Getting started on a digital journey is no easy task. It requires intense focus, a steadfast commitment, and some temporary discomfort for the organization. Among employees, there is almost always resistance to change, especially when tasks have been executed successfully in the same way for so many years. While horses did pull carriages for a long time, it’s difficult to argue that the automobile isn’t a more pleasant, efficient way to travel.
So, how do you get started on the journey?
Step 1: Remember that you are the Champion!
Here at Orbweaver when we’re discussing digital transformation with an organization, the first thing we do is identify the champion. If you’re reading this, and you know your company needs change, you very well could be the champion there. The champion is the person who’s willing to stand up and say “There’s a better way to do things.” He’s willing to expend a lot of energy to try to drive an initiative forward and enact real change within the company. If this isn’t you, look around your company and find out who it is. Chances are, he or she is not quiet, and you’ve probably heard this champion speak out before. (If you’re still reading, there’s a very good chance it’s you!)
Step 2: Identify Pain
Crawl, walk, run. This is—and should always be—the mantra of any digital initiative. One of the best ways to get a digital transformation underway is to start small. Pick a minor and obvious burden at your company that everyone agrees is painful. You may have several to choose from.
Now look at the problem, and talk to some of the people who feel that pain most acutely. It’s probably a salesperson who hand-types quotes and purchase orders, or an IT staff member who spends way too much time writing part data file import macros instead of focusing on your company’s core business systems. Find out exactly what is it that they’re spending too much time on, and then sort those problems by pain vs. complexity. You’ll find that there are at least a few challenges that are fairly simple to solve from a technical perspective and that are also extremely painful and costly to your company. These are the best candidates for starting out our digital journey, as they demonstrate high and immediate ROI, relative ease to tackle, and high probability of staff buy-in. A few solid areas on which to start your digital initiatives, from our experience, are: supplier data imports, purchase order intake & validation, and part data distribution to customers and/or distribution partners.
Step 3: Gather Information
You now need two key things to proceed: (1) You need the support of your peers and senior management, and (2) you need to understand your in-house IT and system capabilities. Start conversations with these groups, and find out their appetite for change. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s more difficult, but at this point in 2020, everyone knows that digital evolution is necessary. Along the way, remember it’s normal to find both supporters and detractors of your efforts. You’re on the right track. Again, while some people resist change, it does not have to be so difficult. In our experience, digital initiatives result in healthier, more profitable companies, which means more stability for all employees.
Once you have this information from these key stakeholders, it’s time to get organized.
Step 4: Organize and Plan
You’ve now identified your pain points, garnered some support, and assessed your internal IT systems for capability and/or bandwidth for your initiative. Your IT systems and team may not be fully equipped, and that’s OK. They’re focused on your company’s core business systems and model, and rightfully so. Companies like Orbweaver can help with very specific, tactical efforts like enabling an API, or translating EDI into your ERP, or importing quotes, purchase orders, forecasts, and part data. These tasks can often cost a significant amount of time without adding much core value from an IT perspective, so are sensible candidates for third party outsourcing.
Armed with this knowledge, start looking around for providers, partners, tools, articles, and blog posts shared by people who have overcome—or helped others surmount—your same pains. You may have to dig a little bit, but your research will pay off. Orbweaver will be one that you find, and you’ll find that our solution is an excellent candidate to solve your problems.
Step 5: Implement and Deploy
You’ll now need to begin either leveraging in-house capabilities or finding a partner to help you proceed. Evaluate options thoroughly until you find the solution that best fits your needs and your specific pain point. With the buy-in of your peers and management team, you can begin the development and implementation process. Whether your solution is internal or external, put a clear plan in place with goals and milestones. Ensure you have a clearly defined set of expectations with your implementation partner, your management team, and your peers. Everyone needs to be on the same page, and should understand where you’re headed with the initiative and what the outcome will be. Ideally, since you’re forging into new territory here, structure the plan so that you can iteratively demo pieces of functionality and new processes to your teams as they are being developed. This will help excitement and a comfort level to build throughout the implementation process.
Once the solution is fully assembled, test it with the team of users. Make sure it meets their needs, and supports whatever they require to do their jobs. It won’t be perfect on the first try, but it will certainly be an improvement over manual processing. Help your teams remain realistic about the digital journey: it’s not a switch that gets thrown. You’re taking your first step of many toward a meaningful destination.
Step 6: Measure and Evolve
Immediately before deploying your new system, pause for a moment to take some measurements of the old system. How long did processes take to complete manually? What were the error rates? How happy were customers? Take measurements and gather metrics that will allow you to demonstrate success with your new initiative. Have a baseline understanding of what those KPIs were before rollout.
Once you have a new system in place, actively measure those same metrics to get a clear picture of where you’re improving. Maybe it’s speed in responding to clients; maybe it’s being able to respond more fully to a quote; maybe it’s being able to access your supplier data faster. Whatever that tangible data is, it’s certain that it will help you sell more parts. That is the point, after all.
Armed with the knowledge of improving processes, and with one digital initiative (albeit small) under your belt, you can now use that experience to continue to move your company’s digital capabilities forward. Your management team will surely be happy with the improvements in efficiencies and metrics , and you can now start to look for opportunities to push digital into new pain points or evolve the solution you just deployed. Either way, digital transformation is a journey—taking years or sometimes decades—and you have just begun. You may not wind up exactly where you thought, but adapting to the circumstances is quite OK. In fact, it’s all part of the process.
The most important thing you can do is start. The future of your company depends on it.
Orbweaver is a trusted industry resource that is working with our clients to help future-proof their digital platforms. All stakeholders along the supply chain are seeking more efficient and scalable ways to do business. If you are interested in speaking with us about that, please contact us today.