In the past decade, technology, market trends, and customer preferences have changed the dynamics of the distribution industry. For many companies, maintaining a product and service-based business model while pursuing more outcome-driven, technology-centric solutions has become an interesting balancing act to match shifting expectations.
At the center of this fine line is digital transformation. This term has launched a plethora of articles, papers, and talks about this new era. But what does it really mean for the industry? Further, how can NAED help? Exploring this topic in a way that made the most sense to NAED members became a priority.
A strategic imperative behind what would eventually become the Building a Connected Business action plan was optimizing electrical distributors' current business practices with an eye toward future transformation.
To begin, members deliberated on two questions:
- What the business of the future might look like?
- Does the electrical distribution industry really need to go “all in?”
Though responses to the first question involved many discussions, the answer to the second question was a resounding “YES!”
With the support of the NAED Foundation Board and Channel Advantage Partnership, the 2019 Future Fund contributors, the study addresses the “why” behind this pursuit and the “how” when incorporating digital solutions and technologies into businesses.
International research firm Frost & Sullivan worked with NAED members to determine what steps and strategies would be the most relevant and actionable. The outcome is a comprehensive roadmap to determine your path, implement change, and measure results over the next 3-6 years.
First things first
To provide a starting point, the plan outlines a phased approach to determine needs across the company while closing necessary organizational gaps and layering in digital capabilities.
Frost & Sullivan’s recommendations include progressive pathways to:
- Optimize and transform internal operations
- Create customer-facing solutions while addressing changing behaviors
- Maximize efficiency
- Streamline communications
The plan's centerpiece is an impressive framework of capabilities. Categorized into five segments—Talent, Revenue Engine, Operations, IT, and Business Steering—each section provides suggested technologies, software, or processes to not only optimize those parts of the business, but also to achieve a fully integrated business overall. The plan also includes recommended roles and talent considerations to help facilitate and sustain your efforts.
Changes of this magnitude do not happen overnight. The action plan also includes a timeline to help you sequence priorities/implementation over several years.
Given the unique challenges of this industry, an important aspect of the report is that it focuses on the entire channel—manufacturer, distributor, and customer. In this case, contractor customers were interviewed and completed a survey to help determine how distributors can ease some of their pain points. While many of the recommendations can be applied to all customers, if you serve contractor customers, the report provides important feedback and suggested ways to move ahead so that everyone wins.
When I’ve discussed Building a Connected Business with members, most mention that it is comprehensive and thought-provoking—the output matches the sheer scale of the topic. But it’s one of the reasons it was presented as a roadmap and timeline so that your team can determine each step in how you want to reshape your business.
At the 2020 Western Region Conference, the keynote, Luke Williams, noted that companies continue to have the right ingredients to thrive in the changing business landscape. You may have to add a bit of this or dash of that, but the basic recipe for continued success remains the same.
The impact of digital transformation is profound. If it has you rethinking how you work and sell; consider Building a Connected Business the cookbook to take your company from the 20th to the 21st century.
Learn more about the plan by contacting Erika!