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The Walmart Effect: 4 Best Practices For Dealing With That First Huge Order

Christopher Koch

A boy looks at snack foods and drinks at the G...

A boy looks at snack foods and drinks at the Grand Opening of the new Walmart Neighborhood Market in Panorama City, California. (Image credit: AFP/Getty Images via @daylife)

When a small business gets its first big order it can seem like manna from heaven. But wipe those dollar signs out of your eyes because it’s really more like a shock to the system.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing—we’re at our most alert and energized during such moments—but for small businesses, getting a big order from a giant company like Walmart can be a classic be-careful-what-you-wish-for moment.

“When you get that big order, it’s often a mandate for change, because even if by nature the management team is conservative and risk adverse, it knows it has to make changes to satisfy that customer,” Mark Lehew, SAP’s national VP of strategic growth enterprises, told me and journalist Rob O’Regan recently.

You Will Need to Change the Business
In interviews with companies that have experienced the Walmart Effect, Rob is indeed finding that change—rather than champagne—is the order of the day. Orabrush, maker of an innovative tongue-cleaning device was not prepared when Walmart suddenly called in 2011 with an order for 735,000 of the candy-colored devices to be distributed in 3,500 stores.

“That was one of the big wake-up calls for me,” says Jeff Davis, an early Orabrush investor who became CEO in August 2010. “I was worried that we didn’t have sufficient capability.”

How do you deal with such a situation? Here are four best practices that have emerged from our research so far for dealing with that first big order:

  • Start with on-time delivery and work backwards from there. If that first big customer doesn’t get what it’s looking for, word spreads quickly and the chances of another big order—from them or anyone like them—is unlikely. That means prioritizing the responses necessary to scale up and hit the date, says Lehew.
  • Get help from specialists. To supplement its own warehouse capacity, Orabrush entered into an agreement with UPS Global Logistics to supply some of the Walmart stores. “UPS was a critical partner for us because they helped us to ensure that we could deliver to Walmart the way Walmart wanted it,” he says.
  • Be open to a change in the business model. “For us, Walmart’s order was a big a-ha moment,” says Marty Metro, founder and CEO of UsedCardboardBoxes.com. In 2009, Metro’s startup was three years into its plan to sell used cardboard boxes to individuals and local businesses. But when Metro got the call from Walmart one afternoon (100,000 boxes by the end of the week, with more needed in the following two weeks), Metro re-jiggered the business model to include building a B2B marketplace that supports delivering tractor trailers full of boxes, not just small lots to individuals and small customers via the company’s existing e-commerce site.
  • Don’t be blinded by scale. UsedCardboardBoxes.com’s B2B business has taken off—with orders now averaging $7,000—but Metro learned an important lesson about what can happen when the big boys come knocking: not all of them will be profit centers. “We realized that Walmart is so huge that you have to be careful,” he says. “If you don’t want to sell at the price they want they can always find someone else who will.”

What do you think? How did your company deal with its first big order?

This post originally appeared on the SAP Community Network and has been reprinted here with permission.

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About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is the Editorial Director of the SAP Center for Business Insight. He is an experienced publishing professional, researcher, editor, and writer in business, technology, and B2B marketing. Share your thoughts with Chris on Twitter @Ckochster.

Zhena’s Gypsy Tea Brews Sustainable Growth On Cloud ERP

David Trites

Recently I had the pleasure of hosting a podcast with Paula Muesse, COO and CFO of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, a small, organic, fair-trade tea company based in California, and Ursula Ringham from SAP. We talked about some of the business challenges Zhena’s faces and how the company’s ERP solution helped spur growth and digital transformation.

Small but complex business

~ERP helped Zhena’s sustain growthZhena’s has grown from one person (Zhena Muzyka) selling hand-packed tea from a cart, into a thriving small business that puts quality, sustainability, and fair trade first. And although the company is small its business is complex.

