Business requirements will also change depending on your customers and vendors and the markets you serve. For example, a business that sells products through a distribution channel may have a great business application for their needs today but may not be the right product if they start to sell direct to consumer via a retail storefront or online.
Likewise, business requirements will change dramatically when a company starts to sell to larger customers such as tier one automotive manufacturers or big box retailers like Wal-Mart or Lowes or others who have considerable technology requirements for their vendors including things like labeling, returns management, and electronic data interchange.
A few years ago we worked with a supplier to the heavy truck industry. They were a key parts supplier but the customer decided they wanted to consolidate their supply chain to fewer vendors. They asked our customer if they would be willing to provide a more complete product essentially managing the main assembly of a product with their downstream suppliers. Our customer was on a very old system at the time and the software was simply unable to handle the data exchange required with the downstream suppliers. They ended up losing a multi-million dollar contract and were in jeopardy of losing all of the business from their top customer.
Fast-forward a few years and our customer replaced their antiquated system with a new business application. They proved they were able to manage the downstream suppliers effectively and won back the original contact they initially lost. They also grew the account by winning two additional multi-million-dollar contracts that they otherwise would not have won simply because they had made an investment in their business systems.
Many vendors have specific requirements for their customers as well. These can range from quality assurance and reporting to collaboration on product design and transparency into product demand so they can better manage their own internal resources. Most small business applications have minimal capabilities to extend beyond the organization’s four walls making it difficult if not impossible to work with some vendors – often vendors who have the best products or the lowest prices.
Customers these days expect self-service. They expect that it’s easy to play orders, to check on the status of a shipment, to place a reorder, to process a return, to pay their bills online, or to report quality issues without human intervention. Chances are that your business software has some customer self-service features but it’s unlikely that it has everything you need to provide a truly exceptional customer experience. Evaluate what impact that has on your ability to retain customers and to win new customers and grow market share from competitors.
In many cases you and your sales team know of the key accounts that are in jeopardy of moving to a competitor and they may also know what you could do to help fortify your position in the account. In some cases it may be a minimal investment in technology and in others it could mean a major shift including a move to a new business system.