PPAI Magazine May 2023

Voices | Innovation Technology Second DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION has become a familiar phrase – so familiar that it’s cliché. But for something so often talked about within companies, it’s still widely misunderstood. People get hung up on the digital part. They assume that the concept is all about improving technology and they ignore the bigger, much more important aspect: transformation. Growth. Development. Improvement. Progress. That’s the whole point. Transformation is hard. It comes in all shapes and sizes, but ultimately transformation means your business looks different than it did originally. Buying or upgrading software may make you more efficient, which is important, but not transformational. That’s the kind of small project that can transform a process or department. Larger projects and a change in mindset are more likely to transform a business. The promotional products industry is in critical need of digital transformation. The most pressing need is to eliminate distributorbuyer friction, which results in a negative experience for the ultimate customer, as well as higher costs. The most significant friction in our industry is the ordering process, from creating the order to proofing to order status, all the way to invoicing. There are so many areas to address in the industry ordering process, but like any major transformation project, it begins with a vison and then a first step. For our industry, the first step is that no one should make or take a phone call to confirm inventory or order status. Ever. This first step involves suppliers providing electronic access to their inventory status and distributors taking advantage of the freely available information. PPAI is encouraging members to use Promo Data Exchange (PDX) to transmit and receive inventory and order status. PromoStandards, a PPAI member business service, is an additional option for those who have larger IT staffs and want to focus on integrating with each individual firm. For suppliers already using PromoStandards, implementing PDX additionally allows for maximum users reached with a single PDX integration. The high ROI of eliminating this simple-to-solve, unnecessary friction will change perspectives and set the foundation for more challenging steps in the larger journey to come. Lao Tzu said it best: The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It’s the most important of them all because it is the beginning of progress. While the industry advances, each organization must also make decisions on necessary digital transformation. For some, that means embracing e-commerce in a more significant way. For others, it could be overhauling internal operations. Regardless of where Improved tools are part of any companywide digital transformation, but it’s the initial mindset shift that matters most. by Dale Denham, MAS+ mentalmind / Shutterstock.com 28 • MAY 2023 • PPAI