Transforming Wholesale Distribution Business Processes
Previously published on LinkedIn
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, once said “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency”.
Business processes are the tools that give organizations the ability to run efficiently. And it’s clear that inefficient processes can have a detrimental impact on an organization’s revenue and profitability. For instance, lacking the ability to process payments in a timely fashion can affect working capital. Poor customer record management can throw off sales forecasts and impact quarterly and annual revenue. Manual tasks can take too much time and often can’t keep up with increased customer demand. Sam Walton said it best “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else”.
For many wholesale distributors, legacy and disparate processes do not meet B2B customers evolving expectations. B2B customers want the same purchasing experience that they enjoy as a consumer. They want an easy-to-use order interface and next day delivery. B2B customers want access to an infinite assortment of products and services. And if a distributor does not meet these changing needs, then they risk having their customers going elsewhere. Therefore, one way to keep customers coming back is to differentiate through efficient and effective business processes.
Distributors need to understand which processes frustrate staff and customers most, where the bottlenecks are and what can be easily fixed through automation and new tools. For instance, by making the order entry process more efficient, customer service reps can have more time to help customers with more complex needs.
By focusing on efficiency, distributors can integrate their financial operations with other business processes such as marketing and sales activities. Using integrated solutions, distributors can simplify their operations and gain access to real-time data. To illustrate, sales teams can have the insights needed to quickly make informed business decisions based on warehouse inventory and supply chain capacity. Orders are more accurate and reporting on financials is more accurate too, which is key for a CFO. In addition, customers enjoy quicker processing of their orders, and the distributor is easier to do business with, hence driving customer loyalty.
Not only can business process transformation lead to more effective and efficient workflows, but it can also result in fundamentally transforming the business. Distributors can also be in a stronger position to seize new opportunities and pursue growth when market fluctuations stabilize.
Implementing intelligent technologies to transform business processes takes time, due diligence, and buy-in across the organization. Given market conditions, there is no time to waste in getting started. To that end, here’s a list of best practices to aid you on your business process transformation journey.
- Start with a strategic vision of how you want your business to run by defining the depth and scope of the redesign of internal processes and structures that will deliver the best customer experience
- Preform and Audit to identify bottlenecks and process breaks, to eliminate low-value activities and work to automate them.
- Leverage intelligent technologies to automate routine tasks so employees can focus on more complex customer requirements.
- Survey your customers to determine where gaps exist and recommendations on how to better meet their expectations.
- Improve collaboration by orchestrating communications centrally, instead of in business unit silos, since everyone has a part to play in ensuring customer expectations are met.
- Create a single source of truth by consolidating all the data in your organization into a “single source of truth” boost productivity and streamline processes as teams have ready access to accurate information.
- Implement intelligent technologies to optimize the outcome of inventory, demand, and supply planning as well as price optimization, to positively impact cash flow, top and bottom line.
- Support financial, operational decision-making and cost recovery with embedded analytics, and real-time data to improve accounts payable and accounts receivable processes.
- Provide support for the planning, execution, monitoring of process transformation improvements to ensure business agility and scalability are experienced across the entire organization.
The most successful organizations that have implemented intelligent technologies and modernized their processes have gained cross-business insights to make data-driven decisions, and agility to navigate rapid market fluctuations. “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage,” Jack Welch.
Learn more about how you can implement business process transformation and Inspire the Future.