Strategic Planning and Technology

We live in exciting times.  The industry we belong to continues to transform.  The recent news with Staples acquiring Office Depot does not surprise most of us.  It will create strong opportunities for many and significant challenges for others.  Increased consolidation on the dealer side of the business is continuing, just as it is on the supplier side.

The importance of building a strong strategic plan is no longer an option – without a plan you run the risk of losing relevance in a rapidly changing market.  Being responsive is important – but building a comprehensive plan to track and measure against is the rudder for your ship as you react to tactical concerns.  Our business is like hockey – we need to skate where the puck is going to be, not where it is at the moment.

Technology continues to change how we do business and continues to impact your customer.  eCommerce has transformed business and will only continue to do so.  Mobile capabilities are more important than ever and failure to keep these two technologies front and center will impact your business sooner rather than later.

It was not long ago when some well-respected people in this industry asked the question “Honestly – who really wants to order business supplies on their mobile phone?”.  I’m pretty sure that mindset has changed.

With this as a backdrop, strategic planning for your business requires laser focus.  Technology has become a foundational aspect of how you are going to execute that plan.  While most businesses have a plan, many are incomplete, not tracked, or lost in the process of running your day-to-day activities.  In addition – how does your plan stack up against other successful businesses?  Do you vet your best practices against other businesses in your category?  Probably not – it is a taxing process given the limited resources we have access to today.

A strategic plan requires significant work, along with a technology spin. Does your plan consider:

  • Optimizing your business through your technology platform
    • Develop plan and metrics to meet company goals
    • Aligning business strategy and platform functionality
    • Leveraging outside resources to develop your plan
    • Leverage outside resources to assist your internal resources
    • Expand into other profitable verticals/categories 
  • Streamlining business process and flow through automation
    • Use best practices to deploy your system capabilities
    • Work with 3PVs to deploy necessary functionality
    • Liaison with 3PVs for purposes of developing project and support needs
    • Share industry best practices
  • Increasing margins through systemic capabilities
    • Monitor metrics and recommend adjustment
      • Seek industry aggregate information for feedback
    • Network with innovative dealers – assist in setting priorities for:
      • Your 3PV
      • Your suppliers and wholesalers
      • Your buying group

Building the right strategic plan for your business and measuring progress against the plan is an investment that you have to make.  Exploiting the right resources to build a sound, attainable plan is an important part of that process.  Our industry is fortunate in that there are excellent subject matter experts that can address some focused areas but, the need for industry veterans with an aggregate view of the industry has become more important as it can can impact your bottom line. 

The relationship between the 3PV community and your business is in need of transformation.  According to Andrew Morgan, President of ECI’s OP division, stated “Most dealers have technology in place that is not fully leveraged.  Finding the means to understand and apply industry best practices combined with the discipline to track performance and progress is a key to differentiating a business”.  It is up to your business to leverage new vehicles and partnerships so that the technology solution you own addresses not only what technology and functionality you need, but how you deploy, measure and make the technology part of your business DNA. © PTC Associates, LLC 2013