3 Principles for Consumer Products IT Leaders to Drive Digital Transformation Success

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In the highly competitive world of CPG and F&B, having agility and efficiency in product development is indispensable. With the rise of nimble digitally-native brands, there is a low bar for entry, and businesses must innovate and produce safe, reliable products to consumers faster than their rivals.

Streamlining processes, from quality control to compliance management, is key to achieving this goal. Successful brands are those that can adapt quickly, drive efficiency and quality, and stay ahead of the curve.

This shines a harsh spotlight on the fact that many teams working across product development functions in the CPG and F&B industries still rely on fragmented, spreadsheet-based systems to access and communicate important data needed to get high quality, trusted products on shelves, such as storage temperatures or ATP test results. As a result, it can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months for a company to get a new product on the market. 

From opting for a cloud-based platform to carry out product safety assurance, to using automation to simplify supply chain collaboration and modernize quality management, digital transformation is the surest way for CPG and F&B manufacturers to meaningfully accelerate their pace of innovation. 

In my experience working with companies in the consumer goods space, I’ve learned that rebuilding and evolving product development and go-to-market strategies, particularly with new technologies, requires teams across the company to be fully on board with how and why transformation will benefit their business. And IT teams play a major role in this process. 

IT organizations are no longer just a cost center function, but a strategic partner that has the power and resources to reshape what companies are capable of. They help their companies rethink how technology can eliminate obsolete processes and drive better business outcomes. 

As CPG and F&B brands adopt digitization, these three factors will ensure a successful transition from manual work into tech-fueled processes. 

1. Digital transformation must have a clear, measurable goal

Digital transformation isn’t as simple as taking all of your manual and paper-based processes and shifting them to digital platforms. Yes, migration can unlock fragmented data and enable companies to make more data-driven decisions—but migration alone can’t help businesses determine how they can approach processes differently to drive better outcomes, or address the status quo practices that have been holding them back. Anywhere between 70% and 90% of digital transformation efforts fail, often due to organizations neglecting to set objectives effectively. 

True transformation can only happen if IT teams partner with their business counterparts to first identify current ways of working that need improvements—and set clear goals to implement new solutions that make the necessary improvements in measurable ways. IT and business leadership has to clearly identify and align on what they’re actually trying to accomplish with digitization; how it will drive value; what it will take to implement new changes; and how it will help their business evolve. 

For example, when I worked in the IT function of a CPG company, I met with our head of regulatory affairs to discuss how we could accelerate the process of getting customer approvals to bring our technology innovations into our lead markets. Simply digitizing our product registrations, which were sitting in file cabinets around the world and on SharePoint drives, wasn’t going to bring about the transformation we needed to become more agile. So we developed a plan that defined a clear objective. In this case, it was measuring how long it typically took to get our solutions registered with customers. We aligned our IT team and business leaders on that objective, setting us on a path to successful transformation where we eventually sped up the journey of implementing our solutions through end customer adoption. 

For larger digital transformation programs such as this one, IT teams need to partner with business stakeholders and divide the program into smaller, fast-moving, lower-risk initiatives. These initiatives build early momentum and confidence for what’s possible with big picture transformation, and the early outcomes can provide the funding needed for the next phases.

Ask Yourself - What are my short-term and long-term objectives for digital transformation at my organization?

2. Digital transformation can raise customer satisfaction 

People are loyal to certain brands for various reasons: perhaps they simply like the unique taste of a beverage, or they appreciate a brand’s commitment to sustainability. But few other factors are as essential to strong customer relationships as trust—more than 80% consider trust a deciding factor in their buying decisions. 

Building trust can be a challenge, particularly in two industries that are constantly under a quality and safety microscope. Product recalls frequently pop up in the news—food unit recalls in the U.S. increased by 700% in 2022 compared to 2021. Recalls damage trust, which directly impacts brand owners’ abilities to command premiums, win market share, and deliver ROI. Yet digital transformation can go a long way in building and maintaining customer trust and satisfaction. 

Roughly 35% of business executives say digital transformation will help them better meet customer expectations, and implementing new automation and data and analytics technologies could boost customer satisfaction by as much as 30%. How? For one thing, technology helps brands unlock and connect their data, which gives them better visibility into each internal and external process, from compliance to advertising claims. This ensures greater transparency into the sources of product ingredients, provides traceability across the product lifecycle, and builds brands’ confidence to stand behind the products they ultimately sell. The end result? Trustworthy products and happier customers. 

Ask Yourself - In what ways will digital transformation benefit my end customers?

3. Simplification should be part of digital transformation  

When it comes time to actually implement digital transformation initiatives, simplification and consolidation of solutions should be key objectives for IT teams. Being expected to learn how to use multiple, siloed technology systems can be overwhelming for different teams within an organization. Instead, adopting a unified platform can simplify the process for end users by allowing them to focus on their actual work instead of getting bogged down in learning multiple systems. This simple switch makes it easier for IT organizations to support teams in adopting new technologies, which drives business success. Syngenta, an agriculture technology company in the F&B space, embraced this “less is more” approach as part of its digital transformation effort unifying its management of agriculture regulation compliance.

The company had long managed its regulatory processes using more than seven outdated, disparate systems that were labor intensive and made it difficult to validate data such as types of seeds cultivated and materials used to package them. Veeva  helped the company consolidate these into one cloud-based platform, which now serves as the single source of truth. [Read the case study]

Since embarking on this digitization initiative in 2019, Syngenta has seen significant improvements by using cloud-based technology. Pulling information for a seed submission report used to take weeks and required getting data points from multiple people. Now, those in the company’s Regulatory Seeds Division can use the new system to extract the same type of report in seconds.

Ask Yourself - How can I ensure that integrating new technology at my organization will be seamless across teams?

How we partner with the industry 

Effective, continuous digital transformation is a two-way street. Veeva has the technology and industry expertise to help companies evolve their go-to-market strategies with solutions including cloud-based applications designed to manage the advertising and product claims lifecycle; and a food safety and quality management system that captures hazard and risk information for HACCP (hazard analysis and critical points) studies. 

Our mission is to ensure these solutions meet the needs of our customers, but to succeed, we need their input. We partner with market leaders to identify industry patterns and give us feedback on how our technology can help CPG and F&B brands like them better navigate these patterns—as well as feedback on what’s lacking in our software solutions and how they can continuously improve. 

The result of this constant collaboration is more innovative solutions that drive continuous value for all customers. Learn more about how Veeva partners with IT leaders within CPG and F&B companies to power their digital transformation.


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