For starters, tea isn’t grown in the United States, so Zhena’s has to maintain and import inventory from multiple warehouses around the world. Some of their tea blends have up to 14 ingredients, and each one has a different lead time. That makes demand-planning difficult. In addition, the FDA and US Customs require designated ingredients be traced and treated a certain way to comply with regulations.

Being organic and fair trade also makes things more complicated. Zhena’s has to pass an annual organic compliance audit for all products and processing facilities. And all products need to be traceable back to the farms where the tea was grown and picked to ensure the workers (mostly women) are paid fair wages.

Sustainable growth

Prior to implementing its new ERP system, Zhena’s was using a mix of tools like QuickBooks, Excel, and paper to manage the business. But to sustain growth and ensure future success, the company had to make some changes. Zhena’s needed an integrated software solution that could handle all facets of the business. It needed a tool that could help with cost control and profitability analysis and facilitate complex reporting and regulatory requirements.

The SAP Business ByDesign solution was the perfect choice. The cloud-based ERP solution reduced both business and IT costs, simplified processes from demand planning to accounting, and enabled mobile access and real-time reporting.

Check out the podcast to hear more about how Zhena’s successfully transformed its business by moving to SAP Business ByDesign.

 This article originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Building a successful company is hard work. SAP’s affordable solutions for small and midsize companies are designed to make it easier. Simple to install and use, SAP SME Solutions help you automate and integrate your business processes to give real-time, actionable insights. So you can make decisions on the spot. Find out how Run Simple can work for you. Visit sap.com/sme.

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About David Trites

David Trites is a Director of SAP Global Marketing. He is responsible for producing interesting and compelling customer stories that will humanize the SAP brand, support sales and marketing teams across SAP, and increase the awareness of SAP in key markets.

Haier Asia Builds A Digital Platform To Speed Innovation And Win Consumers’ Loyalty [VIDEO]

Dinesh Sharma

08 Apr 2013 --- Intersection, Germany. --- Image by © Markus Hanke/www.MarkusHanke.de/CorbisFew words scare the corporate world like the term “disruption.” No matter the language, disruption conjures the fear of dilution, alteration, and disturbance. And as the world becomes increasingly hyperconnected, disruption seems to be an ever-present threat.

Nevertheless, the C-suite is remaining vigilant by embracing the digital economy as the new reality. According to a recent study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 80% of executives view hyperconnectivity positively – indicating that it presents more opportunities than threats. All the while, they are carefully watching the competitive landscape and anticipating the arrival of overnight digital sensations and the inventiveness of long-time adversaries.

However, this is only one side of the transformational change hyperconnectivity is bringing. Disruption is not just happening on the corporate side of the consumer market – consumers are steadily disrupting everything a business touches.

The secret? Go beyond the competition to find disruptive opportunity

Not that long ago, most businesses followed a one-time transaction model. They would manufacture the product and ship it to the retailer, and consumers would purchase it. However, hyperconnectivity has changed the rules – making this experience a distant memory.

Consumers are more connected to information and no longer interested in listening corporate rhetoric. By drastically changing everything in our lives, the Internet is giving more power to the consumer, putting them in a position to guide the conversation and dictate product and service offerings. From this perspective, it is easy to see that hyperconnectivity and its impact on social behavior are the true disruptors.

Haier Asia, a top-ranking multinational consumer electronics and home appliances company, is one of those few companies that quickly recognized how hyperconnectivity is powering consumer-based disruption. “When you look around, no consumer life business is making money. Why is that? Margins are so slim,” cites Yoshiaki Ito, president and CEO of Haier Asia. “Consumers are far, far faster than manufacturers because they are getting new information on a daily basis. In the meantime, traditional companies produce their products – taking 24 months. So the gap is just widening every second.”

Instead of surrendering to these challenges, Haier decided to disrupt itself and the market it serves. With a two-prong approach to digital transformation, the company created a service-based model to seize the potential of new consumer behaviors and accelerate its product development cycles.

