be on the same wifi network. And depending on the employer, employees may have to opt into this. So this is up to each individual employer. And I know that you and Olivier have had other extensive webcasts about contact tracing and privacy concerns.

Shelly Kramer: It certainly is something that it’s an issue. And I was looking at this, I do feel like there are some significant challenges, and the biggest of which is privacy issues. And I think we look at a situation, can employees opt in or is it mandatory? It becomes an interesting thing in a work environment. I know there’s a lot of technology that plays in work environments right now that tracks employee work time, productivity, when they check in, what their keystrokes are. There’re all kinds of monitoring that’s going on. So in some sense, this is an add-on to workplace monitoring that’s already happening.

But I do think that there are significant, when it comes to contact tracing, for some reason that sets off alarm bells for people. So it would be interesting to see how companies deal with this and what their messaging is around that. And the reality of it is, if people want to get back to normal, whatever that is for all of us, and it’s different for all of us, I think there are logical things that we need to do. And this kind of technology, I think helps us do that.

I think the other thing that’s a challenge in this particular partnership is that customers have to be customers of both Cisco and ServiceNow in order to get this. In order to use this kind of functionality. So that could be a sales opportunity, but it could also be a barrier. So I think that’s kind of an interesting thing. Let’s talk a little bit about some other vendor partnerships. Tell me a little bit about the IBM and Adobe partnership that’s focused on customers’ experience and data management in the cloud.

Sarah Wallace: Sure. So these are two cloud players that are coming together. Adobe, for the last three years or so, has really been concentrating on its customer experience platform. It’s Adobe Experience Cloud. And so it’s combining and joining forces with IBM, and IBM Red Hat. As we know, IBM acquired Red Hat in 2019, which is a container cloud platform. So IBM has really been leveraging Red Hat in terms of its offerings and also, in this case, partnerships. So basically the main points in this partnership is to help accelerate digital transformation, strengthen real-time data security for their Enterprise customers, and especially focus on regulated industries. And as we know, IBM, especially since last fall, has been announcing their intent to focus on regulated industry. So they’ve come out with their IBM financial services ready, public cloud. They’re also laser focused on healthcare. So basically this collaboration’s really making a push for IBM’s focus on regulated industries and Adobe helping them with the customer experience piece. So it’s a really smart partnership.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I agree. I think it’s an interesting one as well. One vendor partnership that I’ve been paying a little bit of attention to is SAP and HPE, who have partnered to deliver Enterprise Cloud on prem. And I think that this offering will make the private cloud service SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud and a licensed subscription available to customers who want to keep their SAP landscape, the SAP software landscape and data within their own data center environment. So in order to do this though, SAP announced the selection of HPE and GreenLake team as its strategic partner. This is an interesting move, I think. And it’s great to see SAP Cloudify its solution by migrating toward a software as a service model. And this is similar to what Salesforce and Tableau offers.

When I look at this, I think that this is a reality of vendors who are seeing the need to make their solutions cloud friendly, but also realizing that in order to Cloudify you have to have the right infrastructure in place. And so that’s where HPE comes into the equation. And SAP doesn’t have a big infrastructure as a service business to lean on, HPE slides in, this allows SAP to compete more effectively. It allows HPE to get more involved in this particular kind of offering. So again, it’s a win for the brands. It’s a win for SAP and HPE, and it’s a win for our customers as well, who really need this kind of thing.

Sarah Wallace: Yeah. And as we have witnessed the last few years HPE has really gained market share and made inroads with this GreenLake Cloud platform. So this just reinforces that.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. Makes a lot of sense. So what about SAS’ partnership with Microsoft Azure?

Sarah Wallace: Yes. Sure. So SAS has been a major force in the analytics space for decades, and they’ve just announced the partnership with Azure. So basically it’s pretty straightforward. So this enables SAS customers to migrate the SAS analytics products and their solutions onto Microsoft Azure as the preferred cloud provider. And basically, so that you can leverage SAS industry solutions and expertise, it’s going to also bring value to Microsoft’s customers as well. So those in healthcare, financial services and other industries, and basically it’s partnership that builds on SAS integrations across Microsoft Cloud solutions. So we have not only Azure, but Dynamics 365, Microsoft 365 and the Power Platform. This is a very logical and smart combination, because we have SAS, which is very powerful in its analytics, and combining with Microsoft, especially through its different 365 offerings, has become quite the market players as well.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I agree. This is kind of a no brainer. This is a great evolution, a great partnership between these two. So we look at all the tech brands that we’ve talked about during the course of this conversation, Cisco, ServiceNow, SAP, HPE, IBM, Adobe, SAS, Microsoft, Azure, pronounced correctly that time. And another one not to be left out, we’ve got Siemens partnership with Salesforce as part of their new workplace technology suite. This is a partnership intended to allow companies to safely send their employees back to work. There’s a theme at physical offices, and this partnership combined Salesforce’s work.com, that’s powered by Customer 360 and Siemens Smart infrastructure, again, technology solution, infrastructure solution, including Comfy and Enlightened, and that will help orchestrate office processes, provide a safer work environment for employees, and I think that’s a big issue.

