Amid market volatility and changing consumer trends, brands are increasingly investing in digital solutions to address growing inventory issues within the supply chain. With so many solutions addressing every aspect of the supply chain, it can be daunting to figure out how to find and evaluate the right solution for your needs to see a proper return on investment.
We recently hosted a Lunch & Learn webinar to discuss how to identify and evaluate the right enterprise supply chain solution and drive innovation within your organization. Here are our key takeaways from the discussion.
1. Identify Your Pain Points and Understand the Main Problem You’re Trying to Solve
When looking for a supply chain solution, you might be looking for something that either performs functions that your team is unable to do today, or for a solution that complements and strengthens your existing processes. You may even be looking for a solution to do both.
In our webinar, we discussed the challenges that exist today with regard to managing and selling slow-moving or excess inventory. In light of COVID-19, the CPG industry has seen a tremendous growth of aged products forcing brands to manage excess or slow-moving inventory over a longer period of time. Some brands might be challenged with moving higher volumes of inventory as quickly as possible. Other brands might be more concerned with increasing margins and reducing operating costs. Some brands might simply be focused on how they can reduce manual work and better streamline processes to free up time for other responsibilities. Although they are all addressing a common challenge, they each have different goals and unique pain points to prioritize.
When evaluating a new supply chain solution, reflect on your team’s priorities and try to pinpoint the exact problems you’re trying to solve. This will enable your team to understand whether a solution’s features will make a direct, positive impact.
2. Be Transparent with Your Solution Partner and Communicate Any Gaps Upfront
Once you have a full understanding of your team’s pain points, you’ll be better equipped to evaluate whether the solution meets your criteria or if there are any gaps in functionality. If the solution does not quite have all the functionality you would expect it to, don’t automatically disregard it. A good partner who truly wants to help you foster innovation will take your feedback very seriously, and will be willing to explore new features to help get your organization where it needs to be. By being transparent and upfront with your potential solution partner, you can work together to build a roadmap with features that work best for your team.
3. Check That Your Solution Partner Has These Key Benefits
Regardless of the solution you’re evaluating, you should check that they provide these key benefits that have become must-haves for many enterprise organizations:
1) Efficiencies for your team’s workflows and processes
In our day-to-day lives, we regularly rely on Uber, Seamless, and even personal banking apps that are extremely convenient and intuitive to use. They’ve become such a standard in our personal lives, that we are seeing the same need and trend in the workforce. Employees are increasingly looking for intuitive applications that help them get through their responsibilities in a quick and efficient way. This is especially true as workforces implement more flexible work remote policies. A central application allows for greater visibility into workflows resulting in better collaboration.
2) A system of record for all new and historical data
Many companies operate with multiple formats of documents that are stored on local hard drives. It’s difficult to track history in data that lives within a hard drive and is manually updated. This method of working puts the information at risk by lacking security and is outdated. By utilizing a solution that serves as a system of record, you can easily, safely, and automatically access historical data without requiring users to dig for information.
3) Cloud-based environment
With on premise systems, companies are responsible for maintaining security, managing their own servers, and more. As a result, we’re seeing many organizations moving to cloud-based solutions. In addition to saving your organization time, resources, and money, a cloud-based solution gives your organization access to a much larger ecosystem of applications that you can integrate with to make your team more productive.
4) Artificial intelligence and machine learning
While this may not yet be present in all digital solutions, AI/ML can enable your organization to leverage data to make business decisions earlier on. As an example, brands are quickly utilizing solutions with this technology to identify and manage excess inventory earlier in the product life cycle to gain better margins, and avoid waste. Looking for solutions that are on the cutting edge guarantees that your company will always be ahead of the curve.
4. Lean on Your Solution Partner to Convince Key Stakeholders of Value and ROI
Return on Investment & Risk of Ignoring
When evaluating a new solution that was previously unplanned for in your annual budget, you’ll need to qualify and quantify what this new solution will do for the organization. There are two ways to think of ROI: the first is the traditional “return on investment” approach—how will this solution help me achieve my strategic and financial goals in a net-positive way? The second way to think of ROI is “risk of ignoring”—if we do not implement this solution, what are the strategic and financial consequences that will impact our organization? And will this choice be more detrimental in the long-term?
While ROI in the traditional sense is sometimes tricky to identify, put the responsibility of showing tangible value on your solution partner. Avoid getting caught up in buzz words and value propositions in sales decks by working directly with the solution partner on your internal pitch.
Identify Success Metrics and Align on Goals First
Before entering any contract, your organization and the solution partner should align closely on success metrics. Check whether the vendor offers any sort of complimentary workshop or assessment as a part of their process to help understand client pain points. While everyone understands how to set smart goals, you should lean on your solution partner to take a more consultative approach in gathering insights on what success looks like for your team and providing concrete recommendations on your areas of focus.
In addition, you should confirm with your solution partner what reporting capabilities they can offer—for example, will their client success team provide QBRs or will the solution itself provide a dashboard that users can access? Your solution partner should give you full visibility into how your organization is tracking towards your goals.
When in Doubt, Try Before You Buy
Digital solutions are significant investments, with contracts often spanning over multiple years. Your organization will likely want to ensure that multiple key stakeholders across different teams are fully bought in before committing to making an investment. While it is important for leadership to buy into the solution’s value proposition, it is equally as important that the end users (or individuals who will end up utilizing the solution on a more regular basis) also see the value in the proposed solution.
Before your organization enters a long-term contract, you may want to first explore whether the solution offers more short-term pilots or trial periods. You can also request that the solution partner’s sales team provide comprehensive demos to all stakeholders and end users to show how the tool can be used for various use cases.
Researching and evaluating new digital solutions is overwhelming, and it’s critical for your organization to feel confident in the investment they’re making. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your solution partner increases your team’s efficiencies and proves that they can provide strategic and tactical recommendations for your organization to succeed.
We’ve partnered with many of the most trusted brands across industries worldwide, each with their own set of unique challenges to solve. See how we’ve helped brands like yours find success in optimizing their slow-moving and excess inventory.