Depending on whether you are in B2B and/or B2C, the rules of digitisation are different, says Toni Pihamaa, and gives you six points that he finds the most important to consider before starting any B2B digitisation project.
Digitisation the road to increased profit
Any changes in business ultimately have a target of increasing revenue and profit, and digitisation provides you with the tools to do so. Depending on which area of your business you decide to focus on, the different choices you make and the actions you take will have an impact directly or indirectly.
For example, digitising sales channels for your customers can lead to an increase in revenue and profit, but maybe not in the same way that digitisation of the factory production may have on the bottom line.
“You need to be prepared for great changes in old processes, both when it comes to systems and work.”
Whatever you decide to start doing, you need to be prepared for great changes in old processes, both when it comes to systems and work processes. Human behaviour can be hard to change, but by digitising manual labour, you have the possibility to redirect the human resource elements into more value-creating tasks.
The rules of digitisation differ
Media today is full of different entries and articles about digitisation. Just by searching for topics online you will get thousands of results. One needs to be able to filter the information and pick the suggestions and advice suitable for your business. For example, depending on whether you are in B2B and/or B2C, the rules of digitisation are different.
The six most important points to consider
For B2B, here are six points that I find the most important to consider before starting any digitisation project:
Ability to adapt. Where does the business stand today and what capabilities do we have for any digitisation? How prepared are we, both technology wise and from a staff perspective? It is not just about updating your CRM or ERP, or legacy systems, but more about getting rid of old habits and processes. You need to train your employees with new ways of working or interacting with customers and suppliers. As we have seen time and time again, the human element that needs change management, whereas systems can be programmed.
Customer commitment. Your customers can be external or internal (staff). For your internal customers, you need to be able to provide tools and readiness to answer the customers’ changing demands. Update your systems to modern tools to be able to automate unnecessary manual labour. Solutions can be in robotics or just smarter software. Find the bottlenecks in your processes and remove those one by one. Today, 95% (maybe stretching a bit) of those can be solved with technology. With the right tools and smarter ways of working, you get committed staff. For the external customer, business partner and in fact any stakeholder you need to provide a way that makes buying or selling easy. By providing services and having the readiness to simplify conducting business with you, you are helping them to focus on their own core functions and core purpose, strengthening their own business. If you can help your stakeholders to increase their business and profits, you have a committed partner for the long term.
API and other interfaces. You need to have open and accessible systems or system connection points. Often, stakeholders are trying to improve and solve the same issues you and your business have, for example internal procurement processes. They (and you) have procurement systems that they would like to use more. Instead of placing orders by phone or even fax, they would like to do purchases straight from their system. You need to bridge the gap and end the ‘disconnection’ between their systems and yours. Ease of buying means ease of sales! This has an immediate connection point to the customer commitment section above (point 2).
Data management. For years, we have now been talking about big data and BI. Nothing has changed. Data management is more important than ever. Data management gives you the possibility to follow everything more closely. Follow your sales to find out which services or products have the wrong price, which sales entity may be heavily and unnecessarily discounting – or follow your purchases to be sure you pay the right amount based on agreement and incorrect payments are not processed. There are so many different areas you can improve by managing your data and taking actions accordingly. But you need to have the data in digitised format to be able to analyse and utilise it easily to make improvements based on real data and results.
IoE; Internet of ERPs. IoT has been a subject of ‘chatter’ for a long time and this is important on multiple fronts. But to improve your supplier and customer communications, I see a strong need for connecting business systems with each other. This is the area where your business can vastly and expediently improve. Like mentioned previously in the API section (point 3), connecting systems directly gives high potential to automate large portions of normally manual processes, from warehouse stock management to customer purchases. These two are actually the same thing, just from different viewpoints. Networking businesses and ERPs in this way would be the real ecosystem everyone has been talking about for last 5-10 years. Strength is not among individuals but in unity. Find a way to connect your ERP to these kinds of networks or ecosystems.
Can you keep up with the speed? Everchanging market conditions and environments demand fast and decisive movements and actions. Your customers might be small companies that are used to working with modern and agile systems and demand the same level of readiness from their suppliers. There is a new breed of system providers building systems that are ready for the mobile world and mobile user, and customers (B2B and B2C) demand simplicity of use from business systems. Even customers themselves might have built their own systems from ready components and open sources found online. So be prepared to these demanding new partners with modern systems. Make your front and backend systems ready to catch the speedy ride.
The 7th point: Artificial Intelligence
I must also mention Artificial Intelligence. One of my customers pointed out that I had left this out from my list previously, but I had done so on purpose.
“Make sure you, your staff and systems are ready for the change.”
AI will be there, but the time is not yet ready to use it for digitising B2B. We need to overcome some basic aspects first and then build the foundation for AI, then reap the benefits of our labour.
Make sure you are ready for the change
Depending on your readiness, take the baby steps or giant leaps towards digitisation. Make sure you, your staff and systems are ready for the change. Secure your business for the digitised future. Kick back, relax and let the AI take care of the rest!