The role of IT in a distribution company has to change. Amid this amazing technology explosion, where there are more apps every day, some ERP systems are starting to look like Star Wars battle cruisers. They may be agile fighting machines in their own right, but more often now they have add-ons, bolt-ons and point solutions hanging off the sides. It’s challenging for users and service providers alike.
No other function within a distribution company has undergone as much change in its field in such a short time. Has your company kept pace with that change? Is it realistic or advisable to be looking at Star Wars capability when a vast majority of businesses haven’t even started to use the basic functions that came with their systems?
The tough truth is that your IT manager should be part of the strategic planning process, but for many companies that role remains more technician and project manager. Because of this, it has created one of the industry’s largest talent gaps. The process of evaluating what’s new, what’s right and what’s implementable can be overwhelming on top of day-to-day requirements.
In addition to maintaining the information technology and business systems that keep the heart of a company beating, they are wondering how to compete with Amazon. No pressure. Oh, and there’s no budget for that.
The vast majority of distribution businesses don’t have the luxury of a CIO and a full complement of professionals to address the complexity of today’s IT environment. Some of it can be outsourced, but there’s a core that can’t be pieced out. It starts with building a vision where IT holds a more integrated and important role in a team-based approach to the company strategy. How do we face the current market challenges, identify opportunity gaps and exploit them for competitive advantage? What are the right tools to support our mission? Give IT a seat at this table instead of silo work projects.
A major piece is talent development beyond bits and bytes. A business-savvy IT manager is worth twice his or her weight in gold – and admittedly is a rare breed. Through training of current staff or new talent, this is a critical transition for every distributor to make, regardless of size.
How do you build a learning organization that develops IT, e-commerce and analytics talent? This is the right question to ask for any distribution organization that hopes to compete in this faster-moving, more complex competitive environment.