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5 Key Components To B2B Digital Commerce Success

Mark Treshock

Businesses in all industries are embracing the benefits of selling to their B2B customers through digital channels – analyst firm Frost & Sullivan estimates that online B2B sales will reach $6.7 trillion by 2020. But many of these companies are unsure of where to begin and what’s important to ensure a successful transition to digital.

Here are 5 of the most important components to consider as you start your digital journey:

1. C-Suite support is critical

Change can be hard, especially for a business that’s been operating successfully for many years using tried-and-true processes. Selling online is a culture change in how business works. The C-suite needs to be engaged and publicly supportive of the project. They need to encourage discussion around the options and resolve disputes if necessary. The transition to digital is a marathon, not a sprint. Patient and supportive leadership goes a long way to making it a success.

If you’re a C-suite executive, how well are you supporting your digital commerce team? If you’re on a project team, how well are your executives supporting you?

2. Customer experience matters – even for B2B

There’s a misconception that customer experience is for B2C, and if you aren’t a retailer selling to fickle consumers, it doesn’t matter. The thinking is that B2B buyers are task focused, and not concerned with experience. This is a correct assumption, but the wrong conclusion. B2B buyers are task focused and e-commerce is their tool. No one wants a tool that’s difficult to use or frustrating.

Does your digital experience support what your customers want to do?

3. The people and processes need to be updated and aligned

There’s more to selling online than just implementing software. Creating an effective digital commerce business requires changes in business process and alignment of the people in your organization who support them. In addition to IT, the areas of marketing, finance, sales, and service need to be on board as well.

Have you aligned the process and people to manage and support the online channels?

4. Start small, but start

Change is the new norm, and figuring out where to start a digital project and how much project scope to take on, can be confusing. If the project is too big it runs the risk of becoming a white elephant. If it’s too limited, it won’t demonstrate the true value of the digital channel. The key is to start with something basic, but big enough to demonstrate the value of digital to your organization and customers. Make sure you measure the results! The first project should make the case for the second, the second for the third, and so on.

How will you measure the success of your project to your organization and your customers?

5. Don’t forget training

Marketing, merchandising, promotions, site search, content management, and more can all be managed from within the e-commerce platform. Business users need training in these new tools to do their jobs effectively. The IT team may also need developer and admin training to keep everything running smoothly.

Have you included training in your project plan and budget?

Curious to see how you measure up?

Take our e-commerce self-assessment to see how you can deliver the omnichannel experience:
http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/en/sap/innovating-customer-experience-commerce.html

For more information on the omni-channel experience and other factors driving digital transformation, download the SAP eBook, Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.

For an in-depth look at how the digital era is changing the business landscape, download the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.

Digital technology is changing the game for multiple industries. Learn the warning signs of digital disruption.

What can possibly go wrong with digital commerce? Find out 3 areas where good digital projects go bad.

In a world of constant change and disruptive technology, are humans getting lost in the process? Learn more about design thinking and why you should care about it.

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Mark Treshock

About Mark Treshock

Mark Treshock is the Customer Engagement and Commerce Lead in North America for the Distribution Sector at IBM GBS. He can be reached at mtreshock@us.ibm.com.

Smart Machines Create Markets For Cyber-Physical Advances

Marion Heindenreich

Today, industrial machines are more intelligent than ever before. These intelligent machines are changing companies in many ways.

Why smart machines?

Mobile networked computers were a key breakthrough for making smart machines. Big Data allows machines and computers to store information and analyze complex patterns. Cloud computing offers broad access to information and more storage.

These computerized machines are both physical and virtual. Some call them “cyber-physical” machines. Technology lets them be self-aware and connected to each other and larger systems.

Businesses change their approaches

Intelligent machines allow companies to innovate in many areas. For one, the value proposition for customers is evolving. Businesses now model and plan in different ways in many industries.

Makers of industrial machines and parts work in new ways within the organization. Engineering now partners with mechanical, electronic, and software staff to develop new products. Manufacturing now seamlessly ties what happens on the shop floor to the customer.

Service models are changing too. Scheduled and reactionary servicing of machines is fading. Now intelligent machines track themselves. Machines detect problems and report them automatically. Major problems or failures are predicted and reported.

A data mining example

One good industrial example is mining, which can be dangerous and difficult. As ores become scarce, the costs of mining have increased.

“Smart machines” started in mining in the late 1990s. Software and hardware let remote users change settings. Operators moved hydraulic levers from a safe distance. Sensors observed performance and diagnosed issues.

Data cables connected machines to computers on the surface. Continuous and remote monitoring of the machines grew. Over time, embedded sensors helped improve monitoring, diagnostics, and data storage.

The technology means workers only go underground to fix specific issues. As a result, accident and injury risk is lower.

