Gazing Into Manufacturing and Distribution's 2021 Crystal Ball

COVID-19 debunked our belief that digital transformation was already the norm. Here's what will be key in the new year.

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As the final days of a tumultuous 2020 come to a close, Conexiom's Judd Marcello offers his predictions on key trends that will be paramount in 2021:

Customer Experience Will be the New Competitive Advantage for B2B (not just B2C)

Today, a customer-centric experience is no longer nice-to-have, it’s an expectation in B2C. But when it comes to B2B, most businesses are still light years behind their B2C counterparts. We live in an experience-focused economy, which means as B2B leaders, we can’t force buyers to change their behavior to meet our solution. It just won’t happen. Instead, as we head into the year ahead, we must conform our solutions to give customers what they want when they need it in order to succeed. As expectations evolve, our solutions must be lean and agile so we continue to meet customers where they are and provide the best customer experience. 

AI for Touchless Automation

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are opening up new possibilities for delivery and service in the technology world. Where humans used to need to intervene in a process in order to complete it, AI and ML can be used to remove the human from the equation. That way, the human is free to work on more pressing, strategic objectives versus something a machine can do. Organizations need to focus exclusively on solutions that deliver touchless outcomes, outcomes without human intervention. Because, if an AI/ML solution only delivers an improvement in a process or workflow instead of a touchless outcome, it’s the wrong solution for your business.

True Automation Will Focus on Tangible Outcomes and ROI

Automation is increasingly seen as a business imperative but it’s important to understand that automation technologies are not created equal. In 2021 and beyond, expect to see a push for demonstrable proof of automation. Companies have been duped by software sales people who promise the world but, the implementation takes forever, the usability isn’t great and the cost to achieve any benefit is 3x. This thinking needs to be flipped on its head. True automation isn’t a piece of technology for a customer — it’s about delivering tangible outcomes and ROI.

The “Deliver More with Less” Mentality Will Reshape Business

In 2020, organizations behind the ball on digital transformation experienced just how imperative it is to business operations as staff were forced to work from home (when possible). COVID-19 debunked our belief that digital transformation was already the norm. We learned a valuable lesson as a result: We must create future-MarcelloMarcelloready business operations if we hope to succeed, or even survive. Businesses will look to create efficiencies throughout their operations and processes as work from home and “doing more with less” continues into 2021. Thus, automation will be essential to success next year not only as a business imperative. But, as a way to create better outcomes for customers with less manual labor.

Judd Marcello, is the Executive Vice President & CMO of Conexiom.

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