“My strategy for Haier Asia is to double up the digital platform. This is a great opportunity to bring us to the next level by becoming a services provider and gaining a steady stream of new revenue,” says Ito.

How did Haier take advantage of hyperconnectivity to gain the attention of stakeholders and consumers? Watch the video below to find out.

This article originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Want more insight on managing digital disruption? See Three Keys To Winning In A World Of Disruption.

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About Dinesh Sharma

Dinesh Sharma is the Vice President of Digital Economy at SAP. He is a GM-level technology executive with leadership, technical innovation, effective strategic planning, customer and partner engagement, turnaround management and focused operational execution experience at both large enterprise and startup companies. Share your thoughts with Dinesh on Twitter @sharmad

Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:


Democratizing design and manufacturing by enabling individuals and small businesses to buy, sell, share, and digitally remix products affordably while protecting intellectual property rights.
Decentralizing warehousing and logistics by combining autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and smart contracts to optimize delivery of products and materials, and even to create them on site as needed.
Distributing commerce by mixing virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence into immersive, personalized, on-demand shopping experiences that still protect buyers’ personal and proprietary data.

The City of the Future

Imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger. This “digital twin” could transform the delivery of city services.

For example:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.


Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

When exponential technologies intersect and combine, transformation happens on a massive scale. It’s time to start thinking through outcomes in a disciplined, proactive way to prepare for a future we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.


Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain

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About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

Raimund Gross is a solution architect and futurist at SAP Innovation Center Network, where he evaluates emerging technologies and trends to address the challenges of businesses arising from digitization. He is currently evaluating the impact of blockchain for SAP and our enterprise customers.

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

Ulrich Scholl is Vice President of Industry Cloud and Custom Development at SAP. In this role, Ulrich discovers and implements best practices to help further the understanding and adoption of the SAP portfolio of industry cloud innovations.

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4 Traits Set Digital Leaders Apart From 97% Of The Competition

Vivek Bapat

Like the classic parable of the blind man and the elephant, it seems everyone has a unique take on digital transformation. Some equate digital transformation with emerging technologies, placing their bets on as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Others see it as a way to increase efficiencies and change business processes to accelerate product to market. Some others think of it is a means of strategic differentiation, innovating new business models for serving and engaging their customers. Despite the range of viewpoints, many businesses are still challenged with pragmatically evolving digital in ways that are meaningful, industry-disruptive, and market-leading.

According to a recent study of more than 3,000 senior executives across 17 countries and regions, only a paltry three percent of businesses worldwide have successfully completed enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives, even though 84% of C-level executives ranks such efforts as “critically important” to the fundamental sustenance of their business.

The most comprehensive global study of its kind, the SAP Center for Business Insight report “SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart,” in collaboration with Oxford Economics, identified the challenges, opportunities, value, and key technologies driving digital transformation. The findings specifically analyzed the performance of “digital leaders” – those who are connecting people, things, and businesses more intelligently, more effectively, and creating punctuated change faster than their less advanced rivals.

After analyzing the data, it was eye-opening to see that only three percent of companies (top 100) are successfully realizing their full potential through digital transformation. However, even more remarkable was that these leaders have four fundamental traits in common, regardless of their region of operation, their size, their organizational structure, or their industry.

We distilled these traits in the hope that others in the early stages of transformation or that are still struggling to find their bearings can embrace these principles in order to succeed. Ultimately I see these leaders as true ambidextrous organizations, managing evolutionary and revolutionary change simultaneously, willing to embrace innovation – not just on the edges of their business, but firmly into their core.

Here are the four traits that set these leaders apart from the rest:

Trait #1: They see digital transformation as truly transformational

An overwhelming majority (96%) of digital leaders view digital transformation as a core business goal that requires a unified digital mindset across the entire enterprise. But instead of allowing individual functions to change at their own pace, digital leaders prefer to evolve the organization to help ensure the success of their digital strategies.