New wireless technology now lets mining companies connect data from many mine sites. Service centers access large amounts of data and can improve performance. Maintenance is prioritized and equipment downtime is reduced.

Opportunity abounds

For companies the time is now. Today, mobile “connected things” generate 17% of the digital universe. By 2020 that share grows to 27%.

You might not be investing in this so-called “Internet of Things” (devices that connect to each other). But it’s a good bet your competitors are. A December 2015 study reported 33% of industrial companies are investing in the Internet of Things. Another 25% are considering it.

There are risks

This new dawning era of manufacturing is exciting. But there are concerns. Cyber attacks on the Internet of Things are not new. But as the use of intelligent machines grows, the threat of cyber attacks in industry grows.

Data confidentiality and privacy are concerns. So too are software and hardware vulnerabilities. Exposure to attack lies not just in the virtual space but the physical too. Tampering with unattended machines and theft pose serious risk.

To address these threats, industries must invest in cybersecurity along with smart machines.

Conclusion

The potential advantages of smart machines are staggering. They can reshape industries and change how companies produce new products and create new markets.

For more information, please download the white paper Digital Manufacturing: Powering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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Marion Heindenreich

About Marion Heindenreich

Marion Heidenreich is a solution manager for the SAP Industrial Machinery and Components Business Unit who focuses on solution innovations like Product Costing on SAP HANA and cloud solutions, as well as providing financial and business analysis for industry business strategy definition and business planning.

Mining Firms Turn To Tech

Ruediger Schroedter

Gone are the days in mining when assessments of potential dig sites meant lots of waiting for results. Gone, too, is the uncertainty on a mine job about where to go next.

For mining executives, recent advances in digital technology allow companies to make decisions at a rapid pace. Decisions that used to take days and weeks now can be done in minutes and hours.

With more information available faster, mining leaders reduce both short- and long-term financial risk. Data from across the enterprise inform decisions about buying and selling assets. Profitability should increase, driven by key technology advances.

Digging in to the data

There are two key drivers to this digital revolution. The first is the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT consists of devices that are equipped with sensors, software, and wireless capabilities. These devices are connected to each other and can detect, store, and send data.

Bonus: Click here to learn more about Digital Transformation in Mining.

The second is the rise of Big Data, mobile, and cloud computing. Today’s mobile devices can track, send, and receive data from remote sites worldwide. Cloud computing stores billions of bytes of data at low cost. Big Data analytics programs take data coming from many different locations and systems and synthesize it. Those programs then better inform decisions by offering dashboards, metrics, and predictive modeling.

Robots are able to venture into hazardous areas and move material with remote human oversight. On-site mining data is sent via mobile phone to a cloud-based platform. For mining, the convergence of these technologies provides extraordinary possibilities.

Technology at play

The potential impact is significant. A recent report by McKinsey & Co. showed the use of advanced analytics in mining and related industries had a major impact. Firms using these programs to assess production areas increased their profit margins by 2-3 percentage points.

One mining company used so-called Monte Carlo simulations to reduce certain capital expenses. Monte Carlo simulations use complex algorithms and repeated random sampling to model possible outcomes. They’re frequently used in finance, biology, and insurance. The Mining Journal reported how the company challenged assumptions about a project’s capital needs. It took historical data on certain disruptions such as rainfall patterns. Then models of its mines were made showing the impact of flooding and rainwater. The data led to a new strategy that maximized storage capacity and handling across all its mines. Capital costs dropped by 20 percent.

18 Aug 2012, South Dakota, USA --- USA, South Dakota, Lead, View of open pit --- Image by © Bryan Mullennix/Tetra Images/Corbis

Buy or sell?

With so many variables at play, mining valuation is not for the faint of heart. Integrated data streams available at the discovery stage make for better informed purchase decisions.

Software programs today can take data to build and validate exploration models. These programs use 3D visualization and validated geophysical, analytical, and drill hole data. In turn, detailed 3D topographical models are possible.

Other programs assess historical, assay, and drilling data. This information creates viable scenarios for determining whether to buy or sell a site.

These tools use data consistently from one potential site to the next, allowing for forecasting of economic risk that is consistent across the organization. The firm today can use “real options valuation” to develop models of outcomes given changing economic conditions. With clearer information about potential risks, firms can decide whether to stage, sell, abandon, expand, or buy.

Anticipating, not reacting

Mining companies realize today that these analytic platforms and dashboards offer many advantages. Users have a clearer interpretation of the aggregated and analyzed data points from multiple areas. Using predictive analytics, mining decisions are made based on smart assumptions, not past historical information.

Robust software programs can generate reports almost instantaneously. Supervisors have on-site access to the analysis through a web browser or app. This data has many uses. Drilling managers save time and can make quicker decisions on next moves. Supplies can be ordered faster. Needed data for accreditation and compliance is immediately accessible.