I will tell you that this week is the first time since the middle of March, that my husband, who’s in sales for a Fortune 100 company, has left the city for a business meeting. And so, that’s what my family’s return to work looks like. For a lot of people return to work means physically going into an office, and we’re seeing more and more offices start to call people back, and people want to feel safe. So that’s really, I think, where some of these partnerships make a lot of sense.

And then along the same lines here, Workday and Salesforce offer an integrated solution also too, to help organizations prepare to return to work. Workday and MuleSoft have a workplace accelerator for Salesforce’s worked.com. And basically what this does is it gives leaders tools that allow them to import data and synchronize employee data from other platforms that they might be using within the organization. And then they can look at, this partnership allows, it has prebuilt connectors, templates, and data mappings that help with contact tracing and shift management like in hospital settings, or in factory settings, or things like that. And then it also helps with development of contact centers. So when you pair this with Workday’s Human Capital Management platform, Workday customers can really get easy access to the data that they need because of this partnership with Salesforce. So I think that, that’s pretty cool as well.

What else Sarah? Is there another technology vendor that you have on the brain that we haven’t talked about? I think the only other thing, this isn’t a partnership, this is an acquisition. I noted that Cisco recently acquired BabbleLabs. And the whole point of that acquisition is to be able to use BabbleLabs noise removal and speech enhancement as a way to enhance it’s Webex collaboration platform, which I think is awesome. We’ve already known this, but I think the world, as a whole, is realizing that collaboration platforms, especially video collaboration platforms are the future of work. They’re actually the present of work, and that’s not going to change. So seeing this acquisition on the part of Cisco continually trying to improve their platform, I think, is interesting. What else is there anything else that you have on the brain that we haven’t thought about in this conversation?

Sarah Wallace: Well, I think a lot of the collaborations we’ve talked about here, and our opening theme of working off each other’s strengths is, you see vendors coming to the table saying, “Look, we specialize in sensor technology.” And then you have a Salesforce or Workday saying, “We specialize in workforce staffing and scheduling.” So I think all these partnerships we’ve mentioned today, especially honing in on back to work, which is so pertinent right now, is that these collaborations, bringing these technologies together, as you’ve said, it’s really benefiting the end user, which is the enterprises, and especially the safety of their employees.

Shelly Kramer: I think that as we look at these trends, and our advice to companies who are doing this, or who are exploring these solutions, or solutions in general, is putting people at the center of your work. Return to work strategy is incredibly important and people are afraid. They need to feel safe. They need to feel like they can trust the solutions that you’re putting in front of them, and make sure your messaging is not, this is yet another move by a big brother. I think people, are a lot of times, leery of things like that, but you really have to talk about, in your messaging, how this is part of our path to return to normal. And we might not always use these solutions, but we might need to, at least, use these solutions for a while.

But I think the other part of this equation that we can’t leave out is our customers. So we’re thinking about, in some instances, or we’re talking about, return to work. Getting employees back to the workplace. Another area where we have to have people first and people at the center of all of our strategies is in the consumer side of business. Here, we’re in the summer months for most of us in the United States, and we’re quickly moving into the fall and winter, and we are still in the middle of a global pandemic. And customers, we don’t know, how much worse are things going to get, or are they going to get worse than they are right now? Are we going to go back to a time when we were more careful, more locked down? What are we doing in terms of retailers? What are we doing in terms of offering curbside pickup solutions? How can we change those?

Being able to use reliable data to develop those strategies that are consumer facing strategies, I think, is really important. And I think that’s really the other part of this conversation that we need to keep in mind is, what are we doing for our employees, and what are we doing for our customers when we’re in customer facing businesses? And how can we turn to some of these technology solutions that are smart partnerships and integrate them into what we’re doing in a way that will benefit our customers, too?

Sarah Wallace: Right. Yeah, I definitely agree. So you’ve got your employees and the end user, so we always talk about digital transformation and the whole conversion of only shopping online at Apple, or Best Buy, and realizing, I can do curbside pickup or have it delivered to my house. And as we said, the pandemic isn’t necessarily going away anytime soon, it’s going to be in different stages. And especially as the winter comes and we might be… My local mall is physically open, but it’s nice to have the option of doing curbside pickup.

