Implementing a digital transformation program centred around a digital commerce capability is on the wish list or roadmap for many B2B companies, particularly manufacturers and wholesale distributors. Whether it’s part of an upcoming project plan or on a goal list for the future, the project can be daunting.
Larger, well-established companies in particular may find the prospect of moving to digital even more challenging as they may have spent longer periods of time spinning their wheels in strategy and planning sessions with little progress.
Ultimately, for an eCommerce program to succeed, it needs 7 essential elements.
1. Executive & leadership buy-in.
Something as big as implementing a digital transformation program needs support from the senior executive and board. As it’s something that’ll likely lead to fundamental changes to a business and likely be a sizable financial investment, it’ll involve and affect people from all areas of the business. Having buy-in from each department or division is key to a seamless transition.
Digital transformation will only successfully get off the ground and succeed if the executive board champions it. The CEO must motivate staff, get them to buy into the vision and drive the business forwards. Without executive-level support, a digital transformation project will struggle to ever get off the ground.
Getting engagement with the executive board early on in the process helps avoid wasting time on a project that will never happen or be dramatically changed before it’s signed off. Too many great projects undergo months of planning only to be cut off at the knees because senior execs were either not on board or kept out of the loop.
2. Be laser-focussed about getting started.
Digitalisation of B2B processes is a large undertaking and if your business is well-established, and has been for quite some time, the process can feel overwhelming, even knowing where to start can be confusing. Sometimes businesses create extensive plans and months later realise they’ve barely made any traction on getting where they need to be.
It’s a multiple phased process with a lot of different systems and timeframes that can span years, so it’s understandable for many businesses to feel it’s an insurmountable task. It’s simply not possible nor does it make sense to try and plan for every scenario before you begin. Get laser-focussed on getting started. Yes, you’ll need to plan for the longer term phases and future roadmap but a high level view will have you at the starting line quicker and with a clearer headspace.
3. Start with an MVP approach.
A good way to kick off and get started is by defining what your minimum viable product (MVP) would be. Keeping it small and achievable is a smart step and remember, it doesn’t need to completely transform your business, just set up a foundation for the rest of the program.
Remember, getting your MVP up and running is a big step forward and likely better than what you currently have. There’s plenty of time to make improvements as you go.
4. Take an iterative approach.
While you’ve been defining your MVP, you would’ve likely captured a backlog of features and requirements that weren’t part of the MVP, but are still desired and need to be implemented as part of your larger digital transformation. Once you’ve got the basic MVP implemented, you can start considering additional phases, each one making iterative improvements and moving you further on the journey.
You’ll please your customer earlier by getting your MVP out there and then you’ll keep doing so by improving it over time. It also illustrates that, by building a better product over time, you’re adapting to what your customer wants. This approach also provides opportunity to learn from stakeholder feedback, allowing you to continuously innovate as you work to a full solution.
User priorities often become clearer during the course of the project—for example, customers might initially think they want the system to do “A” or that they want “shiny thing B,” but after interacting with the system they discover that “C” is the most practical and useful.
5. Find the right partners.
It sounds obvious, but having the right partners is mission critical. A digital transformation program is complex with many stakeholders and moving parts. You need partners with the right technical skills as well as the strategy and business experience of helping an organisation navigate through the process.
It’s also essential to choose a partner that’s willing to stand up and challenge the status quo. This also means they need the confidence to politely let you know when things may not make sense. They may not always be right, but it’s always better to have someone question a strategy over a ‘yes’ man telling the organisation what they want to hear all of time.
6. Take everyone on the journey.
This is a crucial one. Digital transformation is NOT an IT project. Thinking it is will lead to failure. An undertaking like this one requires input from everyone involved, so bring everyone along for the journey.
Different stakeholders each bring with them specific knowledge and information about systems typically spread out across departments. As the program will likely involve change over many areas of the business and affecting people’s roles, it’s essential to have them on board with initiative and positivity.
Getting this support early increases your success for a seamless transition to digital immensely, saving you a lot of stress and headaches down the road.
7. Don’t adapt technology to fit a broken process.
If your business is already well-established, chances are you’ve got some pretty embedded business processes that are probably broken, poorly designed or simply out-of-date. It’s tempting to adapt your new tech to fit or fix the existing process. Be very careful here. Be sure to take the time to reverse engineer the technology and processes down to your core requirements. You’ll often find the core requirement can be better achieved when you aren’t limited by previous technology or processes.
Overall, implementing a digital transformation program centred around digital commerce is a big project for any sized company. But don’t let the scale of the project put you off, the rewards are well worth the trouble. Just start!