When it comes to digital transformation and connecting engineering to customer experience, the overall advantages can feel incredibly exciting and yet daunting to implement at the same time. However, you can succeed and add significant value to your business, while also optimizing your operations and protecting your margins. We all know it starts with the right people at the table, your overall strategy, and allocating the right resources. The next question is when to get started and the answer is now.
To underscore that point, NTT DATA Business Solutions and Natuvion released our Transformation Study 2023 to ask over 600 CEOs, CIOs, and IT managers in 9 countries about their digital transformation projects. We asked what they felt went well and what they would do differently, and 32% of them said that they should have done their transformation project sooner.
That’s because we’re talking about new growth engines for their business and making sure that they’re serving their overall strategies. Now consider the manufacturing industry, in particular. We know that many large enterprise competitors in this space have already implemented the technology to connect their engineering processes to their customer experience, and that can be taken two ways. On the one hand, yes, competition has leveled up a notch. On the other hand, mid-sized organizations are often more agile than their larger competitors and have broad enough capabilities and resources to see this as an opportunity to outflank some of these larger organizations. That’s the beauty of technology. It is the great equalizer and the means to expand on the customer experience that you have worked so hard to create.
Establish Your Project’s Worth
This centers around a very hot topic, lot size 1. Discussions about personalization and making it profitable are everywhere, including a particular focus on which technologies are the best investment. It’s a given that manual processes can bog your sales and operations down and prevent you from being able to scale enough to make it profitable. The less obvious thing to note is that everything must run on one connected system, otherwise, you run the risk of paying for new technology that simply repeats past problems. However, having one connected system allows you to make real gains like improving runtimes and a better understanding of costs to make products, as well as improving the flow of information between the customer, production, and engineering.
In fact, one of the big cost elements is time. It can take a lot of time for sales to work through a customer email, then communicate what’s needed to the engineering team, the production or manufacturing team, and so on—and that can eat into sales. Reducing time spent across the organization not only improves your margins, it helps you serve the customer in the way that they want to be served.
To get there, you have to standardize the way data flows through your organization knowing that it’s used by different work groups who all use your data in very different ways— manufacturing systems, CRM, CX, engineering systems, and processes. That’s one of the reasons why these projects can be so complex and so rewarding. It also speaks to who needs to be at the table when developing your steering committee, to ensure that everyone’s needs are being met. If the overall flow of information and processes are not standardized internally, you can end up with a disjointed or inconsistent customer experience as different people from your organization interact with them—and create the potential for things to fall through the cracks if key pieces of information aren’t shared across the organization. That’s why a single connected system is so important.
Make a Plan to Address Challenges
Once you have the right people at the table, it’s time to start asking the right questions and possibly get some outside advice. Here are some basic questions to get started with each stakeholder:
- What specific new competencies are you trying to accomplish and what are your priorities?
- What personnel responsibilities need to be reorganized?
- What cross-departmental reporting needs to be in place?
- What data do you need access to, and what date range does that data need to cover? What data can be archived or removed?
- What is your change management plan for both employees and external customers?
- Which of these areas would benefit from the use of external consultants and/or services?
You may find that you need more external help than you initially thought, and that’s OK. If there’s one thing that survey respondents said was the most challenging in our Transformation Study 2023, it was the overall project complexity. So know that you are in good company if you share those feelings.
When you connect engineering, manufacturing, and customer experience systems, how you configure your data matters because it literally impacts everything—your overall strategy, collaboration across teams, and workflow. More importantly, your data provides detailed information about the health of production processes and assets. And to make better informed decisions, you need to contextualize that data in one connected system so that you can manage everything from your SG&A costs to supply chains and inventory to customer relationships. All of that comes together as you evaluate the demand for each customization option, cost to serve, new revenue opportunities, and determine how that all fits into your overall profitability. And the team here at NTT DATA Business Solutions is here to help you get it right.
Change Management Strategies
The next thing that I would like to highlight is change management for your both employees and your customers. It’s worth noting that you won’t just have to explain the why and provide training and development for your employees. Your customers will have to learn a new way of doing business with you, too. While you are making improvements to how they do business with you, it will also be different than what your current customers are used to. So how are you going to handle that? Many decisions go into this and there may be some solutions to think about that you haven’t thought about. For example, chatbots can provide quick responses to common issues, enable faster diagnosis and suggest personalized solutions. This and other issues like it will need to be a part of your plan.
Keep Your Eye on What Comes Next
The good news is that success will help breed more success. Having one connected system also enables you to adapt to changing markets as well as identify future growth opportunities. You will likely find even more opportunities to create increased efficiencies, meet customer needs as they evolve, and drive productivity. That in turn will help you increase your competitive standing, and that is a future worth looking forward to.