Advancements in technology have reached an inflection point where businesses from all sectors need to embrace change – whether it be cloud adoption, IoT, AI, enterprise architecture, blockchain – or prepare to fail.
For organizations that aren’t traditionally focused on digital, however, embracing new technologies means a fundamental, disruptive change in their business. While there’s huge potential for improving business processes and outcomes, there’s also a steep learning curve. Many executives don’t know the right place for technologies in their business, let alone where to start executing on those implementations as they evolve into a software-enabled company.
Ultimately, every organization is different when it comes to where digital can make the most positive, rapid impact on the business. Yet a good place to start figuring out how embracing digital can help your unique situation is to look at a variety of examples from within – and even outside of – your industry.
An Evolving Business: Manufacturing
Take manufacturing, for example. We recently worked with a heavy equipment manufacturer that noticed its customers were beginning to expect more highly-specialized connected machinery that fit their unique needs. This manufacturer was shifting away from traditional product lines by adding technology to make their machinery smarter and offer a wider range of variations.
This shift had huge ramifications on everyone involved. Line workers, accustomed to the existing production process, needed to become more agile and learn new processes to deal with customization. Sales teams had to employ a more dynamic way of selling and supporting products that could feature add-ons and configurations. Dealers and leasing companies needed to handle highly complex and customizable product lines to stay competitive, often requiring specialized understanding of the hardware, software, and available customizations.
The manufacturer was looking to embrace digital, implementing a program that would address all of these problems. Fortunately, they realized embracing digital didn’t mean an oversimplified one-and-done change – something like “moving to the cloud.” Digital transformation was about focusing on a real solution for their business problem, not just implementing a technology for technology’s sake.
The solution for this manufacturer came in the form of a new application, which provided business stakeholders throughout the manufacturing, sales, and support chain with the information and tools they needed. The application had many facets, including technology to augment the design and manufacturing processes, real-time inventory management, three-way portals to internal systems, subscription models for software and on-demand upgrades, a simplified sales process and technology-based dealer training, mechanisms for sending and receiving data from the equipment, a remote connection to hardware in the field, and an easy-to-use web and mobile front-end.
It’s a laundry list of features incorporating numerous technologies, but the business result is what mattered most. The manufacturer was ultimately able to extend relationships and create happier customers with faster and improved product development, improved customer relationships, stronger sales channels, and modernized staff skills.
There are four key things this manufacturer did right:
- They started by identifying the business problem they were trying to solve. Instead of starting from “We should be in the cloud,” they began with “Our business needs to tailor the experience of our machinery to each customer’s specific use case.” This shift in thinking set them up for success from the beginning.
- Rather than relying on one technology to transform their business, they recognized that multiple components should be brought together to create the best solution for their specific needs.
- They aligned the solution to fit the needs of teams from all aspects of the business. There’s no such thing as a digital transformation that only impacts one part of the company, so ensuring alignment across the board is vital.
- They improved incrementally, over time. Rather than leaping into a new business model for customized machinery, the manufacturer built digital infrastructure to prop up the initiative before leaping directly into it.
Whether or not you’re in the business of manufacturing, there’s a lot to be learned from this story. If you’re considering a digital initiative for your business, I recommend reading up on other examples of digital transformation before getting started. With preparation, it’s easier to see how digital could impact your business, and the right approach to get you where you want to go.
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