Douglas Engelbert, inventor of the computer mouse once, said: “The digital revolution is far more significant than the invention of writing or even painting.” A bold claim, but one that’s difficult to dispute.
Over the past 20 years we’ve seen many established business models left behind by digital innovation. A prime example of this is Kodak, the brand that once dominated the photographic film market, but failed to take the lead on digital photography as it under-estimated its customer’s readiness to try something different. Today, many industries are being disrupted by digital natives who are turning traditional business models upside down. Digital streaming platforms have changed the way artists release their music and how television production companies share new content, while who would ever have imagined that a firm that doesn’t actually own a fleet of vehicles would revolutionise the taxi business via an app?
This challenging of traditional business models is forcing many long-established businesses to sit up and reconsider their futures or face being left behind by their innovative, nimble, and digitally native competitors. Today, very few businesses or industries remain untouched by the impact of digitalisation. To compete effectively and have a successful future, they need to re-evaluate the way they operate and how they deliver their goods and services to customers. According to market research from global, professional services network, KPMG, “67% of CEOs agree that acting with agility is the new currency of business; if we are too slow, we will be bankrupt.”
Unlike Kodak, most organisations won’t need to completely transform their business models to survive, but to continue to be successful in this digitally driven marketplace, they do need to optimise their processes to enable them to become more agile and respond effectively to market trends. And this process optimisation should begin at the back end and address the increasing importance of effective data management.
Master data is the life blood of an organisation – this vital information on customers, suppliers, vendors, and so much more is what drives business operations. This critical data is often spread across multiple systems, exists in a variety of formats, often in spreadsheets, and can be difficult to access if needed quickly. For companies still reliant on slow, error prone, manual tasks, data quality can be difficult to maintain. Effective data management is at the core of digital transformation, and automation and digital management solutions can help organisations ensure its data is accurate, more readily accessible, and managed through faster processes, ultimately helping them be more agile.
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The ability to speed up processes and respond more quickly to a highly dynamic market is the key to survival in today’s competitive business environment. For many large businesses, the ERP system forms a crucial part of the digital core, which is supplemented by best-of-breed applications in areas such as customer experience, supply chain, and asset management. When it comes to digitalisation, organisations will often focus on these applications and the connections between them. However, we often see businesses forget to automate processes in the digital core itself — an oversight that can negatively impact other digitalisation efforts. For example, the ability to analyse demand trends on social media in the customer-focused application can offer valuable insights, but if it takes months for the product data needed to launch a new product variant to be accessed, customer trends are likely to have already moved on.
If we look more closely at the process of launching a new product to market, this is a prime example of where digital transformation can be applied to help manufacturers remain agile and respond to market trends more quickly. Typically, collating and entering the data needed to successfully launch a new product to market can be a slow, laborious process that involves different departments coordinating information from various spreadsheets created by many different individuals. Just one small data entry error can have significant downstream consequences such as incorrect product information being supplied resulting in launch delays.
For example, businesses in the food and beverage sector may be keen to reduce their average launch cycle times and harmonise the process across the different countries it sells to, and working in a dynamic marketplace means the business has a tough launch volume to achieve annually. But they may find that launch processes were too slow, hindered by the need to collect data from outdated, disparate systems and the challenges of sharing product lines across countries. To optimise the process, these business can deploy a cohesive solution across regions with direct integration to multiple SAP systems to digitalise the collection of their product data. As a result, the business now has an agile platform to help it keep pace with business change; all processes are now predictable, auditable, and repeatable; data quality has improved significantly, and crucially, launch cycle times are reduced.
Premier Foods transforms its data infrastructure with technology orchestration from CDW
Gareth Byrne-Perkins, Head of Technology and Service at Premier Foods, spoke to Information Age about how the business has transformed its data infrastructure to ensure it can continue to provide the nation with the food it loves. Read here
Aligning people, processes, and technology
Embracing digitalisation can be a challenge for businesses who struggle with internal bureaucracies and engrained ways of doing things. Altering the mindset of employees to see it as an opportunity rather than a threat is vital. And once the team is onboard, the business can plan its transformation project by aligning its people, processes, and technology.
It’s important to ensure the right people are involved in any digitalisation initiatives – those that understand the business processes, the data and where automation can be applied. They need to be able to understand the entire set of processes and subsets, what each of them does and how they impact on each other. Once you understand the processes completely, it is much easier to re-engineer the processes for automation and optimisation.
To avoid internal resistance to this process of change, e.g. colleagues debating over whose process is more important, many businesses look to third-party specialists to take an objective view and advise on how all the different parts of the process and its subsets fit together and automation can be applied seamlessly. Best-in-class flexible automation platforms can then be implemented to help organisations govern their data and automate key processes to enable businesses to respond with increased agility.
Boosting operational efficiency and adapting to compete in our agile and fast-paced business landscape is critical to success in today’s digitised business landscape. Companies that stand still may struggle to compete if they’re resistant to change. And while many long-established businesses will not need to rethink their business models, by embracing business process automation, organisations are much better positioned to respond to sudden changes in the market and not get left behind by the digitally native new kids on the block.