Is your distribution business falling behind the competition? Maybe you need better technology.
Modern technology for the distribution industry is nothing new. Even though 2020 has been a year of uncertainty and unpredictability, most of your competitors were prepared. Those who already had modern, or current, cloud-based systems easily adapted and could keep up with changes on the fly. Sure, 2020 has been crazy times for everyone, but the distribution industry is one of the most impacted. Those impacts range from a shortage of workers to unforeseen demands on supplies; for example, stockpiling of toilet paper. Were you ready? Did your business keep up? Here are some key points to consider for keeping your distribution business running smoothly during rapidly, and unpredictably, changing times.
You need a connected system
Let’s face it, if you’re not using current technology for your distribution business, there’s no way to keep up with your competition. Any business relying on old disconnected systems, requiring manual data entry, and with limited visibility, will inevitably die a slow death.
Distribution has become increasingly complex, and it shows no signs of stopping. You can’t compete if you’re piecing together data from disconnected systems. You need real-time visibility into all your important information: financials, analytics, reporting, and across all departments and locations. It’s easier than you think!
Remote and contactless services
Companies who embrace current technologies, like cloud-based solutions, found themselves better positioned to respond to the unique challenges in 2020. Having access to your system from anywhere, and at any time, made the shift to working from home quick and easy. For those with cloud-based systems, no one missed a beat during the transition from the workplace to the home office. Employees simply picked up right where they left off, sharing information across departments and all staff had immediate access to everything they needed to keep working.
Additionally, the ability to quickly respond to changing conditions, and provide contactless service to customers made the difference between staying afloat and drowning for many distribution businesses. How easy was it for your business to make the switch?
The future is unpredictable, how do you plan?
Hackers, pandemics, wildfires, and whatever else comes our way, have taught us we need to prepare for an uncertain future. Forward-thinking businesses, who were already set up with cloud solutions, easily adjusted to disruptions while keeping their data safe and secure.
How are you going to plan for what you don’t know?
Start by making sure you have a resilient system. A cloud-based solution has become critical for success in the distribution industry. Next, do not rely on historical data for forecasting. The world is changing, and you no longer can base your predictions off last year’s data. You need real-time, accurate data to be able to constantly monitor changes and buying behavior. You need to quickly see where you are most successful and where you can cut costs. Whether it’s reallocating or repurposing your resources, upskilling and cross-training your team, adding team members to fill gaps in experience and knowledge, or giving your team current tools to use, a modern system will set you up to be resilient.
One step at a time
If it seems overwhelming, take heart. Getting your internal systems into this century doesn’t have to be a single, monumental task. Take it one piece at a time and modernize where you can. Think about where modernization will make the greatest impact. Remember, it’s not just about leveraging technology, it’s about retooling your customer’s journey to provide a faster, better, and safer buying experience for them.
Here are 8 steps to get you started:
- Take stock of your most important customers and how they feel about all the recent changes. Ask them what they need from their business partners to quickly and continuously adapt.
- Evaluate your processes, especially where they have broken down in the past. Identify your critical breaking points and prioritize fixes with an eye for future-proofing your business.
- Meet weekly to discuss your findings. Start following industry leaders on social media and through industry associations. Make sure you are keeping up to date on changes and trends.
- If you rely on third party suppliers, consider integrating with their systems so you can spot potential supply issues before a problem arises. Get the insight you need to stay on top of the supply game.
- Right-size your IT. Odds are, by moving to the cloud, you can save on IT costs. Many businesses have found plenty of cost-savings. With the right cloud-based system, you have no more expensive server hardware to replace, you gain top-notch security, and you can easily scale the system up or and down to fit your needs. Already in the cloud? You can easily monitor jobs, turn off non-critical processes to reduce your cloud workload, or renegotiate vendor agreements. Then you can reallocate those newly available resources to selectively modernize your tech stack and invest in process improvements.
- Get up and running quickly. Many systems now have rapid implementation tools. You can be securely up and running much faster than you ever could with legacy software. As a distribution business, you need to choose solutions that are flexible, cloud-enabled, and have a short “time-to-value”. Velocity matters when measuring the return on your investments.
- Don’t forget your people. Employees are your greatest asset! Make sure you give your team the training and tools they need. Over-communicate with your team. Keeping them informed, and getting them involved in the new processes and environments, will make everyone feel more comfortable with all the uncertainty.
- Keep it all safe. Now is a great time to take a hard look at your data privacy and security both in your overall processes and your technology. What data do you collect and where is it stored? Who has access to it, and do you have rules in place for read/write/edit permissions? Look to your technology partner for best practices, tips and guidelines.
No matter where your distribution business is with technology goals, Global Data Solutions can help.