Click on video to listen to a podcast conversation with Kerrie Jordan, VP of Product Management at Epicor, and Devin Watts, CFO and Integrator at M&A Supply, diving deeper into these topics.
With more tools than ever to gain critical insight into a business, enterprise leaders employ data and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) capabilities more than ever to help drive daily decisions about their customers, supply chain(s), pricing and more. While continued advances in these technologies are necessary for growth, they can only take companies so far. The workforce is necessary to go from data-driven to what Vaibhav Vohra, chief product officer at Epicor, calls data-led. Data-driven is where you have data. But if your workforce is purposeful with having autonomy over the data and consistently using it to lead decision making, then a company is data-led.
DATA DRIVEN VS. DATA-LED
Being a data-driven or data-led company has its challenges: Working in a data silo, not having the technology to be fully connected or even simply finding the action that a company wants to make based on the data. To overcome all of these, our workforce needs to continue to be people-centric. In order to accommodate this rising trend, businesses should consider: Start with your people and with action. Understand the problem that you're wanting your data to solve, and then implement. Investing in cloud technology to accommodate the shifts in people’s preferences for in-person and virtual work. The implementation of tailored solutions helps maximize workforce success regardless of location. And, more internal training to create a data-driven work culture for all employees and eliminating data silos.
AVOIDING DATA OVERLOAD
In today’s technology-driven world, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of the data available, especially for a distributor just starting out with data or one integrating a new software. Kerri Jordan, vice president of product management for Epicor, tells distributors to first identify the business issues they are trying to solve.
“Deciding what data to focus on starts by identifying pain points or needs in your business,” she says. “The opportunities are endless when it comes to available data. First, look at what kind of data your workforce currently has access to, where it is available, what data they are lacking, and how will this new data serve them day-to-day. Establish a core set of key performance indicators (KPIs) and start there.”
Devin Watts, CEO and integrator for Tennessee-based distributor M&A Supply says the most difficult thing about using data in his company — while avoiding data overload — is finding a balance to focus on only relevant information.
“When you include, sales, records, performance, etc., you’re looking at a lot of data,” he says. “All of this information is helpful, but I’ve found that there are a few key metrics that are most relevant for customers. So focusing on those specific data points and how you can implement them into your business is a good way to avoid the overload.”
KEEPING IT ABOUT THE PEOPLE
Wholesale-distribution in the PHCP-PVF industry is a people-first business. Sometimes implementing new technology brings along fear of change, security concerns and/or concerns about infringing on relationships. Both Jordan and Watts emphasize how important it is for distributors to implement data in a way that is designed to help your people, not bog them down or get in the way of their day-to-day operations and relationships.
“We like to say that we are a relationship distributor, not a product distributor,” Watts explains. “It’s important for us to keep people involved; sometimes when a company transitions to more data-led, they can lose the people aspect. Our people have the knowledge to use in the field, so the data we’ve implemented is designed to help them make decisions based on relevant data that is easily accessible to them.”
Jordan agrees, saying that it’s important to involve your workforce early on in the data adoption process. “You want your team to feel empowered by the data, not taken off guard by it,” she says. “Utilizing technology with training, sales and performance data, or just to organize all of your documentation can be really beneficial and a true selling point to the new generation entering the workforce. Create a team within your organization to head up the transition, encouraging them to be ambassadors for change for the rest of your workforce.”
Security and privacy are always a top concern when it comes to adopting new technology. Jordan advises to work with a third party — a legal council for example — who can comb through the privacy jargon and ensure your workforce feels comfortable with the new technology.
DATA IS AN AID, NOT A ROADBLOCK
The PHCP-PVF industry is one often accused of being behind-the-times when it comes to data and technology. Watts points out that although much of our workforce is seasoned, they can use data as a way to aid their already impressive industry knowledge.
“Our industry has decades of tribal knowledge,” he says. “When they’re in front of a customer or vendor, they have all of this knowledge in their minds that doesn’t live anywhere else. Transitioning to being data-led means we can capture this knowledge for generations to come, as well as have it in a visual format for customers who want to see it.”
Watts adds that not all customers are on the same page when it comes to how much data and technology they are comfortable with. “We encourage our people to know their audience; know what people you can push to progress a bit further with technology and what others may take longer to adapt.”
Jordan adds that taking the time to make both your workforce and customers comfortable is an important step in establishing trust during any technology or data transition.
Always keeping it about the people, Jordan says the rate of talent attrition in the industry is another reason data is so important. “It’s important for companies not to be dependent upon just a few experts,” she says. “Find your champions in your organization and empower them to use data to enable them to leave a legacy of knowledge and resources behind.”