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Understanding “Why”: Fresh Perspectives Bring Improvements

Posted by Ben Thompson on Sep 2, 2020 7:35:37 PM
Ben Thompson

We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives. We join a new team, and someone starts showing us the ropes. We learn what our tasks are and how to accomplish them (usually from a teammate that was completing those tasks previously). Being in this position can be equally exciting as it is anxiety inducing. We are excited to learn new skills, to meet new people, to be a part of a new group. We are anxious to fit in, not rock the boat, and not ask irrelevant questions. What we need to realize is that sometimes asking those questions can lead to an immense reduction in time and energy for a given task.

Let me take you back a little over two years ago. We just entered a new partnership with a growing software company and we’re building out how Tech Data can support them as their business grows around the world. We take component parts from various manufacturers (like Seagate or WD for hard drives) and build those components together to create the Top Level Assembly (TLA) hardware appliance that we then install our partner’s software onto, and then deliver to our customers. Creating quotes for these solutions can take up to an hour, given the number of parts we can swap in and out of the build. Depending on inventory levels and current promotions, we may create one build with Seagate hard drives, and the next week create the exact same solution using WD hard drives. Our partner doesn’t care which we use, both are qualified for their software; and our customers don’t care which we use, they just want the appliance to run the software. What we do need to ensure is that week to week, the pricing of the for the appliance is consistent throughout the quarter.

Now let’s return to today. We have a new colleague on our team who is training to support our software partner. She meets virtually with the team, walking through how these component parts are chosen. She checks inventory and reviews current pricing promotions – all part of the protocols conducted to ensure a quote that matches the quarter pricing. It is here that she asks a very important question, “why?” Why do we do all this work to make our quotes match what we already agreed the pricing per appliance would be with our software partner? Our team had no answer for her… it made sense two years ago, when the volume of business was smaller, the time between quote and purchase order was much shorter, and the ratio of quotes requested to purchase orders was much better. As business grew over those two years, more customers wanted the appliance and software, the sales cycle expanded, and competition in the market increased; so, less deals closed (in relation to the number of quotes requested).

Our team, armed with this fresh perspective from a new colleague wanting to learn, revisited the quoting processes of this solution. Now when a customer requests a quote, we simply provide the Top Level Assembly part number of the appliance and the quarterly price. This effectively dropped our quote time from around an hour per quote to under 5 minutes. With an average quote to order ratio of 5 quotes for every purchase order, this effectively removed 80% of the time previously spent quoting from the sales cycle. That is a tremendous return of resources (both time and people) back to the business that we can invest in other partner programs to help them grow.

I’m exceptionally pleased with the team, not just for improving our processes, but for creating an environment where a new colleague feels comfortable and safe enough to ask questions.

To find out how Tech Data's Multi-Vendor Solutions team can support your customers' unique needs and requirements, visit us at www.techdata.com.

About the Author

Ben Thompson is Manager, Sales Enablement for Tech Data's Multi-Vendor Solutions team.

Tags: process improvement, New Business Process, New Ideas, Why?, Out-of-the-Box Ideas, process efficiency, Fresh Perspectives