Acro Media Q&A — Digital Solutions for B2B Companies
Matt Gomez, Senior Business Developer, and Becky Parisotto, Director of Business Development sat down for a live Q&A. They tackled questions and concerns we hear often surrounding B2B digital transformation, as well as specific questions from the live chat.
Key takeaways from the Q&A on digital solutions for B2B companies.
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WATCH THE SESSION
Timestamps of note:
03:00 — When planning a big move to online, how do you do this while minimizing disruptions to current B2B business operations??
07:27 — Live chat question: my company has a bunch of old systems that we can’t get rid of. How do we do ecommerce with them?
12:16 — Live chat question: No one on my team knows ecommerce. Should we hire a developer?
15:37 — Live chat question: Our customers can’t buy our products with a credit card online. How can we do ecommerce?
25:35 — Live chat question: Our upper management wants to be quite involved with our innovation, but they aren't very technical. Any advice on how I can get an agreement and still look good leading our project?
35:00 — Live chat question: We do purchase orders, and even take orders by fax occasionally. How does that move online without upsetting our customers?
38:06 — Live chat question: Our company has highly configurable products, with multiple customizations. Is ecommerce even an option for "almost" custom-built products?
Key takeaways from the conversation
How to fold existing business logic into your tech and not fight with it
B2B organizations all operate differently, and some may feel that this is a barrier to entry when it comes to digitizing your business. The truth is situations and operations unique to B2B such as dealer networks and distributors do not have to hold you back. The existing business logic you have in place does not need to change to meet the tech you want to use. The tech can be changed to fit into your operations. The key is to take a measured, methodical approach to decide which operational components of your company you can bring online
A good place to start is figuring out which products or services which you can digitize first with a good ROI and ease of internal and customer adoption. It’s not a matter of turning one system off one day and then turning the new system on the next day, working with a consultant or agency to build it out in phases, ensuring each phase is ready, tested and your staff is fully trained before it goes live. From there, phase out the launches, take some time to get customer feedback and evaluate the success of each part of the project.
With a phased development, you bring a minimum viable product, or MVP, online first, then scale to meet your entire network’s needs. From there you look at which systems or processes you can integrate next until your digital architecture is at a place s that makes the most sense.
It is good to keep in mind that some processes will not always be able to be digitized. Costs and practicality are always weighed when designing workflows, and if the costs outweigh the benefits, we never push them.
Open source software allows you to connect to existing legacy systems
One common theme we hear a lot of is that there are key systems that a traditional, hand-shake-oriented B2B company has that they cannot get rid of. Think of ERP systems, SAP and any fulfillment or production management systems you may be using. These each live in a silo of their own and have no way of talking to each other. Often, it is a manual process to link those systems together. Someone will have to manually transfer information from one system to another, costing time and money and increasing the chance of error.
Using open source software, we can create integrations that can allow for separate systems to talk to each other. They can access each other’s data and potentially allow for an automated workflow that can pick up triggers in each system that moves the data through to the next step in the operational flow.
In short, that means that you do not have to live without the systems that are crucial to your business. Rather, an open source tech platform can create ways for them all to work together, creating greater operational efficiencies and eliminating human error.
How to get the most bang for your buck as a B2B company moving online: hire a project owner
You have decided that a digital transformation is the best way to get your B2B more efficient and to reach more customers. What’s next? Hire a developer? Hire a team of developers? Train the people you already have on hand to get your project up and running? As a company that has consulted on it all, we have a simple solution: hire a dedicated person to be the project owner to start.
This project owner can be someone from within your organization who knows your business or they can be someone from outside who has the equivalent business knowledge and background. The thing is, they don’t have to be a technical-minded person, just someone that is capable of building the desire for change and has the drive to see it through.
Once that person is in place, have that project owner define what your ultimate goals are for the project by working with your directors and c-level executives to determine what the budget will allow. They will also need to gather information from all your company’s stakeholders, internal and external.
The next step is to have your project owner work with a consultant or digital commerce agency to hire out the technical work, development and training. This allows you to get a project online without having to hire an entire development team, but rather take advantage of the agency’s resources and experts, while still achieving your digital operation’s needs.
Discovery & strategy are crucial to digitizing B2B operations
Discovery and strategy are what Acro Media has dubbed our process for collecting all of the information needed to assess an organization's needs in a digital project. Discovery is a set of exercises that we use to deep-dive into your business and get to know it inside out so that we can create the best strategic roadmap for your digital project.
An example of one of the discovery exercises is stakeholder interviews. Stakeholder interviews are integral and need to be done with every department to get everyone on board. For instance, you may find that you are getting pushback from your head of sales to digitizing aspects of the sales process. This can be out of fear that the system will replace their role. But by engaging with them and talking with them, you can look at solving core things for that department that actually enable the teams to sell more, more efficiently. Most of the solutions we build actually integrate with the sales teams, operational departments and workflows, not negate them.
The next phase is strategy, where we look at all of your systems, your technical architectures and what your desired outcomes are and build the roadmap that lays out every piece of information your business needs to make a decision. At the end of our discovery and strategy process, you are left with the complete blueprints for your custom digital solution. This helps eliminate the internal skepticism you may encounter within your organization about moving forward and also helps road map a much better product.
Still have questions about how to start bringing your B2B systems together to build a more efficient operational platform? Reach out to our team today. We are happy to answer any questions you may have!