In part one of our series, Paul Rogers takes a look at how to address some of the challenges faced by IT staff in the Wholesale & Distribution Industry. To learn how to solve these challenges we recommend reading part two of our series.
The wholesale and distribution industry is undergoing a great deal of change at an increasingly rapid pace. The market is more competitive than ever, with seemingly constant changes in customer demands and expectations, combined with economic and political uncertainty. This makes it vitally important for wholesale and distribution businesses to be as agile as possible while remaining cost effective. Add to this the fact that we’re all operating in a global digital economy and it’s easy to see why more and more businesses are struggling to secure that all-important competitive edge in today’s market.
With technology often seen as a key business differentiator, it often falls to the IT department to navigate the maze of emerging technology to find the elusive magic solution that will unlock business success. However, in reality, the industry as a whole is struggling to adopt technology quick enough to stay competitive, with the IT team in particular faced with a whole host of pain points that simply have to take priority over any value-add, business development activities. So, what are these pain points and how can they be resolved?
Top of the list is often the sheer amount of disparate systems in place within a wholesale and distribution business. Multiple departmental systems and solutions need to be managed and maintained, which is not only time consuming but also costly. For the business as a whole to run smoothly, it’s vital that systems are fully synchronized, something that’s often near impossible to achieve due to the difficulty in managing the integration of multiple systems. This leaves the IT team little time or resource to focus on more strategic areas of the business.
Not only are there multiple systems in place but they’re often legacy systems. There are no longer supported by their vendors, placing even more pressure on the IT department. This often leads to a reliance on home-grown solutions or the need for mass customization to ensure the business runs as efficiently as it needs to. Again, this means a lot of IT time and energy is spent maintaining incumbent solutions, creating necessary workarounds and customizations to maintain the status quo, with no time left to explore more value-add solutions and technologies, or to provide IT expertise to the rest of the organization.
How systems are deployed can make a real difference to the pressure placed on the IT team too. If solutions are hosted on-premise and managed in-house, this brings with it a wide range of issues to be addressed on a daily basis, including fire fighting hardware issues, managing software upgrades or patches, and not to mention keeping on top of data security. For a department already under pressure, the responsibilities involved in managing multiple solutions in-house are an additional burden that takes up a large amount of time and effort to do successfully.
Again, due to the sheer number and variety of systems often in place there can be a lack of process traceability. With so many systems and integrations to manage and oversee, it’s incredibly difficult to maintain full control over who does what to which system and when, with minimal levels of control over authorizations possible. The ramifications for auditability and data security / system access are obviously not ideal and merely add to the list of challenges faced by the IT team.
In an effort to relieve all of these pain points, more and more wholesale and distribution businesses are implementing a business management solution to bring all systems together in a single, centralized solution. The right solution can help to manage all aspects of the business, including sales ordering, pricing, shipping, sourcing and billing, to name but a few, streamlining all business processes and doing away with multiple, disparate systems. For the business, this means all vital information is available, in real time, in a single location.
For more information on how Sapphire can help your Wholesale and Distribution business turn its IT capability into a real competitive advantage, contact us.
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