At Zaelab, we’re always discussing the importance of innovation in digital commerce and how thinking outside of the box positions a B2B business to win. Perhaps just as important is discussing barriers to innovation and the detrimental ripple effect forgoing innovation can have across an organization.
What causes barriers to innovation? The list is exhaustive.
From getting caught up in digital commerce fundamentals to losing sight of the commerce landscape and emerging composable and immersive tools, there are many reasons why digital innovation can fall by the wayside. But beyond the technical lens, there is also a workforce consideration: what intelligence lives with your people - undocumented and assumed? If this information abruptly left your business, a new risk to innovation presents itself: a knowledge gap.
The B2B knowledge gap is an increasingly large risk that will plague many organizations as the boomer generation’s career comes to a close. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement every day. By 2030, all boomers will be aged 65+. Most organizations consider this statistic a talent challenge: how can the business attract and retain the next generations of employees? But just as important is factoring in what operational efficiencies, product quality, and customer relationships are at risk of leaving the organization with an aging workforce.
Two things are true here. One, a looming organizational knowledge gap is a risk to business innovation. Two, embracing existing tools to codify knowledge and preserve business essentials can enable the company to keep the focus on innovation.
Impacts of an Aging Workforce
Experienced workers are leaving the business every day. Not only are employees moving on to new opportunities, but there has also been a dramatic increase in the retiree count over the past few years, with baby boomers in the workforce declining steadily. Reports have indicated that in 2000, boomers made up nearly 50% of the workforce, and by 2020, this figure dropped to around 25%. As these employees leave, so do years of processes, relationships, and common practices.
This begs the question: are we only presuming that foundational business knowledge is being captured and streamlined?
When new employees come into the workforce, they’re trained on the specifics of their role and the company. The hope for most businesses is that these employees will hone their skills to propel the business forward. But, without important business nuances captured and transitioned, particularly in B2B and B2B commerce, the organization falls at risk of mistakes, higher operational costs, reduced quality, and poor customer experiences — all of which put innovation in a holding pattern.
It is easy to overlook the several sources of production information your customer service teams reference. Or turn a blind eye to the workaround your salespeople use to configure and quote a complex B2B sale. But this is not general knowledge. This is assumed knowledge at risk of aging out.
Leveraging Technology to Close the Knowledge Gap
Preserving best practices, policies, and procedures is essential. It can also be seamlessly streamlined by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to capture and transition knowledge.
In B2B digital commerce, we’re already witnessing AI and ML take the reins. Chatbots, image recognition, and supply chain optimization are just some of the ways technology is making business easier. So why not use AI and ML to reduce the time and costs associated with knowledge transfer to enable better decision-making, improved product quality, and unmatched customer experiences?
Perhaps it begins with identifying what areas of B2B digital commerce behold assumed knowledge, likely undocumented and at risk of presenting a knowledge gap. In our experience with B2B clients, we’d flag these items:
- Product information
- Sales processes
- Customer relationships
- Customer purchase trends & preferences
- Service & Support
Across these areas are the biggest risks for knowledge gaps, including complex sales processes, configuration and quote limitations, customer service dependencies and nuance, complex product information, data silos, and organizational silos.
Consider the way that product information is managed at most B2B organizations. Often, there are data silos and process lags in sourcing pertinent product details. While the aging workforce may be skilled in workarounds, this problematic approach presents a knowledge gap.
What if instead, B2B organizations mitigated this with their commerce tech stack? Tools like Pimly enable B2B companies to seamlessly bring all product information into their digital commerce platform so that the business can manage and utilize product data and digital assets across the organization. This gives the entire workforce access to the same, accurate information, eliminating data silos and enabling always-on product information.
Another example: how can we transcribe rules and logic that lives only in our workforce’s minds? Complex products and quoting processes in B2B typically require a systematic approach, and for many organizations, this is a manual exercise. Logik.io automates, streamlines, and equips teams to configure even the most complex products and quotes over its commerce channels to remove limitations with advanced configurations and create streamlined experiences. The benefits here are twofold: not only can customers, dealers, distributors, and resellers’ commerce experiences become heightened, but the tool also captures and makes sense of common knowledge, protecting it from aging out with your team.
Every business faces the risk of a looming knowledge gap as its workforce ages out. By embracing key commerce software and protecting assumed knowledge, your B2B business can mitigate risk and position itself to focus on innovation, the key to winning in the market.
We recommend beginning with an audit of your internal processes to highlight areas at risk of knowledge gaps and assessing the impact of those gaps across the business. From there, a B2B digital commerce consultancy can help you determine the best approaches and tools to eliminate risk.
Zaelab is the premier B2B commerce consultancy. Talk to us about embracing AI to close knowledge gaps so that your B2B business can focus on digital innovation.