Many wholesalers find it difficult to digitize their business models. Often, CEOs are unsure of what is required to keep pace with existing or emerging competitors.
According to industry experts, the first step is to assess the digital maturity of the company in order to understand the context in which digitalization will take place. The next step is then to consider the specific course of action. The following seven rules of digitalization are designed to keep you on track throughout the process:
- Develop digital solutions in a protected space
During digital transformation of a company, it is important to provide a protected space where interdisciplinary teams can develop and test new projects without being exposed to everyday operations, internal culture, and established hierarchies. The main requirements are sufficient freedom, a focus on utility, and a suitable test and implementation methodology, which together make it possible to benefit from new ways of testing and successfully rolling out innovative new concepts.
- Agile development and no fear of failure
Agile management methods are an essential part of digital transformation. These lean-process methods are more effective than traditional work styles as they allow new ideas to be developed and tested with input from end users, thereby achieving faster results. Failure is an inevitable and important part of development, so it is always better to “fail fast and fail cheap.” Agile development quickly reveals whether a project has the potential to succeed, to deliver the required functionality, and to gain general acceptance among users.
- Customer focus is the top priority
Digitalization should always be focused on the customer. All products and features should be developed primarily on the basis of customer/user profiles and preferences. Design thinking methods help to identify the right solutions for a given user problem or meet a customer need. The aim here is not to find the perfect solution to a problem, but rather to define the essential features or “minimum viable product”, which can then be continuously adapted and evolved. Ideally, it is possible to turn a basic idea into a finished product in a matter of weeks. Speed, of course, is one of the key criteria in the digital transformation process.
- Work towards business goals
From the outset, every digitalization project should have clearly defined business goals. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are also required, in order to be able to measure progress. Every digitalization project should unlock new revenue potential, generate new income, and/or bring down costs as quickly as possible. It is therefore essential to monitor the project on the basis of actual data and to incorporate findings into the agile development process. The collected data and KPIs are important pointers toward future steps in the digital journey.
- Active change management
In order to optimize or redesign products and procedures, it is necessary to challenge the existing business model and processes. This in turn requires an active change management process within the company that involves the relevant employees and departments and ultimately leads to new ways of doing things. Using lighthouse projects that are developed in a protected space and subsequently rolled out to all parts of the organization, companies can give staff an early insight into future working practices. This ensures that staff remains actively engaged and feel their input is taken seriously, which then increases their willingness to embrace new mindsets and evolve along with the company. Nothing is as disarming for skeptical employees as seeing a successful product they helped to create.
- Digitalization expertise is more important than knowledge
It is essential that companies embrace a new digital culture and create more key positions with digital responsibility. Successful digitalization requires new roles and competencies as well as a startup mindset among the staff. Successful “digitizers” are children of the digital age, who are familiar with disruptive technologies. Serving as innovation leaders, they can drive the company forward and help others to see the many opportunities in digital change. An open digital culture promises greater success in the development and implementation of digitalization initiatives.
- Digitalization is a management issue
No company can digitally transform unless the CEO is on board. Digitalization is not just a societal megatrend, it is an absolute inevitability: everything that can be digitized will be digitized. The only person in the company who can make decisions on that scale and ensure they are implemented is the CEO. The opportunities presented by digitalization must be recognized and understood at the highest level in order to be pursued effectively. This effort also requires a change in corporate culture with a view to becoming faster, more innovative, more assertive, and ultimately more successful in responding to market changes.
Digitalization is a complex process, and it may be difficult to implement some of the necessary changes using only existing in-house resources. Wholesalers should therefore consider bringing a “digital pilot” on board to help navigate the initially hazardous waters of digitalization. With this additional expertise, companies can find the breadth of vision they need to reevaluate their operations in the context of digitalization.
If you want to expand your knowledge on what Intershop does to support wholesale digitalization, you can find our collected material here: http://www.intershop.com/wholesale