The study found that 56% of these businesses regularly shift their organizational structure, which includes processes, partners, suppliers, and customers, compared to 10% of remaining companies. Plus, 70% actively bring lines of business together through cross-functional processes and technologies.

By creating a firm foundation for transformation, digital leaders are further widening the gap between themselves and their less advanced competitors as they innovate business models that can mitigate emerging risks and seize new opportunities quickly.

Trait #2: They focus on transforming customer-facing functions first

Although most companies believe technology, the pace of change, and growing global competition are the key global trends that will affect everything for years to come, digital leaders are expanding their frame of mind to consider the influence of customer empowerment. Executives who build a momentum of breakthrough innovation and industry transformation are the ones that are moving beyond the high stakes of the market to the activation of complete, end-to-end customer experiences.

In fact, 92% of digital leaders have established sophisticated digital transformation strategies and processes to drive transformational change in customer satisfaction and engagement, compared to 22% of their less mature counterparts. As a result, 70% have realized significant or transformational value from these efforts.

Trait #3: They create a virtuous cycle of digital talent

There’s little doubt that the competition for qualified talent is fierce. But for nearly three-quarters of companies that demonstrate digital-transformation leadership, it is easier to attract and retain talent because they are five times more likely to leverage digitization to change their talent management efforts.

The impact of their efforts goes beyond empowering recruiters to identify best-fit candidates, highlight risk factors and hiring errors, and predict long-term talent needs. Nearly half (48%) of digital leaders understand that they must invest heavily in the development of digital skills and technology to drive revenue, retain productive employees, and create new roles to keep up with their digital maturity over the next two years, compared to 30% of all surveyed executives.

Trait #4: They invest in next-generation technology using a bimodal architecture

A couple years ago, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of research, observed that “CIOs can’t transform their old IT organization into a digital startup, but they can turn it into a bi-modal IT organization. Forty-five percent of CIOs state they currently have a fast mode of operation, and we predict that 75% of IT organizations will be bimodal in some way by 2017.”

Based on the results of the SAP Center for Business Insight study, Sondergaard’s prediction was spot on. As digital leaders dive into advanced technologies, 72% are using a digital twin of the conventional IT organization to operate efficiently without disruption while refining innovative scenarios to resolve business challenges and integrate them to stay ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, only 30% of less advanced businesses embrace this view.

Working within this bimodal architecture is emboldening digital leaders to take on incredibly progressive technology. For example, the study found that 50% of these firms are using artificial intelligence and machine learning, compared to seven percent of all respondents. They are also leading the adoption curve of Big Data solutions and analytics (94% vs. 60%) and the Internet of Things (76% vs. 52%).

Digital leadership is a practice of balance, not pure digitization

Most executives understand that digital transformation is a critical driver of revenue growth, profitability, and business expansion. However, as digital leaders are proving, digital strategies must deliver a balance of organizational flexibility, forward-looking technology adoption, and bold change. And clearly, this approach is paying dividends for them. They are growing market share, increasing customer satisfaction, improving employee engagement, and, perhaps more important, achieving more profitability than ever before.

For any company looking to catch up to digital leaders, the conversation around digital transformation needs to change immediately to combat three deadly sins: Stop investing in one-off, isolated projects hidden in a single organization. Stop viewing IT as an enabler instead of a strategic partner. Stop walling off the rest of the business from siloed digital successes.

As our study shows, companies that treat their digital transformation as an all-encompassing, all-sharing, and all-knowing business imperative will be the ones that disrupt the competitive landscape and stay ahead of a constantly evolving economy.

Follow me on twitter @vivek_bapat 

For more insight on digital leaders, check out the SAP Center for Business Insight report, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics,SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart.”

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About Vivek Bapat

Vivek Bapat is the Senior Vice President, Global Head of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership, at SAP. He leads SAP's Global Marketing Strategy, Messaging, Positioning and related Thought Leadership initiatives.