Digital Transformation in Business to Business (B2B) operations seems out of place and rightfully so. If, as a B2B business, you adopted or upgraded your digital tools in the last few years, you would think that a performance upgrade or a few new specialized features in your computing arsenal should keep your business on the competitive edge. And If you are not leveraging digital tools in your B2B operations, and are thriving, you would see no reason to change. After all, if it is not broken - why fix it? If either scenario describes your feelings on the subject you could not be more wrong.
The dynamics of the business world are transforming quickly, but the depth of that change is only now starting to be realized. Over the next 3-5 years organizations which do not find a way to embrace the proper use of existing and new digital technology will find themselves in a dying, niche business.
Oddly, the reason for this has little to do with the technology itself. The technology is an enabler, not the driver. The driver is a drastic change in the expectations of a modern workforce and consumer. Today, for the first time ever, middle and even senior managers are from a generation that has lived life immediate information access via cell, text, & mobile applications. The same is true of the new affluent consumer class. The new consumer expects:
- Near instant access to information for a wide variety of sources (on-demand consumption)
- Comparing products “apples to apples” online
- Shopping for the best quality, wide selection, and value online
- Interacting with one another more virtually than in person
These are your new customers and like it or not failure to give them access to products, payments, and paperwork via the methods they want will leave many businesses in the dust.
This overview, while it may sound fearful and grim, is not. It is actually a call to action. Taking on digital transformation does NOT have to be done out of fear or as a “necessity”. It is actually an opportunity to investigate a company's innate assets, its unique value, and look for ways to gain greater traction with existing and new customers via the better use of technology tools.
B2B companies tend to have similar problems at a higher level. This is not to suggest that things have been done incorrectly or mismanaged. It is really recognition that the game of conducting business is changing. There are several new technologies and processes being brought to bear that help to create this change:
- Advanced Data Analytics
- Real-time Big Data Sources
- Machine Learning
- IOT (Internet Of Things)
- Software Defined Computing
- Hyper-scale, hyper converged, and quantum computing
- Continuous Integration
- Lean, Agile Development
- Real-time, dynamic security monitoring
- An API based software design economy
As these new technologies and processes become more advanced it quickly shows how older B2B technologies and processes are being eclipsed and show the age of a company’s digital strategy. The types of problems we regularly see at Dais X are:
- Multiple Transaction Oriented Systems (order entry, order fulfillment, billing, payments)
- Little information sharing between systems
- Customer call centers with no dynamic learning methods to improve customer experience
- Few, if any, feedback loops from the customer to the company processes and personnel who create new products or market value
- Digital systems that cannot scale with volume nor allow quick deployment of new customer oriented features
- Rating/review systems which are skewed or have little useful information to help customers with a decision making process
- Information systems that update nightly or hourly and not instantly
- Few customer interfaces that allow them to see the status of all their activity
- Little ability to get the data a customer really needs from an online portal
- Systems which interact too aggressively (too often, too pushy, too “salesey”) with a customer and those which add little if any value
What is becoming clear is that for a company to be truly outstanding, no matter its size, it needs to become excellent at:
- Providing customers the information truly needed at the time they want it (product information, usage guides, helpful tips, inventory status, pricing, safety, and usage restrictions)
- Providing real time updates on a customer’s activity, orders, service requests, and information enquiries
- Creating a seamless experience for a customer which makes them feel special and saves them one or more of time, money, or effort.
- Providing an interface that is easy to use - no computing intelligence required
- Customer and business interaction need to be “event-driven” - aware of and responsive to the needs of the customer and market in real time.
Approaching Digital Transformation
Making progress towards Digital Transformation does NOT require trying to “boil the ocean”. In fact trying to do so will certainly guarantee failure. What is important is to engage a process that allows the proper discovery about the true nature of the business, customer needs, and customer expectations.
At Dais X, we employ an Intelligent Review Process™ that enables B2B organizations to quickly validate and inform the strategic direction of their digital transformation, establish system requirements, provide technical recommendations, and determine budget and timeline for the effort.
With the correct background work done it becomes easy to select increments of change which can be reasonably implemented and when following in a continuous improvement model can lead to great transformation.
When helping customers with digital transformation we follow a standard model which we will modify as needed, but the basic tenets remain. The core tenants are:
- All successful companies (startup or long-standing) provide unique value to their customer base
- The window for digital transformation to provide significant (>25%) improvement must be measurable within 6 months and provide maximum payback in under 18 months
- A digital transformation path should involve several smaller efforts, but the total of the efforts should have measurable results as outlined in statement (2).
These tenants are important for any company. For early stage companies, this is within the horizon of funding. For mature companies, the same return is necessary or the funding should probably have been spent elsewhere.
At Dais X, we employ our Intelligent Review Process to gather the information needed so to evaluate possibilities and provide critical input on how to proceed. The process involves:
- Interviewing team members, customers, and competitors to understand perceptions of value
- Interviews with team members and customers to understand capabilities of systems and usage perceptions
- Value stream & cost stream mapping of existing process
- Review of the company’s business strategy and multi-year business plan
- Competitive analysis of current competition and tangential competition that may not yet exist
- Customer interaction value stream mapping and timeline
- Analysis of existing technology and development practices (particularly with an eye on technical debt)
With this information, and our knowledge of the use of technology in B2B scenarios, we provide an assessment, with recommendations, timelines, and value return for consideration by the team.
Accelerating The Impact Of Digital Transformation
The report out, while interesting, can be easily ignored if not the basis for action. We find identifying small wins that can be achieved in the first 9-12 months of our clients' transformation journey yields quick and better results.
The data analysis work outlined becomes the basis for a one or two day digital transformation workshop where the proper team members are challenged and engage in:
- Learning the state of their B2B operation relative to the competition and “best in class”
- Being shown where they are vulnerable for attack in their marketplace
- Gaining exposure to how real non-aligned threats could drastically change their business
- Seeing an external view of how their market is changing
- Identify the core assets of the company and how its value stream appeals to customers
- Brainstorming ideas for improvement (simple and radical), analyzing value return, and estimating implementation overhead, time, and infrastructure gaps
- Selecting one or two short term ideas to initiate, identifying initial team members, and a timeline for an implementation plan with costing
Depending on the business, the team members, etc. the format of the sessions will vary to match their knowledge, the market situation, and the level of urgency needed to initiate positive change.
Following such sessions we find that regular, brief interactions with the implementation team (as an external stakeholder or product owner) help to keep project alignment tight and ensure the resulting work product is aligned to the market/customer needs.
To learn more about applying digital transformation for a better B2B outcome, please contact us at email@example.com