Selecting the right sites

One example is assay analysis. Today, geologists do not wait weeks or months for assay results. Instead of off-site analysis, web-based applications deliver information much faster to inform decisions.

Robots are sending information about field operations, safety, needed maintenance, and drilling performance.  Some devices send the information themselves. In other cases, staff use mobile phones, tablets, or laptops.  This information and analytics in turn help with site selection. Integrating data from mine planning, ventilation, safety, rock engineering, and mineral resources improves overall forecasting.

Discovery, particularly of Tier 1 sites, is an increasingly costly venture for mining companies. Demand for many products is increasing while discovery rates are dropping. Mined product is of a lesser quality, particularly in mature mining locations. Many possible sites are in areas that are underexplored areas with difficult and deep cover.

The advanced technologies available today are contributing to rapid improvement in these discovery issues.

Prospective drilling

Consider the drill hole. To reduce costs in exploration, there needs to be enough rich information from the opening drill hole. It needs to be delivered in as close to real time as possible. Doing so lessens the risk of the second drill hole. Better information from the start helps improve vectoring. It provides better information about what mineral systems are being drilled.

This approach, called prospective drilling, is becoming increasingly used in mining. It employs drilling activity to map covered mineral systems. In turn, geochemical and geophysical vectoring can lead firms toward deposits.

Australia has invested heavily in this area. The Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre (DET CRC) has a singular vision: uncovering the future. Its core purpose is “develop transformational technologies for successful mineral exploration through deep, barren cover rocks.”

To get to that point, the DET CRC is borrowing a drilling technique from the oil business. Coiled tubing is paired with downhole and top-of-the-hole sensors. The informaton provides petrophysical, structural, rock fabric, geochemical, and mineralogical data all at once.

Conclusion

To meet increasing demands for new viable sites, and to improve efficient on sites, mining is changing. Using smart, connected products and robust data modeling, mining is being done faster, safer, and more efficiently than ever.

Join a LiveTwitterChat on digitalization in mining on May 4th from 10-11 a.m. EST: #digitalmining

The global mining and metals industry will come together to discuss how digital innovation is impacting the mining industry July 12-14 at the International SAP Conference for Mining and Metals in Frankfurt, Germany.  Don’t miss this opportunity to meet with world leaders and learn how your organization can become a connected digital enterprise.

Follow speakers and pre-event activities by following sapmmconf and @sapmillmining on Twitter

AA Mining and Metals Forum

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Ruediger Schroedter

About Ruediger Schroedter

Ruediger Schroedter is responsible for solution management of SAP solutions for the mining industry worldwide. He has spent more than 15 years in the mill products and mining industries and has extensive experience implementing SAP solutions for customers in these industries before coming to SAP.

How Much Will Digital Cannibalization Eat into Your Business?

Fawn Fitter

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts that 40% of companies will crumble when they fail to complete a successful digital transformation.

These legacy companies may be trying to keep up with insurgent companies that are introducing disruptive technologies, but they’re being held back by the ease of doing business the way they always have – or by how vehemently their customers object to change.

Most organizations today know that they have to embrace innovation. The question is whether they can put a digital business model in place without damaging their existing business so badly that they don’t survive the transition. We gathered a panel of experts to discuss the fine line between disruption and destruction.

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qa_qIn 2011, when Netflix hiked prices and tried to split its streaming and DVD-bymail services, it lost 3.25% of its customer base and 75% of its market capitalization.²︐³ What can we learn from that?

Scott Anthony: That debacle shows that sometimes you can get ahead of your customers. The key is to manage things at the pace of the market, not at your internal speed. You need to know what your customers are looking for and what they’re willing to tolerate. Sometimes companies forget what their customers want and care about, and they try to push things on them before they’re ready.

R. “Ray” Wang: You need to be able to split your traditional business and your growth business so that you can focus on big shifts instead of moving the needle 2%. Netflix was responding to its customers – by deciding not to define its brand too narrowly.

qa_qDoes disruption always involve cannibalizing your own business?

Wang: You can’t design new experiences in existing systems. But you have to make sure you manage the revenue stream on the way down in the old business model while managing the growth of the new one.

Merijn Helle: Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are putting a lot of capital into digital initiatives that aren’t paying enough back yet in the form of online sales, and they’re cannibalizing their profits so they can deliver a single authentic experience. Customers don’t see channels, they see brands; and they want to interact with brands seamlessly in real time, regardless of channel or format.

Lars Bastian: In manufacturing, new technologies aren’t about disrupting your business model as much as they are about expanding it. Think about predictive maintenance, the ability to warn customers when the product they’ve purchased will need service. You’re not going to lose customers by introducing new processes. You have to add these digitized services to remain competitive.

qa_qIs cannibalizing your own business better or worse than losing market share to a more innovative competitor?

