Adopting technology to execute operations, report, and analyze data has been a lengthy process for Petroleum distribution. If you are among those yet to make the move, chances are you’ve deliberated at length about “when” and “how” to leap into the digital world, uttering some version of:
“We’ve walked by technology tradeshow booths more times than we can count, admitted publicly how inefficient it is to push paper, and requested a demo or two or three, but reasoned that we are still completing orders and turning a profit with a phone and paper so it hasn’t become a priority.”
“We’re sold on the value and need for technology, are annoyed and fearful that competitors have adopted it before us, we know we aren’t getting the most out of every truck, mile, or labor-hour by pushing paper, but we are completing orders and turning a profit, so automating hasn’t made it into our budget.”
“We knew we needed technology but worried about cost so we pieced together disparate apps to execute orders for our various trucks, deliveries, and products; finding gaps in functionality, data, and results.”
“We planned to implement operational technology within the year, but current events have volume down and uncertainty up, so we placed it on hold.”
Why not leaping now may mean falling behind
Financial crises are typically associated with a deep transformation in infrastructure and technology. They mark the start of a long transition in how society thinks about itself. We’re still at an early stage in that journey, but businesses that do not adapt are unlikely to survive in the medium-to-long term. In other words, however great the costs of change, the costs of not changing will be higher. The Futures Company – The 21st Century Business: Planning for Success in a Changing World 2014
After the financial meltdown in 2008, disruptive companies started introducing technology that created virtualized data-on-demand for the masses; remodeling the business and consumer worlds. Society’s expectations changed along with our ability to do more, know more, and connect with less time, effort, and expense, while gaining unprecedented visibility to information with digital technologies such as these:
iPhone – A personal computer in your pocket
Amazon – Virtual retail
Nintendo Wii – Motion controlled gaming
Netflix – Virtual streaming home entertainment
Email – Instant communications vs. snail-mail
Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn – Virtual socializing and networking vs. using a phone
Google– Virtual free information searching and advertising vs. news, email, and trips to the library
YouTube – Virtual free entertainment and information vs. traditional TV and trips to the library
Craigslist – Virtual free classified ads vs. print media
Southwest Airlines– Ticketless travel
As consumers, we gobbled up the freedom, convenience, and efficiency of communicating, entertaining ourselves, and doing work from just about anywhere with a cellular connection. So why have so many in our ranks been less than eager to ditch manual processes and infrastructure in favor of getting our teams virtually communicating and executing transactions and data from anywhere before extreme events necessitated it?
Almost overnight depending on the segments we serve, we weren’t just scrambling to issue laptops and hand sanitizer to our people. We were struggling to remotely complete paper transactions and bill without adding to DSO, and questioning where we could scale back heavy infrastructure, unnecessary transaction costs, and operational inefficiencies that we tolerated while confident in a perpetually growing economy.
Why this crisis stands to make our businesses better
With markets less sure, perhaps we are ready to emerge from the crisis more agile, more profitable, ready to organize, and scale around whatever opportunities and challenges the future throws us.
Perhaps we’re ready for opportunities to shift efforts to income producing activities, streamline infrastructure while getting the same output, achieve greater results with less activity, position ourselves to overtake antiquated competitors vs. being overtaken. Perhaps we’re ready to strategically plan for growth and gain stickiness with our customers with new visibility to our businesses vs. waiting for events and competition to shape our future.
We’ve got this recovery! Let’s turn today’s challenge into tomorrow’s success!