Technology Implementation Best Practices for Distributors

June 8, 2023
Thomas F. Fitzgerald, CPA 
Tom Cangelosi 

Distributors equipped with the right technology solutions can reduce costs and operational inefficiencies, boost performance and productivity, enhance their employee experience, and even transform the customer journey. But selecting the right technology is only part of the equation. Your implementation strategy is an important factor in determining how effectively any given solution can impact overall company performance.   

A well-planned roadmap based on today’s technology implementation best practices will produce three benefits:

  1. Clear guidance to help team members achieve company objectives 
  2. Fast, effective implementation of any required change
  3. Proper allocation of resources 

The ISOC™ approach is a proven method that lays the groundwork for effective implementation. It considers your company’s unique constraints and ensures you yield the highest rewards possible in the shortest time frame. Here, we’ll discuss the steps involved in the process, as well as the major benefits it carries.

How to Implement the ISOC™ Methodology

ISOC comprises four core steps: Initialize, Stabilize, Optimize, and Capitalize. This methodology will allow you to simultaneously adopt new technology and manage change in your business. Below is a general overview of how each step works.

  • Initialize: Decide on your short- and long-term business goals. What do you want to accomplish? Of the entire process, this step will likely take the most time. Without it, however, you won’t be able to track the progress of your new technology implementation. During this phase, you’ll decide which employees will be core members of the change management team and what their responsibilities will be. 
  • Stabilize: During this phase, it is important to gather feedback from key users and address any shortcomings in the solution. Use KPIs to ensure that core processes are functioning as they should. How well are the changes working for them? Do team members feel comfortable with the software, and do they have an in-depth understanding of the data it’s producing? 
  • Optimize: Talk with your customers and your team. Have they noticed any improvements in your services since you started implementing changes? Do they have any feedback about what else should be improved? Take this feedback from your team and customers and apply it to your processes. Do the same with the information from your key performance indicators. By making careful, informed tweaks to the changes you’ve made and to your technology, you’ll optimize your strategy, ensuring your projects will help you reach your goals.
  • Capitalize: Now comes the fun part: reaping the rewards of your hard work. As you streamline your processes and raise your profits, you’ll find yourself utilizing your data to identify new opportunities and ways to expand existing initiatives.

Remember, for the ISOC approach to succeed, you have to fully deploy the technology and learn to use its features. This means allocating adequate time and resources for change management and adoption. Of course, it needs to be well integrated into your business’ ecosystem, as well.

What Are the Benefits of Following the ISOC™ Process?

This time-tested philosophy has been a game changer for many mid-sized wholesale distribution companies looking for a way to improve their bottom line. Here are just a few of the advantages of investing your time in strategic planning and following the ISOC process:

  • The solutions are customized to your business. Wholesale distributors differ by their needs, the industries they serve, and the processes they employ to keep things running smoothly. The ISOC philosophy is designed to uncover and address these nuances early in the implementation.
  • You won’t have to overinvest time or money to achieve the outcome you expect. Every minute you invest in planning saves time later by helping you avoid misstarts, restarts, refactoring and lackluster results. ISOC makes it easier to allocate just the right level of resources—and produce positive results. 
  • The time frame for seeing results will be reasonable and predictable. Nobody wants to implement a solution to improve their business and then wait years to see results. The ISOC methodology helps you focus on the right steps so you can enjoy the short- and long-term fruits of your labor.
  • You can effectively manage the risk associated with a new technology implementation. Every distributor has its own level of risk tolerance. ISOC minimizes your exposure by helping your team “walk before you run”. It allows you to gain momentum with early wins, building adoption and confidence as you move through the process.

What does success look like?

So, what does successful implementation look like? Let’s look at an example profile distributor to help you visualize the end result:

Too often, only a few key employees have deep and exclusive knowledge of the business, its customers, and its suppliers. This isn’t bad on the surface, but it leaves the business vulnerable in important ways.

Ellen knows her customers’ product needs and always ensures that her company is prepared to meet them. That is exceptional—we all need employees like Ellen who care about great customer service! But what happens if Ellen leaves the business? Instead of that key information being locked inside Ellen’s brain, the business would be much better off with a technology solution that will allow her to capture that information, preserve it in context, and directly feed it to the procurement team.

That theme can be repeated a dozen times in every area of your business, and technology is the tool that casts light in the right direction. A great solution will not only capture, preserve, and disseminate information across teams, but it will also provide the context for which customers need what and how often, and will remind your team to periodically check whether the contextual information still applies.

A successful implementation will equip your best employees with tools to support their best efforts and provide insights about your organization’s current processes. It will not simply replicate what has been happening for years. With the business requirements identified, a successful implementation should leverage the new technology to allow your company to process efficiently and effectively and be able to grow without having to proportionately add resources. A successful implementation will create processes that:

  • Allow Ellen (and perhaps customers) to maintain customer-specific forecasts that are taken into account when analyzing replenishment needs
  • Place products in optimal warehouse locations that are tracked within the system
  • Provide an automated electronic update of pricing and costing records based on manufacturer data
  • Enable an automated A/R collection process that considers customer-specific grace days before emailing a customer
  • Produce executive dashboards that monitor performance against company goals that include the ability to scope into the offending transactions

Investing time and effort into outlining a clear technology implementation best practices will ensure you gain a competitive advantage over other distributors, improve the efficiency of your team and processes, increase customer satisfaction, and deliver higher profits.

Thomas F. Fitzgerald, CPA
Thomas possesses over 40 years of experience driving proven results in corporate financial management, spanning the scope of strategic planning, merger & acquisition, market/product targeting, sales plan integration, operations control & review, cash flow management, capital acquisition, income tax planning & compliance, wealth preservation planning, and enterprise resource planning design...
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Tom Cangelosi
A graduate of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Tom has 40 years of experience with system implementations in the manufacturing and distribution industries. In a career that began with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), Tom has blended business and technical skills to create a practical consulting...
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