Digital Transformation and the Gig Economy

By Edward Kuo, Kuo Consulting Group

Sometimes, I lay awake at night wondering who comes up with all of the new buzz words for the business world.

Internet of Things. Disruption. Cloud Computing. Hyperconnectivity. Blockchain. Live Streaming. Data Analytics.

Obviously, some high-level visionary authors have had a big role in creating these terms, perhaps so they can promote their latest best-selling book to business people around the globe. While each new phrase helps define a new trend, it simultaneously creates confusion and complication in the ever-changing business landscape. In the end, it becomes difficult to differentiate between what terms are pretty cool to think about and what new trends are actually necessary for our own businesses to succeed.

With that said, two of the more useful terms that have caught my attention of late are Digital Transformation and Gig Economy.

Digital Transformation

We all know that our businesses go through technological change, though some would argue the aftermarket is slower to change than other industries.  Looking deeper into today’s current reality, we see an influx of new employees who have devices permanently connected to their hands. According to Zenith (the new media firm, not the old television company), people around the world on average will spend 122 minutes each day accessing the Internet using their mobile devices.

How does this affect your business?  The new employees on your counter certainly prefer computers to paper catalogs, but are they using their phones first?  Your new sales team members want to use their iPads and computers remotely to track their progress.  Your parts suppliers are being enabled to replenish your inventories better than your own buyers.  All the while, the major industry business systems are desperately trying to keep up with the demand for better connectivity and new features, and have started integrating with third party competitors to create a more complete solution.

Digital transformation is the fancy name for switching every aspect of your business to a newer, faster digital solution. And it comes with a daunting learning curve as well as a steep price. Do you have a plan in place to help you navigate the technologies necessary to keep your business current? Have you added this expense into your budget for 2018 and beyond?

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At the warehouse distribution level, this has been, and will continue to be, one of the more difficult business decisions for owners across all industrial markets including truck parts. Very few distributors have the ability to invest in a staff position dedicated to digital transformation. Their current employee list doesn’t include someone that can spend the time necessary to understand what’s available, much less implement new technologies quickly and painlessly throughout the operation. Too much money is being spent one disconnected project at a time instead of using a well thought-out and strategic plan.

Which brings me to the second term…

Gig Economy

Uber has certainly “popularized” this term with its on-demand work force. Drivers start off loving the concept of working at will, but eventually have to deal with the complications that come from long hours and low wages.

However, “Gig Economy” is just a popular reference to the use of independent contractors to fill needs based on specific skill sets regardless of the complexity of the requirement. Workers are more willing than ever to string together a series of short-term employment projects instead of signing up for long-term positions. Companies actually prefer using highly-skilled consultant because they can solve problems quickly without having to worry about benefits, taxes and long-term commitment associated with hiring a new employee.

Taking advantage of the Gig Economy is actually ideal for distributors who are facing the need for digital transformation. By using consultants who have strong technology backgrounds and have faced the unique challenges of the truck parts industry, companies are able to develop technology strategies in the matter of weeks instead of months and implement new software and hardware over months instead of years. Paying by the “gig” will ultimately save money and get your business moving faster and more efficiently in the modern business world.

There will always be new business challenges in the future and authors publishing new books. And predictably, there will always be new buzz phrases created. Sometimes it’s nice to see one buzz word be a solution for another.

Edward Kuo is the President of the Kuo Consulting Group. He has spent more than 20 years on the front lines of the battle between change and complacency in the heavy-duty aftermarket, working for HDX and Datalliance, and partnering with numerous other software companies. He is now venturing on his own into the consulting world. His goal is to help companies innovate and accelerate, and ultimately become more profitable with the right technology solutions. 

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