Overcoming Digital Transformation Challenges in Supplier-Buyer Relationships
By Jake Miller, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, MetaCX
The goal of digital transformation is to fundamentally change how B2B suppliers operate and deliver value to customers by creating a connected digital ecosystem. Transformation isn’t about simply building a digital product. Instead, it is about providing a unique digital customer experience.
The term “digital transformation” was coined in 2011 by Capgemini and the MIT Center for Digital Business. In reality, companies started digitizing their processes decades ago, and in the 2010s, savvy businesses moved from duplicating processes using technology to developing full-blown digital strategies for their organizations.
Genuine digital transformation has proven to be no small task. More and more companies have attempted to replicate business processes digitally, yet research shows that 70% of digital transformation projects have failed. And in many ways, digital transformation isn’t a matter of change. Instead, it is a movement — an entirely new model and way for organizations to do business.
Including the Customer
Ironically, the customer is the missing ingredient in most digital transformation initiatives. Enterprise software has not been built to include the customer in defining and collaborating around their goals ongoing. Capturing and tracking customer goals is a piecemeal process, and even in the cases where it is done well, there is no central repository to formally document desired outcomes, track progress ongoing, and where the customer can participate continually.
In the case of businesses with digital products, the customer relationship experience is disconnected from their product experience altogether. Product analytics are helpful to track product adoption but do nothing to measure actual value realization — and certainly not in the context of the established goals of the relationship.
The customer should be included in the management of the relationship — digitally, in real time, and in the context of their desired outcomes.
Concretely Defining Customer Value
Value is not an abstract concept and can be concretely defined, tracked and measured. But value isn’t treated this way, and few tools facilitate defining concrete desired outcomes and performance metrics to prove value realization.
There is a drastic advantage to digitally replicating processes, and that is that digital artifacts are manipulatable. As a result, they become malleable — which is to say one can be augmented, include rich metadata, or have other automated processes wrapped around them.
By concretely defining what constitutes value, managing the tasks that ensure value realization can be automated and more easily managed at scale.
Meeting Customer Expectations
Customer expectations are higher than ever. Digital experience spans every aspect of our personal lives. Driven by personal convenience, B2C companies have been the most successful at digital transformation. Groceries can be ordered online and delivered to a shopper’s door in less than an hour. When an accident occurs on the highway, drivers alternate routes are immediately provided. We have become accustomed to immediate responses to our changing needs.
In contrast, the B2B space has lagged embarrassingly behind. Business relationships are traditionally maintained through quarterly business reviews. After all, QBRs require a lot of work to gather information, synthesize, create decks and visualizations, and create a talk track. That takes a lot of time.
In reality, change happens in real time. Customer goals evolve, organizations change, and priorities shift quickly in response to real-time input. As a result, vendors that keep up with the pace of their customers have an undoubted advantage over their competitors.
Measuring Real-Time Success
Nearly 463 exabytes of data are believed to be produced each day, and yet 95% of businesses have trouble managing all of that unstructured data. Trillions of events are triggered every day, from document e-signatures to an attendee logging into a meeting. Out of these trillions of actions, there are key events with an intrinsic business value called signal.
A real-time data integration layer is needed to do this successfully so that metrics can be derived using inputs from multiple sources. Constructing such capabilities may be challenging, but accurate and reliable data is a must-have to track and prove value delivery.
The age of digital transformation has heightened customer expectations, and even the most innovative organizations have trouble keeping up. So, it’s time for B2B suppliers to take control of their entire value stream — all by co-creating value; building a connected customer experience; and capturing, processing and contextualizing the billions of signals and events within their ecosystem.