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B2B Digital Transformation: What It’s All About

Andrew Lewis • May 1, 2018

One of the most difficult things about B2B digital transformation is prioritizing what the business needs over what it wants, and doing so across a wide variety of stakeholders. This leads to complexity, and with it, the challenge of integrating different solutions into a scope, budget, and timeline that makes sense for everyone

While a coherent plan is essential, it’s actually fairly common in discovery sessions for organizations to struggle with setting priorities. Fortunately, once everyone gets in the same room and opens up about what they need, and why, the path toward solutions becomes more clear. When we engage with a client, it’s our job to understand the many different perspectives – branding, marketing, sales, IT, fulfillment, etc. – and help the group organize and streamline as a whole.

We had the chance to help a client with this during a recent commerce discovery for their platform change to the SAP Hybris Commerce Accelerator. The client brought in brand managers, internal sales, and one of their biggest B2B dealers to help out with feature reviews. While we worked through requirements together, including an in-depth discussion on options for embedded content, the dealer representative gave us a stark warning. “I scrape data off the screen and figure it all out in Excel. You’re about to spend all this money on the new B2B site, with all these slick new features, but to me, it doesn’t matter. I’m just gonna keep on using my own personal system because it works better.”

The dealer’s comment reverberated across the room. In weighing the user experience tradeoffs involved in moving to a new platform, it was clear there would be enormous benefits to the client. They would receive huge upgrades in UI, configurability, and ability to scale, but at the same time, this dealer’s perspective carried tremendous weight. It was a stunning realization for us all; change management being a natural part of any large digital project, his preference for the power and familiarity of Excel told us there was more to address here. Beyond the client’s organizational hunger to transform, we also needed to find out what it would take to meet the needs of independent power users.

Previously on the project, platform discussions had revolved around a committee from the client’s sales organization. There was a shared ownership of antiquated dealer ordering, customer service, and related business processes. Also involved were several brand marketing and design leads, whose needs overlapped while also differing greatly from that of the sales org. The sales team was generally satisfied with the proposed feature set, while marketing was laser-focused on building out robust product detail pages with an array of flashy content and tools. This is why the dealer’s comments electrified the room: he was a new participant in the stakeholder discussion, and his needs came from a totally different point of view.

After concluding the client-facing work sessions, we regrouped over Thai noodles to ruminate on the impact of what we talked about that day. We considered not just the platform implementation, but also how the business wanted to transform. “Brand managers are focused on content, while dealers are focused on numbers,” observed Robbin Farrell, Associate Director of Design Strategy, LYONSCG. “Branding’s needs – storytelling and product exclusivity – are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Meanwhile, from the dealer perspective, the new platform doesn’t meet his actual need.”

“Which is totally understandable. Success in digital transformation boils down to data, especially for B2B. Products in, orders out. Until you have that, nothing else matters,” added Michael Hayes, Solution Architect, LYONSCG. “There’s not much point to a fancy front end when everyone’s focus in B2B is on building and submitting carts. Shoppers want simplicity and the business wants sales. End of story.”

“Totally agree,” enthused Robbin. “’Fluff-n-buff’ only makes sense when the back-end transactional aspects of the experience are running smoothly. What we need is radical truth.”

From there we continued to engage with the client and their teams, documenting requirements, visualizing the user experience, and helping to organize change requests against the current scope. There can so many competing priorities when it comes to B2B digital transformation, and it’s the challenge of it which underlines why we love what we do. Corralling ERP(s), vendors, and data sources can be like herding cats, and enabling a wide range of stakeholders to reach consensus can be even more challenging.

Even so, involving all the key people was absolutely essential so that we could work with them directly. This allowed us to sit together, deliberate which options would move the needle, and determine as a group what would be the optimal path forward for the business. It was a successful and instructive experience for us, reminding the LYONSCG team once again on what B2B digital transformation is all about.


Andrew Lewis

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Andrew Lewis

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