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What Would Industry Disruptors Do If They Had All Of Your Product Data?

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Everybody Wants AI and They Want It Now

As an IT leader in the consumer products industry, everyone is knocking on your door or flooding your inbox with ideas on how to use AI capabilities…and you’ve made progress.

You’ve let people know AI is only as good as the data that it’s fed. Frankly, you’ve laughed a little inside because it’s been years that you’ve been saying GIGO: garbage in, garbage out.

You’ve also made significant efforts, with the help of functional leaders, to educate the organization on what AI is (and isn’t), the associated benefits and risks to the organization, and how it will impact everyone in the company. 

It actually feels different this time - people are engaging differently, sharing learnings, and see the direct impact. But you still know there is a lot of work to be done.

The Heavy Lift - What Would Industry Disruptors Do?

GIGO…while it may have made you laugh before, it also sits in the pit of your stomach when you think about what it will take to address this problem. Twenty years ago Master Data Management initiatives promised to fix this and decades, and millions of dollars, later, many haven’t. Why?  

There are a lot of reasons but cutting through all of the noise it comes down to two things: 

1. MDM initiatives can take a lot of work before you get to the pay off and people get tired of it.

2. It’s another layer of work on top of everyone’s day job…and people get tired of it.  

There has been progress on the first issue, most notably through data lake initiatives. Those who have had success began with the principle of “start smaller”, with a clearly defined problem and measurable success criteria. These initiatives build momentum, and can also become a self-funding mechanism. 

In short, the people doing the day-to-day work stay engaged because they see the direct impact. Senior leaders stay engaged because they see the impact and can keep it funded (because you’re self funding). But the second problem still persisted, another layer of work on top of the day job, keeping these initiatives following a Pareto Principle of hitting the big winners then tailing off.

Fortunately, another domain has been evolving in parallel - cloud-based platform solutions. Sure, platforms have been around for some time, but the dirty secret is that historically many of them did not connect the data under the covers. 

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Some providers grew through acquisition and never cleaned up their internal technical debt, passing the issues onto you. Others organically grew the solutions, but never took an end-to-end view to connect data (e.g. ERP and PLM), again leaving you to deal with it. The cloud transition has allowed enterprise solutions to address these issues, whether it be through clean-up during their leap to the cloud or if they’re cloud native.  

In fairness, niche players don’t have this focus, and not all enterprise solutions have made the effort, but some have and it matters. The other consideration with cloud is if the provider is smart they start not only with an end-to-end view, but also with a “beyond your four walls” view to connect you with your business partners - suppliers, co-manufacturers, etc.  

But how does this help the second problem? Because when you connect end-to-end processes across internal and external teams you not only make it easier to get work done (driving efficiency, reducing errors and risks), but you’re inherently connecting to all of the data generated through these processes. Clean, consistent, connected data - all delivered as a bi-product of people doing their day jobs.  

Oh yeah, there are also a bunch of other benefits like it’s easier for end users to use solutions that look at feel similar (improved adoption), it’s less work to support these solutions (lower complexity and costs), and it’s easier to to adapt to change with common solutions (increased agility, ability to innovate)...but the benefits of the move to platforms is a broader topic for another discussion.

So back to GIGO and what would an Industry Disruptor do? They would make life easier for everybody and take a platform based approach. In the transition, they would also take advantage of the opportunity to finally update your ways of working, which the platforms should enable (and automate).  

In short, they wouldn’t do the same things you did yesterday on a new solution - that’s digital migration, not transformation and it’s one of the largest drivers of digital transformations that fall well short of expectations (and ongoing employment).

With a Foundation in Place, What Three Things Would an Industry Disruptor Do Next Regarding Your Products?

1. Create a 360 Degree View of the Product

The reality is you are very likely at risk today because you don’t have a complete 360-degree view of each of your products. Can you confidently say you have your arms around all of your products - everything from what’s in them and the packaging, where they’re sourced from, that you're actually delivering what you've committed to from performance claims to corporate commitments? How much are you paying in fines and taxes or at risk if exposed?  

Similar to how Salesforce took a customer-centric approach years ago across their offerings, think about what it would look like to put the product at the center of your processes. How could you establish one unified view, starting from original insight through market launch, and collecting and connecting all of the data along the way? With that, you could confidently answer the questions posed above, and take a more aggressive, data-driven approach, resulting in real financial outcomes to the bottom line (e.g. being confident you’re not over or underpaying green new deal taxes to aggressively and confidently differentiate products improving revenue, profitability, and market share). 

In short, take a hard look at your processes from product idea to market launch. Where are they connected? Where are the gaps? Make a plan so that going forward your enabling solutions connect your product data by default. Any discrepancies should be surfaced and addressed by the teams getting the work done to drive outcomes and not by “fixing the data on the back end”. This will unlock a consistent, clean ongoing 360 degree view for each of your products.

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2. Unlock Dormant Innovation

Image generated by ChatGPT (4)A second reality is you are very likely missing out on tangible innovation and renovation opportunities right under your nose. Can you confidently say you’re taking advantage of what you already have today? When marketing asks for products to meet consumer needs are you able to say which products could work today? If thresholds change for performance or regulation? What if there is a new need can you confidently interrogate your portfolio in real time? How much business do you think has already been lost?

Step back and look at this differently, like an AirBNB or Uber. What is the dormant opportunity sitting in your product data today? When it comes to consumer trends such as a focus on a key ingredient you likely already have products that qualify but you’re not making a relevant product claim. When it comes to a customer asking what you can offer to meet one of their initiatives such as Clean or Planet Aware at Sephora, Eco-Friendly at Wal-Mart, etc. If you want to not only drive sales with compelling products for consumers, but also be able to proactively manage shelf space and pricing with key customers, you need to unlock what you’re already sitting on.

3. Think Differently 

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Apple’s campaign of ‘Think Different’ helped bring to life several significant innovations shifting consumers perceptions and behaviors - to say the least. Our third reality is that you likely have troves of data that if connected and analyzed at scale (e.g. set AI loose upon) could unlock incredible breadcrumbs. These initial, seemingly random nuggets can spur you to think differently, explore with further questions, and connect other types of information to broaden the connections to ultimately surface insights of disruptive innovation.

Opportunities for innovation are everywhere, but seizing them will take a new mindset, enabling set of capabilities, and a proactive framework for managing risk. From identifying market trends to meeting consumer needs, you have a choice - lead, follow, or get left behind.

Embrace the Possibilities

A fundamental shift has occurred in what is possible not just in capabilities, but what outcomes you can impact with the opportunities for transformation only limited by your action (or inaction). With the right vision and enabling capabilities, you'll have everything you need to embrace change and unlock new possibilities for your organization. 

Veeva can help. At our core is a passion to transform our customers’ visionary ideas into reality. Our seamless integrated digital solutions support consumer product companies like Unilever, Nestlé, and Estée Lauder at every stage— from concept to consumer— to create products that lead the market in innovation, quality, and value, and delight consumers worldwide.

Together, let’s redefine the future of your business and chart a course towards success in the age of AI. Dive into our content tailored for IT leaders like you, and contact us today to set up an exploratory conversation. 

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