Michael Liebhold: You have to create that digital business and mandate it to grow. If you cannibalize the existing business, that’s just the price you have to pay.

Wang: Companies that cannibalize their own businesses are the ones that survive. If you don’t do it, someone else will. What we’re really talking about is “Why do you exist? Why does anyone want to buy from you?”

Anthony: I’m not sure that’s the right question. The fundamental question is what you’re using disruption to do. How do you use it to strengthen what you’re doing today, and what new things does it enable? I think you can get so consumed with all the changes that reconfigure what you’re doing today that you do only that. And if you do only that, your business becomes smaller, less significant, and less interesting.

qa_qSo how should companies think about smart disruption?

Anthony: Leaders have to reconfigure today and imagine tomorrow at the same time. It’s not either/or. Every disruptive threat has an equal, if not greater, opportunity. When disruption strikes, it’s a mistake only to feel the threat to your legacy business. It’s an opportunity to expand into a different marke.

SAP_Disruption_QA_images2400x1600_4Liebhold: It starts at the top. You can’t ask a CEO for an eight-figure budget to upgrade a cloud analytics system if the C-suite doesn’t understand the power of integrating data from across all the legacy systems. So the first task is to educate the senior team so it can approve the budgets.

Scott Underwood: Some of the most interesting questions are internal organizational questions, keeping people from feeling that their livelihoods are in danger or introducing ways to keep them engaged.

Leon Segal: Absolutely. If you want to enter a new market or introduce a new product, there’s a whole chain of stakeholders – including your own employees and the distribution chain. Their experiences are also new. Once you start looking for things that affect their experience, you can’t help doing it. You walk around the office and say, “That doesn’t look right, they don’t look happy. Maybe we should change that around.”

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. 

To learn more about how to disrupt your business without destroying it, read the in-depth report Digital Disruption: When to Cook the Golden Goose.

Download the PDF (1.2MB)

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Digitization Of The Supplier Network: Grinding Away Competitive Edges

Kai Goerlich

Competitors with advanced digital capabilities are invading markets with new disruptive business models – and a range of new challenges across all industries. Prices are falling and changing quickly. Margins are thinning. Resources are increasingly volatile while the balance between supply and fast-changing customer demands are next-to-impossible to match. All the while, 30% of industry leaders are at risk of being disrupted by 2018 by a digitally enabled competitor, according to IDC.

Under these conditions, companies are beginning to ask whether their supply networks should be open to the digital world. Will they accept the risk of being copied and losing competitive advantage? Or will they secure their best practices in supply chain and logistics?

Using an analytical framework of 15 ecosystem factors, we compared traditional companies against digital newcomers. Our ad hoc study revealed that digitization influences business systems on several levels, but standard best practices are not one of them.

Network resiliency

In most supply chains, the hierarchical model is still living and prospering. Digital newcomers usually create a web-like structure across the entire business. While the traditional approach may guarantee price stability and quality, this web structure allows a much faster ramp-up and exchange of partners – making it more resilient to change.

Dependencies

In traditional networks, the business is likely evolving around mutual advantages. Very often, there are tight, symbiotic business connections with limited sets of partners. New digital networks are operating with an increased focus on leveraging opportunities. Plus, partners are encouraged to participate, widen, and promote the network – even if they do not directly contribute to revenue or profit margins.

Brand management

Web structures are especially attractive to companies that find it difficult to access traditional value chains. In general, classic supply chains cannot keep up with the speed of change nor deal with new and unexpected supply-chain partners in future digital networks. And as “new and unexpected” translate into “interesting and exciting” for consumers, companies may encounter significant branding issues.

Path dependency

Digital newcomers usually have a lower path dependency, such as mode of action. Unfortunately, this can be attributed to perspectives and business plans that are not based on decades of experience in one business. Of course, knowing a business for many years has its advantages as well – but only if knowledge is successfully transferred into the digital world.

A new way to operate

As pointed out in an earlier blog, digitization is proven to be a shortcut for some traditional processes and functions. In turn, embedding best practices into supply-chain and logistics processes and avoiding any transfer of knowledge as long as possible may appear to be an obvious solution. However, according to our findings, it might not be the best path to dealing with changes related to digital transformation.

While digitization may indeed wash away former competitive advantages, it also empowers companies to use their vast knowledge and connections to get on par with digital newcomers – on a new and different level. For example, most traditional best practices are now outsourced and can be easily applied as a service. But more important, instead of waiting to be disrupted by digitization, businesses can become as flexible as possible to enhance the customer experience and build loyalty.

For more on disruption without damage, see 4 Ways to Digitally Disrupt Your Business Without Destroying It.

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Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Idea Director of Thought Leadership at SAP. His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation.