Change is all around! Brought on by rapid technological advances, globalization and, of course, the smartphone age, the enterprise has a tough battle to fight to adapt to this changing business environment.
We now have global offices, manufacturing units in different locations, a widely growing distributor and supplier network that often spans continents, and an ever-evolving portfolio of products driven by the push for constant innovation. We have multiple business units, our customer profile is ever-changing and we have to live with the curious demands of the ‘experience economy. The world, in a nutshell, is unrecognizable from what it used to be for the B2B enterprise.
In the age where everything happens at our fingertips, the experience bar has been set quite high by the likes of Amazon, Netflix, and Uber. Digitalization is the new normal and we find everyone, even traditional manufacturing industries, embracing this trend. After all, in this uber-competitive market, digital prowess is more than just a ‘good to have’.
Quite naturally, with digital transformation come the change in organizational structure, team structures, business units, and business offerings as well. But, even with all this movement and change organizations have to ensure that their business units are aligned to serve the organization’s purpose.
McDonald’s is a good example here. This brand serves 1% of the world’s population, that’s more than 70 million customers each day, every day, and across almost every country. This can hardly be easy right? But McDonald’s manages to build efficiency in its organizational design by paying fanatical attention to everything from product standardization to building scalable, repeatable processes. Is it then a wonder why McDonald’s has been the market leader in its segment for decades?
Clearly, process is supreme. And for those on the digital bandwagon, it surely makes sense to ensure all their business units are aligned. But how can we achieve this?
Technology is a means to an end – it is not an end in itself
Unity through technology – this is the most obvious first step that comes to mind when you want to align your business units. It makes complete sense because technology has enabled us to make business functions and processes seamless. Technology has helped us innovate faster and innovate better.
However, technology is a means to an end. So, before you figure out ‘how’ to use technology to align your organization, it is imperative to evaluate ‘why’ you should use technology? And to figure out where you should apply which technology solution? Does technology give your organization the opportunity to create new business, expand operations, improve processes and business capabilities, increase market readiness or impact the cost and quality of service…the laundry list of things technology can do is quite exhaustive.
Assessing how technologies will add value to your business, how processes can align teams, how they impact your target customer and how these will help you improve your competitiveness is a good starting point.
Speak a common language
Having many large teams spread across geographies can make the business environment complex. Location-specific information and up to date product data becomes a ‘must-have’ in this scenario. The information has to be country-specific and has to take into account relevant and country-specific images, product descriptions, safety standard codes, etc. to help your employees communicate seamlessly with each other and with the customers as well.
The increasing speed of innovation only adds more pressure on businesses to pay close attention to the language they use. As products evolve it becomes imperative to change the product information proactively so that innovation does not become a roadblock. Marketing and sales teams, for example, have to communicate with several departments and teams who can also be in different locations to increase their output. Then you have a fast-growing and complex distributor network who often, have their own language to describe products and specifications. Unless the whole organization and all its endpoints buy into a common unified product language or taxonomy it can become intensely hard to align all business units.
Product Information Management across the value chain is essential
Do you know what makes digital initiatives tick? While you can draw up a long list, one very crucial piece of the puzzle is content. Unless you can get content right across the value chain, unless you can create a unified language that makes it easy to understand the complex sources of content and formats, capabilities and specifications, it can be hard to achieve alignment across business units. And if you don’t know how to communicate clearly with each other, how will you communicate with the customers?
Product Information Management also becomes a boon as it helps you accelerate and optimize product information distribution across your entire value chain. It also helps enable timely and accurate availability of product data. This positively impacts findability. It helps you manage your catalog information to align with your style guides easily. It also helps you establish firm data governance to establish a well-structured product taxonomy. All of these contribute to digital maturity and ensure that your business units are speaking a relevant, common and up-to-date language.
It is only when you focus on your communication infrastructure, make it seamless, highly organized, and unequivocal that you can align your business units, be it 8 or 80. And once you do so, driving elevated customer experiences may prove to be a piece of cake.