Showing value to retailers and CPG manufacturers in 90 days: It’s not easy, but it’s necessary

In this Q&A blog, Kevin Sterneckert, CMO, Symphony RetailAI discusses the critical nature of quickly getting to value with FMCG retailers and CPGs in today’s rapidly accelerating market.

Why is time to value so prominent on your mind and the collective mind of Symphony RetailAI?

To start, I think it’s natural for retail solution providers to focus on implementing their technologies. Of course, you can implement flawlessly and still miss the mark for your customer – they want to see value as quickly as possible. But what’s interesting is that “value” wasn’t always at the forefront of thinking for solution providers or retailers. Too often, the overall project became the focus, but value – at least in the short term – was lost in the mix. It’s ironic.

In recent years, the idea of a project lasting 18 months to three years before value can be measured is simply unacceptable, but it still happens. In U.S. and Europe, I’d suggest that the expected time to value is between six months and a year, depending on the type of retailer you are and the complexity of what you’re doing. With this in mind, our promise to our customers is to deliver software solutions that drive profitable growth within the first year. By design, our customer promise challenges our organization to identify the ways that we can accelerate the benefits that come from our technologies.

How did Symphony RetailAI arrive at the 90-day target for time to value?

When you work so closely with retailers and CPGs, it becomes a lot more than just a transactional relationship. We’ve been embedded with so many of the world’s leading grocery retailers and suppliers – and one thing is clearly evident – they buy our solutions to improve the way they serve their customer. There’s no other reason. As we focused on what our customers needed, we felt the urgency of delivering value quickly, and we were able to achieve this by rethinking our processes.

A great example of this process change is our focus on, what we call, Phase 1 Implementations. We believe that the best way to evaluate enterprise software is to execute an actual implementation in a customer’s actual production environment, versus doing a proof of concept as a test. There’s more on this later, but this is perhaps the best way to show real value, in the real environment, with the real users – and typically within the 90-day timeframe.

We have been working intensively from the beginning of 2020 across our organization, spending hundreds of hours collectively to refine and improve what we do and how we do it, and then providing that process/framework in a very succinct way to our customers so that we work together better. We believe our focus on fast value is an industry-leading approach.

So, it’s not just about speed?

Right. We’re not just doing the same work faster. We’re working differently. This requires Symphony RetailAI to work cross-functionally to assess the technical requirements for implementation, and the integration with third-party applications. We’ve deeply examined our processes, so we consume data in better ways. We have improved our processes for how we receive data, how it is processed, managed and cleansed and how we implement, train and roll out our solutions. It’s a process that we’ve refined and owes itself in part to the ongoing conversations/feedback we get from our clients. We’ve worked across our business to make sure that we reduce the “noise” identified for each of our processes and solutions, and we work to eliminate needless activities as much as possible. We’ve been able to improve the implementation time in real terms.

For example, our solutions come pre-integrated with our common data repository, our common artificial intelligence engine platform, our common forecasting solution. This means that data gets cleaned just once. Often, with other providers, the data resides in each individual solution. When you implement various applications, you have to repeat the load, processing and data cleansing several times. Our approach accelerates time to value.

In addition, we’re not so naive to think that customers are going to buy everything that we sell, and so we have worked hard to improve the way our solutions integrate with our other solutions in a modular approach, whether it’s ERP solutions, payment solutions, point of sales or mobile solutions.

You mention data, and of course, it’s at the core of everything retailers and CPG do. What is Symphony RetailAI doing differently in this regard?

When it comes to data, in the absence of leadership, you’ll just receive whatever the customer will have you use. We provide a prescriptive approach so our customers have guidance on what they need to provide to drive the best results. Any other approach is recipe for wasted time and, ultimately, bad data. This doesn’t mean that we’re rigid and not able to take whatever the retailer has, but by giving the specific data and processes, we find that this helps retailers, and most are able to worked within that framework. That has also improved the flow of information/transactions.

For more information on time to value, read our whitepaper, A better way to evaluate and purchase retail enterprise software.

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