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  • Mike Shields

The 3 Pillars of B2B Commerce Simplification

Keeping them in balance is the key to winning

Part 3 of the 5 part series on Simplification of B2B Commerce

That’s Chrissie Wellington… the best female triathlete ever… four time Kona world champion…winner of EVERY Ironman event she has entered!

Process, Knowledge and Technology in B2B Simplification

What does Ironman have to do with B2B Commerce simplification? Each requires balance and discipline in three things. Chrissie exemplifies near-perfection in the three disciplines of Ironman Triathlon …Swim/Bike/Run… for 140.6 miles. Whether you’re a world champion like her, or a ‘weekend warrior’ (ummmm… like me) you can’t afford to slack on any of those disciplines and expect to have a good event. Overemphasizing any one of them at the expense of the others undermines performance… and ultimately leads to disappointment.

B2B Simplification is about a balanced approach to a different challenge, and its three pillars of success – Process, Knowledge and Technology. It’s about keeping these in balance to be ready when it’s time to perform. In commerce the score is kept by customers and the marketplace.

So far in this series we’ve been digging into B2B Simplification – starting with the focus on being clear about the two kinds of complexity:

  1. NECESSARY – The complexity that’s inherent to your customer value proposition, market demands, and product position/selling. It ADDS value.

  2. UNNECESSARY – The complexity that adds unnecessary time, cost, difficulty, redundancy and related customer and channel dis-satisfiers. It’s the enemy of clean, efficient, simplified B2B Commerce.

This is the third in a five part series on B2B Commerce Simplification. In my experience, there are three key pillars of simplification, the three interrelated domains of complexity:

  1. Process and Organization – the first pillar of simplification addresses the people, process and organization elements – often referred to as Change Management. The people and processes must be aligned with key business metrics that maintain and strengthen the value-add elements and attack/destroy the non-value add. It’s challenging! Many organizations and people are not good at changing; but sidestepping this is very risky. Identify these human factors; and incorporate change management measures. Tie this to clear measures of performance and establish what changes to monitor (e.g. speed, error rates, cost/transaction, etc.). This dimension of simplification pays off – it keeps proper focus on the next two – both are key enablers.

  2. Knowledge, Information and Data (K/I/D) Mastery – In today’s world, there are NO human-centric processes that do not rely upon timely access to digitized and easily accessible content – in all presentation forms and access devices. The ability to enable K/I/D, and control access, make it intuitive, remove gaps, etc. is fundamental to simplification. Because many legacy environments rely upon info-silos and highly departmentalized K/I/D, there is no simple solution that ignores the integration and mastery of this digital asset base.

  3. Technology Enablers (aka ‘Systems’) – I think this one is the biggest danger when ‘out of balance’. Maybe because the new generation of commerce was created through TECHNOLOGY, there’s the illusion that a new system will deliver the results. Like the other two key enablers, it’s a certainty that simplification cannot be achieved without the right technologies…the days are GONE when companies can succeed without high-performance B2B Commerce platforms integrated to enterprise systems. Simplified processes are BUILT around enabling technologies… otherwise they exceed the capacity of People and Data very quickly. But, that’s not enough… the process/organization alignment and a strong digital asset base are equally critical to success.

So, recapping, successful SIMPLIFICATION depends upon keeping all three of these three pillars of simplification in balance. Each needs to be treated as critical to success. Although this may sound obvious, my experience has been that all major simplification failures left one or two of these ‘in the background’ and concentrated on one, most often Technology, the ‘magic bullet’ of the new commerce solutions. Find the balance and it will pay off… you don’t have to be the best at every one of these; but being pretty good in all is important. Chrissie Wellington isn’t first out of the water in triathlons but she’s not so far behind that she can’t catch up.

In my next post, the fourth of this five-part series, I present a new model of SIMPLIFICATION – one that you can apply to your own commerce evaluation.

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