While airborne this past month, I read a very interesting article in the Harvard Business Review. It is titled ‘Digital Doesn’t have to be Disruptive’. The article rung true for me – this is something that we at Orbweaver spend a lot of our time discussing, and we agree: digital initiatives should be a complement to your business, not a threat.

Unless it is your objective, adopting digital initiatives doesn’t have to be disruptive, and it for sure doesn’t have to change your business model. Mostly, digital technologies can and should be applied to make your current business processes more efficient, less painful, or more competitive—and in most cases, all three).

The article goes on to make another very good point: Digital does not replace the human element, something we’ve also found true in our efforts over the past decade. As we all know, the human component of electronics sales is a critical one, and not something that will ever be eliminated. From FAEs, to Manufacturer Reps, to your trusted and invited-to-your-wedding sales contact, those people will always remain important and central to your supply chain.

However, we can all acknowledge that there are places where our industry is doing too much work, or inefficient work, or continuing a process manually because it has always been that way, and those are the places where digital can truly help. Digital initiatives should provide a boost to your existing organization and processes.

A proper digital initiative will allow you to alleviate those places in your organization or business processes where pain or friction are high, or where your customers tell you they are underwhelmed by your performance in comparison to your peers. By carefully applying technologies to those work flows, you can gain the benefits of a digital initiative and retain the thing that makes your business unique.

From our experience, some tips to get started with a digital initiative are:

  • Start small: find one or two small, localized places where technology can be applied easily and with great benefit (supplier data intake, data distribution to customers and distributors, component lifecycle management, RFQ intake, etc.).
  • Bite off small, achievable goals that can bring immediate value (ROI) and demonstrate wins to users and management.
  • Focus on adoption and buy-in. You’re making a change that can appear threatening, even though it is necessary. Give people the time they need to adjust and get on board.
  • Solicit feedback: find out what is working and what is not working, and make your users and customers your partners in your digital initiatives.

Start small and start carefully—but do get started.
Your business depends on it.