Megatrend digitalization – act now or lose out later! (Part 2/2)
Part 2 – Experiences & practical recommendations
Last week’s read shed light on the potential risks and opportunities that come with digitalization in polymer trading including digital sales channels, differentiation, data management and digital business models such as B2B marketplaces.
This week, we would like to offer some insight to our own experiences and the key learnings we made along the first steps in our digital journey.
Digitalization is a management issue and must be defined comprehensibly
Digital change is a top management task. It must be personified and authentic, starting with the CEO through to C-level. Adaption to the specific needs of the company and its stakeholders is a must. A clear definition of what digitalization means and encompasses for the development of the respective company is vital, along with a clear understanding of why it is important for business. Digitalization is a marathon in which the CEO and the management in particular must prove their staying power. Walk the talk!
Working in networks with selected partners and orientation towards customer benefit are key
Today it is neither feasible nor reasonable to establish and maintain all the technologies and capacities within your own company. Not only because of skyrocketing costs but also because of the enormous pace of change. In fact, professionalized cooperation and network competence are of enormous importance and can provide a competitive edge. Anyone who can speak the language of start-ups and next gens on an equal footing will be ahead of the field in digitalization in the future. The well-orchestrated set up of a powerful cooperation network made up of customers, suppliers, start-ups, innovation labs, institutes, other implementation partners, or even competitors, guarantees the necessary flexibility and speed. It most likely saves costs too and helps keep current trends on the radar in "real time". Due to the different angles one can take, it is more likely to develop solutions that match the "Pains & Gains" of the target groups instead of "missing the market". At the same time, customer needs must always be the focus of its actions!
Develop a clear vision, strategy and roadmap tailored to your needs right from the start
Taking into account the aforementioned external market influences, customer needs, requirements and your very own core competencies and corporate strategy, an initial digitization roadmap should be worked out at an early stage. It should be based on clear objectives and developed in an iterative and agile manner. The goals for the next 3-5 years should be defined. The strategy roadmap should be critically reviewed, taking into account the experience gained, market developments and opportunities, and adjusted if necessary on a regular basis. The definition of focus areas and easily comprehensible development steps is essential for communicating and transferring the digital strategy both inside and outside the organisation.
Speed is everything
In the digital world, product lifecycles are significantly shorter than in the analogue world, and technologies become obsolete much faster. Pressure to act is growing exponentially due to digital change. Operational speed is increasingly becoming a decisive factor for success, particularly in supply chain management. In the platform economy, market mechanisms and network effects often lead to the success of the "first mover" and to monopolistic positions. However, if the dynamics are underestimated, the "nightmare competitors" strike mercilessly like speedboats and suddenly challenge the market position of one’s own "tanker".
Actively drive your digital presence and stand out through differentiation
Just as private consumers have been using the internet for years to gather information online and are increasingly shifting their purchases to online shops, not least because of the corona crisis, so too is the B2B market not immune to this development. Every good purchaser “Googles” new suppliers, every seller new customers and every employee potential employers. Starting with visibility via SEO, through interest aroused by an innovative website and an appealing brand presence, right down to digital customer retention via LinkedIn and other social media channels, the online presence of trading companies from traditional industries is becoming increasingly important. Digitalization is a holistic approach and must be practiced as such!
And last but not least: get the right people on board
It is no longer a secret, and justifiably named by many digital champions as the most important challenge to the digital transformation. What good is an innovative digital service, no matter how forward-thinking it may be, if the sales department fails to deliver its added value to the customer? How will it affect the morale of the employees if new developments and future investments in the company pass them by, failing to let them actively participate? Digital transformation goes much further than simply developing and implementing tools and services. It starts with the involvement of employees from a variety of departments as early as the ideation stage. It takes into account the transparent communication of strategic targets and individual projects, through to specific digitalization training for employees. Employees have to understand the importance and impact of accurate data. In a networked and digitized world, "external" parties will suddenly receive data from an ERP system that was previously designed for internal use only and is not standardized. Information that was previously unavailable in a digital form in the system, such as material and application data, must be maintained properly and can be used for data analytics, "recommendation engines" or one step further for online business models. To achieve this, employees must be clearly informed of where the company and the industry are heading in the medium and long run, and how they personally affect digital transformation now and in the future, either directly or indirectly. Active support from the CEO and C-Level is indispensable here, while at the same time it is a ongoing learning process for both management and the entire organization.
Do you want to elevate the digitalization of polymer trading to the next level together with Meraxis? Do you want to learn more about our digital services? Are you interested in an informal exchange of experiences regarding digitalization?
If so, please contact us!