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In the recently released 2013 NAW-McGladrey Distribution Monitor from the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, distributors reported they were most likely to upgrade or purchase the following technology applications in 2013: Web applications (30 percent); mobility applications, including tablets (27 percent); customer relationship management (24 percent); social media (19 percent); and business analytics (18 percent).
The survey also found an increase in distributors that are using cloud-based applications in 2013. Half of distributors use cloud computing, an increase from 43 percent in 2012. The most common use of the cloud is for storage, infrastructure or backup.
After that, the use falls significantly, but distributors also report using cloud-based applications for customer relationship management (CRM). Mark Dancer, author of Getting the Most Out of CRM, told MDM earlier this year that cloud-based interfaces have actually made CRM much more attractive and easier to implement and adopt. (Read his take on CRM adoption in distribution here.)
Distributors are increasingly investing in technology to help their businesses, but the survey found that for most business goals, distributors felt the impact of their current infrastructure was neutral to not effective. Distributors said their current systems most effectively allowed them to share information within their own companies and to improve internal productivity and costs.
But when it came to communication with customers and suppliers, distributors said their systems were less effective.
The following graphic is from the NAW-McGladrey report, illustrating how distributors viewed the effectiveness of their current IT environment in addressing business goals. The dark grey on the right is “extremely effective.” The green on the left is “not effective.” Blue represents “neutral.”
Well-executed technology investments can make a real difference in helping distributors reach business goals, according to Brent Grover, author of The Little Black Book of Strategic Planning for Distributors and several NAW books. He said that distributors who are honest about how poor technology may be hindering them will have a much clearer view of potential opportunities to turn those weaknesses into strengths.