Shelly Kramer: Actually, I’ve only done curbside pickup once in this whole pandemic. And I think one reason is that I’m kind of a grocery store in person kind of person. And so even in the early days I would shop once every couple of weeks and that was fine, but I did buy some dog food and pick that up curbside. And it’s just so funny. Everybody has their different habits, their different norms. And for me, ordering online and having delivered is not generally what I do unless I’m buying something from Amazon or some other eCommerce site. But locally, like ordering groceries and having it delivered, or ordering food and having it delivered, I don’t tend to be that person, but it is interesting to see that.

And I think that a whole separate conversation is the customer experience of those situations beyond what we’re talking about, which is data partnerships, and technology partnerships, but going back to the idea of the experience and customers experience. Specifically, one of the things that has been happening to me on a regular basis is that when I am physically somewhere doing my shopping, having employees of the store get in my way, because they’re fulfilling online orders. And I think both are very important, but I think what needs to happen from an internal training messaging, customer experience standpoint, what you don’t want, if you’re a retailer, is you don’t want to chase customers like me away. You want to be able to welcome them into a warm, and safe, and inviting environment and let them buy. I think chances are good they buy… I think customers, in many instances, actually buy more when they’re on site because of impulse buys, at least I do.

But I think that you need to be mindful. Brands need to be mindful of the fact that you have these two solutions going on, and you want to teach your employees that the customer experience that you’re serving up, when you’re getting in front of somebody who’s a customer, who’s in person, you can wait two seconds to fulfill your order. Let the customer in there. Just be mindful of the fact that those customers exist. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that, but that’s been on my mind from a customer experience standpoint lately.

Sarah Wallace: Yeah. I was, last Saturday, at a major grocery chain and I just noticed a cluster of employees standing in the aisle talking to one another. And they were right in front of the gluten free pasta. And I was like, I’m going to come back, because it’s three employees. They all had their masks on, I had my mask on, but still, it was a little bit of a red flag for me.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Sarah Wallace: And then I actually forgot about the gluten free pasta.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, but that’s my point. When you extrapolate that out, times hundreds and hundreds of customers who are experiencing this, and by the way, I experience this all the time. And I will say that, probably, one of the biggest places that I experience it is at my local Whole Foods. And I know that they do a very big delivery business. I think that’s great. I, 100%, support people who want to order and have it delivered, but there needs to be that awareness.

It’s just like you’re raising teenagers, I’m raising teenagers. I feel like I have conversations with them all the time about pointing out, like, this is how you do this, or this is why this is important, or this is why you stop and open a door for somebody, or whatever. Just those little life lessons. I think that, that same kind of training needs to happen in the workforce. And the reality of it is, if senior leaders aren’t aware that this is a problem at the store level, it’ll never get fixed. So, perhaps someone from Whole Foods will run across our webcast and learn something from a customer experience standpoint, that’ll change everything about those experiences that we’re seeing.

Sarah Wallace: And actually, my cluster experience was at Whole Foods.

Shelly Kramer: See?

Sarah Wallace: So I wasn’t going to mention the chain, but since you’ve already put it out there.

Shelly Kramer: No. I think, and again, I shop at a number of grocery stores. I think this happens to me most at Whole Foods, but I also think that Whole Foods, probably, who, by the way, also has the greatest customer service. Generally speaking, really great customer service, but I just think it’s something they’re missing. I think that it’s something they’re just not thinking of. So I find it, and I knew as soon as you were talking about it, that you were probably talking about the same thing. And it may seem like small inconveniences that we’re talking about, but as a business strategist and analysts, when you look at the bottom line and you think how many people didn’t get gluten free pasta because someone was standing in the way, or how many people were irritated because they couldn’t get to the yogurt case because two people were filling orders and they were oblivious to my presence. And so I was just frustrated and I bought my yogurt somewhere else. I mean those dollars add up. So anyway, interesting.

Well, Sarah, I think that wraps it up for this episode of our webcast. As always, it is a pleasure spending time with you. And I think that I forgot at the beginning of this episode to leave you with our disclaimer. We often mentioned publicly traded companies. We have lots of thoughts, and opinions, and advice, none of which should be taken or construed in any way as investment advice. These episodes, these shows are for information purposes only. So with that, we will thank you for hanging out with us today. Thank you Sarah, for joining me and we’ll see you next time.

Image Credit: IT Brief

Author Information

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”


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