2022 had its share of challenges. Some distributors were well prepared, while others struggled to navigate the changing tides of the economy, supply-chain constraints and inflation. With 2023 just around the corner, it’s time to take a closer look at your organization. To fortify your business in the coming year, we’ve identified five areas of your distribution business you should re-examine going into 2023.
1. Agility: How Quickly Can You Change Direction?
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that agile businesses come out on top. Over the past few years, the distribution landscape has changed dramatically.
To begin, re-examine your current infrastructure and ask yourself the following questions:
- Are my systems operating on a robust, flexible ERP?
- Do I have access to AI-generated forecasts and analytics that will help me anticipate supply chain issues and demand setbacks?
- Is my data protected in the cloud? Or are my systems still operating on physical servers?
- Am I prepared to handle a cyber attack?
It’s impossible to know when the next supply chain crisis will hit or when customers will attach themselves to a new business trend. To stay in your customers’ good graces and be prepared for unexpected setbacks, your organization must be flexible and able to pivot as needed—sometimes quickly.
2. Cybersecurity: How Secure is Your Company and Customer Data?
Every day cybercriminals find new ways to access company information. With the average cost of a data breach in the U.S. reaching $9.44 million in 2022, having the proper systems and procedures in place is essential. It’s not enough to download antivirus software and trust it to keep hackers at bay. To protect your data and systems from attack, you must know what your vulnerabilities are and how to address them.
The best way to start is by partnering with a Managed Services Provider like Sikich to conduct a risk assessment. This assessment will give you insight into which systems are at risk. Once you understand where your vulnerabilities are, your partner will work with you to develop a step-by-step roadmap to remediation.
Microsoft’s recommended best practices to protect your business include:
- Securing and managing systems with up-to-date patching
- Enabling multi-factor authentication
- Applying least privilege access and securing sensitive/privileged credentials
- Using anti-malware and workload protection tools
- Isolating legacy systems
We also recommend having a training and response plan in place, so employees know how to identify cyber threats, how to report an incident, and what to do in response to a data breach.
3. Visibility: How Well Can You See Into Your Business?
Do you have real-time insight into your inventory? Do you know what’s happening with your suppliers? Can you see data from various channels and departments in a unified dashboard? A lack of visibility can lead to unexpected setbacks, stockouts, and supply chain issues.
The best way to overcome this challenge is with technology. Cloud-based ERP solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management, aggregate and enable you to analyze data to provide real-time insight into every corner of your business. With a cloud ERP, you can see everything from customer patterns and sales forecasts to supplier shipping schedules and inventory updates.
Implementing a cloud ERP will provide you with:
- Greater financial visibility
- Improved supply chain resiliency
- A better omnichannel experience for your customers
- Increased operational efficiency
As we enter 2023, take a closer look at your long-term business goals. Do your systems offer the data and insights your business needs to flourish? Or are outdated legacy systems holding you back?
4. Productivity: Can Your Employees Do More with Less – And Still Grow the Business?
How productive is your staff? Are they spending their time helping customers and improving the shopping journey? Or are they stuck doing unnecessary manual tasks? It may be time to re-evaluate the productivity of your workforce (and the usefulness of the systems they use daily).
The market is flooded with software tools—all promising to boost efficiencies and productivity. Even within your own organization, employees probably use several tools to perform their jobs. Unfortunately, hopping back and forth between systems and applications is time-consuming. As you evaluate the productivity of your employees, ask yourself:
- Are my employees getting bogged down with dozens of applications?
- Is there one solution that can help consolidate my systems?
- How much time do my employees spend on manual data entry? Is there a tool that can automate administrative tasks?
- Do my employees have the data required to do their jobs efficiently?
When you migrate your systems to Microsoft, you gain access to a vast ecosystem of applications and software solutions. Instead of switching between incompatible systems, you can consolidate tools and streamline workflows.
5. Customer Experience: How Well Are You Delivering What Customers Are Looking For?
Omnichannel. It may seem like any other buzzword, but what does it mean to your customers? Omnichannel refers to the interconnectivity of systems, channels and departments. Distributors with omnichannel capabilities provide their customers with a seamless shopping experience, no matter when or how they want to interact with them.
According to a recent McKinsey study, two-thirds of B2B customers now prefer shopping via remote or digital self-serve channels. The same study also found that nearly 80% of B2B customers said they would actively look for another supplier if their expectations weren’t met.
With customers demanding omnichannel capabilities, online shopping and always-on customer service, the right tools can help you stay afloat.
For instance, if a customer learns about a new product from a field sales rep, they could search for the product online, add it to their cart, and then send a purchase order to inside sales. In a traditional sales environment, hopping between channels would be a headache for the customer because they would have to bring sales or customer service reps up to speed at every interaction. With omnichannel, customers can move between channels as they shop, making it easier to do business with you.
While this kind of shopping experience may not seem like a big deal, McKinsey found that “what customers want from omnichannel is “more”—more channels, more convenience, and a more personalized experience. And if they don’t get what they’re looking for, “they’ll take their business elsewhere.”
Ready for 2023?
In 2023, ask yourself if you are giving customers the experience they desperately desire. If not, it’s time to consider a new approach and bring omnichannel capabilities to the forefront of your business strategy.
Only time will tell what 2023 has in store for your distribution business. To ensure you are prepared for the coming year’s challenges, it’s time to re-evaluate how you do business. To learn more about how cloud ERP solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 can enhance your agility, security, visibility, productivity, and customer experience, contact one of our experts to schedule a consultation.