Co-creating innovation with real partnering: A smart path to digital transformation

In this ever-evolving technology landscape, companies across all industries face the difficult, yet necessary task of constantly trying to balance the right technology resources, knowledge and competencies that will prime them for growth and success. As new technologies emerge, it is even more challenging for companies to attract and find the talent with these new skills and competencies.So instead of trying to “do it all,” more enterprises opt to stay focused on their core business function. They are purposely choosing to not dilute that foundation and seek technology expertise through collaborative partner relationships.


At the Think 2019 conference, IBM Services met with Bram Somers, head of IT Strategy and Architecture at Belfius Bank, one of largest banks in Belgium. It is Bram’s responsibility to ensure that the right technology and capabilities are in place to support Belfius’ business strategy. The following is a snapshot of the one-on-one chat IBM Services had with Bram on emerging technology, what Belfius looks for in a business partner and the importance of their partnership with IBM.


Q: What are the biggest challenges facing you today?

Bram:  One of the biggest challenges we face today is the speed of new technologies – to make sure that we have agility going forward and that we partner up with like an IBM to have new technologies in place.


 Q: It’s clear that technology and the use of technology is essential to the success of what you’re doing at Belfius. How do you balance the resources and the technology that you keep in-house versus what you need to find from an outside partner?

Bram:  Balancing resources and knowledge and competence is, well, it’s very difficult. In effect, it’s the biggest challenge that we have. So, today at Belfius we have like 60% internal development and 40% external development.


Q:  What are the characteristics that you look for in a strong partner?

Bram:  In a strong partner, the first thing that’s very important for us is competencies. You need to be an expert in your domain. And secondly, we expect from a partner to think together with us in a co-creation mode. It’s about real partnering and not only a customer relationship.


Q: Can you talk a little bit about the selection process and how you go about finding a partner that understands what you need at Belfius?

Bram: So, when selecting partners, next to the paperwork of the RFP, we do have very important one-on-one sessions because we need to have a connection. We need to be very clear what the culture is at Belfius and the culture of the partner. We need to have a good fit.


Q: Could you talk a little bit about the people that you’ve met and worked with at IBM and how that’s helped you with your business?

Bram: I’ve met some very wonderful people at IBM and as I said already, it’s about having a good relationship. It’s about having a trust. You need to be able to share your problems and challenges as a company with your partner and then work together in a co-creation mode. And that’s something I really appreciate of the partnership that we have today.


Q: Do you think there’s something specific about IBM that makes that relationship work that maybe another partner couldn’t provide for you?

Bram:  I think IBM has quite a lot of strategy than other main cloud providers, in that you are going towards a multi-cloud approach and supporting all clouds, integrating different cloud environments. I think that’s a very interesting strategic choice of IBM and certainly, well, something that has a lot of value going forward.


For an in-depth look at how Belfius is transforming, watch the video interview with Bram Somers.