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For distributors looking to attract the right talent, it would be wise to invest in technology that supports connectivity across the organization and beyond, because superior customer experience includes both the end user and employees. That was the message from Cindy Jutras, president of consultancy Mint Jutras, as she kicked off a recent MDM webcast, Maximizing Customer Service and Profitability in the Face of Disruption.
Jutras applied her 40 years’ experience in supply chain, customer service and business performance management to outline the impact of enterprise applications on business performance for distributors. Not everyone is on the same page when it comes to the concept of “digital transformation,” but Jutras’ take is that it is “finally delivering on the grand promise of ERPs,” or enterprise resource planning technology. This includes transacting digitally, digital communication and collaboration, and participating fully in the global digital economy.
Early ERPs were not able to deliver on these promises, Jutras said, due to limitations of technology. As technology has grown more sophisticated, however, Jutras warned that distributors should not plan to fall back on the same technologies that brought them success in the beginning to see results in the future.
“Technological advances give us tools to respond to disruption,” Jutras said, and 70% of distributors believe digital technology will change the business. But, she asked, are 70% of distributors actively investing in those technologies? “Not so much,” she said.
In fact, the majority of distributors responding to Mint Jutras’ Enterprise Solutions study have no plans to invest in a variety of technologies, including:
- Driverless vehicles (67%)
- Digital twins (67%)
- Beacons (66%)
- Drones (66%)
- Blockchain (64%)
- Augmented reality (62%)
- Virtual assistants/chatbots (61%)
- Smart robots (52%)
- Wearable devices (51%)
However, Jutras was encouraged by the areas distributors are most actively considering investing in, specifically predictive analytics (24%) and cognitive analytics (19%). RFID (22%) and Internet of Things (20%) also had among the highest rankings in the “actively considering” category.
Data: Our Most Precious Commodity
For those who are ready to make the investment, the key to tapping into the value of technology is utilizing deep pockets of data to provide added insights and advise users on key decisions. “I view data as our most precious commodity today,” Jutras said.
Ways data can help, she said, include:
- Advising - providing intelligent insights designed to help users make decisions.
- Augmenting - serving as a partner to help amplify work and provide key information at critical decision points.
- Automating - automating low-value, risky, time-sensitive, or repetitive tasks to enable users to focus on more valuable work. “It’s not about automating yourself out of a job, it’s about making yourself more effective,” Jutras said.
- Conversing - offering a better user experience with more efficient interactions. “Not just getting a report, but providing real answers,” she said.
Jutras advised distributors to pay attention to the platform architecture of any technology they choose to use. Look for platforms that are open, extensible, agile and innovative. Most importantly, she said, seek out one with microservices architecture. This architectural style structures an application as a collection of loosely coupled services.
“For business users, it means you’re developing an app with ‘Lego blocks’ as opposed to a hammer and nails,” Jutras said. Meaning, elements can be developed externally and easily plug into the larger system without damage.
In summary, she noted that change is ever-present with technology, but recommended distributors embrace the added agility of open architecture. “Agility is so much more important today than it ever has been, because we live in these disruptive times,” she said. “We need that ability to innovate, evolve and change.”
To listen to the MDM webcast Maximizing Customer Service and Profitability in the Face of Disruption in its entirely, click here.