It’s time to go lean
Every SAP® hybris B2B eCommerce project that I’ve ever come across has been long, complex and expensive. The rule of thumb is usually a minimum of $1 Million and 1 year before the first B2B production order is processed in SAP®.
(If that doesn’t seem like a lot of money and time to you, I guess you need not read any further. But by comparison, our benchmark is 90 days and $90K for an SAP® Manufacturer to GoLive with their Phase 1 B2B eCommerce initiative.)
That’s great for hybris partners and system integrators. But that’s not so great for a large chunk of the SAP® Industrial Manufacturing market who want to start their B2B eCommerce journeys by simply providing better customer service by minimizing those routine phone calls, emails and faxes for their regular customers. Their businesses can’t justify that sort of expense, nor do they want to take on the kind of risk that projects of that size and duration represent. At least not initially. Over time, with demonstrated success and as they mature organizationally, they all would be more than happy to put more money in, in order to get more value out. But many are balking at the cost of entry into the B2B eCommerce world.
Does it have to be that way? Do the table stakes for B2B eCommerce in the SAP® market have to be that daunting? I don’t think so. Not if SAP® Manufacturers think Lean and pick partners who share their world view.
So what is Lean Thinking and how can we apply it to SAP® B2B eCommerce projects? That’s the subject of today’s blog post.
To begin with, according to the Lean Enterprise Institute:
“The core Lean (sic) idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.”
Create more value for customers with fewer resources.
More value, fewer resources.
Anyone can create more value with more resources. There is no sport in that. The Lean challenge is to create more value with fewer resources. The self perpetuating aspect of Lean is that as you remove the waste that is preventing you from delivering more value, you free up resources. (Customer Service Representatives aren’t rekeying orders, responding to routine delivery status inquiries, resending lost invoices etc.) You can then apply those new found resources to find and deliver more customer value and in turn liberate even more resources.
That’s what’s called a virtuous cycle.
So how can you apply this thinking to your SAP® hybris B2B eCommerce project? The first step is to be precise about defining your customer.
If you are an existing Manufacturer who has an operating business that is taking and fulfilling B2B orders today via phone, fax and email, you already have a crisp definition of customer. Those are the people that are buying your products today. They know you, they know your products, they’re just looking for a more efficient way of doing business with you. They want to place orders at their convenience with full knowledge of how much they are going to pay and when they can expect to receive their orders. Frankly, they probably don’t even want to talk to you. They just want to buy your product, and they want you to make it easier for them to do so. Period.
I find it fascinating that the pundits (and software vendors that fund them) dismiss the existence, and importance, of your existing loyal customers. They, and your Marketing department, would have you believe that the only definition of “customer” is the one that you don’t have today. The one that is begging for the “consumerization” of your website experience by providing more: rich content, mobile access, product reviews, “share this” buttons, wish lists etc. I don’t mean to be dismissive of these capabilities. I do believe that all B2B eCommerce websites are headed in this direction. But your low hanging fruit are your EXISTING CUSTOMERS! Frankly, for them, any content or clicks (or phone/fax/email correspondences) that you place between them and your checkout process is slowing them down. It’s wasteful as far as they are concerned.
So let’s get back to our Lean Philosophy.
We want to focus on adding value to customers while expending fewer resources. We certainly don’t want to take an existing process and make it worse. But that’s exactly what ALL hybris B2B eCommerce projects do, at least from the perspective of a Manufacturer’s existing loyal B2B customers. Those loyal (and informed) customers don’t want or need, pretty pictures or social reviews of the skus they are going to buy from you. They just want to confirm their contract price, the product’s availability and get instant confirmation of the transaction. Bing bang boom. In and out.
So instead of delaying your B2B eCommerce rollout to your best customers by 12 to 22 months only to make their purchasing experience with you worse, (those are real numbers from real hybris projects) why don’t you make them happy within 90 days? Make it easier for them to do business with you asap. By so doing you’ll have established an SAP® integrated platform that not only makes your loyal customers happy, you would have put in the infrastructure to make all customers happy AND you would have freed up resources that are tied up with non-value adding tasks today. From there you’ll have the resources, and positive momentum, to be able to focus on the next wave of customers to bring onto your B2B eCommerce platform…the ones that will appreciate your efforts to consumerize your B2B website. Those might be the new customers that you’re trying to recruit, or customers who need a little bit more help in deciding which of your products they should buy.
I’ve often said that B2B eCommerce initiatives aren’t events, they are journeys. Why would organizations try to solve the hardest problem, that takes the longest, cost the most and that deliver the least measurable value first? Start small, act quick and get the journey rolling with a win that will set your virtuous cycle into motion.
Provide more customer value with fewer resources.
Provide better customer services today, sell more product to more customers tomorrow.
That’s Lean in action!