Winning with New Technologies

Onyeka Nchege, CIO, Interstate Batteries
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Blooming Role of Technology

At Interstate batteries, technology has transformed from merely an “order taker” to a trusted and respected business partner. Beginning with the creation of the Business Relationship Management (BRM) team, we have equipped and collaborated directly with the business. In doing so, the BRM team has immersed itself within the customer base.

To better adapt to the implementation of new technology, for example, we have a plan for the “new bus” an analogy from the film “Speed,” where the only way to stop a bus filled with explosives from blowing up was to roll a new bus up next to it, keeping them both rolling while people were moved from the old bus to the news bus. At Interstate, our leadership team understands the role this plan will play in our future, as we have to keep the old system running and working well, while slowly integrating everyone on board the new system.

In terms of specific initiatives, I would point to our implementation of Workday and Concur as examples of using packaged software in a consumer-driven world, while still using our ERP as the primary data store. In other words, we are not building custom systems, but rather, we are implementing tangible solutions.

  Of all the current technological trends, IOT will have the biggest impact 

Captivating Concerns

What keeps me awake? Too many businesses are too heavy to be sustainable or extensible. There is a “slippery slope” racing analogy that helps further illustrate the issue:

• To go faster, build a bigger, stronger engine
• To handle the extra power, build a more robust chassis/frame
• To handle the extra speed and weight of the bigger engine and more robust chassis, add stronger brakes
• To handle all of the above, add bigger wheels and tires

The challenge with all of the above is that each modification adds an additional expense: bigger engine, bigger frame, stronger brakes, bigger wheels and bigger tires equals bigger budget requirements. To add insult to injury, these items all tend to wear faster as well, because they are all under greater stress. On top of all of that, this scenario also results in increased replacement costs, hence the “slippery slope”.

There is a better way, though. There was a revolution in motorsports that could be applied to these challenges: In the late, fifties/early sixties, Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus Cars, Ltd., devised a new approach to “Simplify, then add lightness.” Rather than continuously adding and growing the business, as referenced in the “slippery slope” analogy above, Chapman took things away. For example—with every iteration of his vehicles, Chapman reduced complexities and weight. As a result, his cars began winning races against much larger and heavier vehicles. And, because his cars were light, they didn’t require much fuel and their tires lasted longer, which reduced time spent in the pits for fuel and new tires, enabling his drivers to complete more laps without the need for service. Case in point? an increased likelihood for success.

As far as technology vendors are concerned, to combat this challenge they need to provide a solution that supports simplification and enables “lightness.” Poorly integrated solutions and will no longer be tolerated. Like Chapman, we can no longer sustain an operation whose primary focus is to keep a highly complex machine up and running. This can be achieved through an integrated model supporting supplier, Home Office, SCM, Distributor, NAC, ILD Dealer and consumer engagement.

This solution not only supports the old bus/new bus approach discussed above, but it helps better allocate technology budgets by shifting spend from current tools and bolt-on products, to integrated solutions with extensibility. This, in return, will enable the streamlining of technology teams and their efficiencies.

All of this reduces weight and complexity, and shifts the budget spend to allow for more value to our customers. In order for them to survive, our technology vendors must provide a highly capable, modular technology architecture. Such framework is critical to our future and could certainly be identified by a well-selected technology partner.

Trends Driving the Consumer Goods Industry

Of all the current technological trends, IoT will have the biggest impact. For example, as “smart cities” continue to develop and mature, we have the potential to significantly reduce parking fines and availability needs with “just-in-time parking”. As a result, manufacturers will also be able to take advantage of IoT. Mobile will have a significant impact on business, as well—especially as we move into new areas where a mobile workforce was not part of the previous process.

Untouched Areas

As far as unmet needs are concerned, there is a shortage of service-oriented vendors that truly understand our business needs and values. The real value I see vendors providing is not just in “providing devices”, but rather, in providing a value proposition—for example, how can I use these devices to increase revenue or decrease expense?

For the Road Ahead

It starts with cultivating relationships with our customers and consequently earning the right to become a trusted partner. To do that, it is crucial to make time to listen to your customers and develop an understanding of their point of view and of what their pain points are. This will go a long way in establishing that trust. Once that trust is garnered, you can serve as a trusted advisor and help your customers find solutions with a competitive edge. And, once you have done that, your customers will come to you before you even go to them. Why? Because your input will have more value.

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