Jim Holland, Sr. Product Marketing Manager
Recently, a group of high tech sales operations and other leaders got together for a one-of-a-kind collective conversation to discuss challenges, strategies, and share real-world solutions on hot topics affecting our industry today. Moderating the event was Jake McKernan, Director of Worldwide Corporate Applications at Microchip Technology, and Chanan Greenberg, Senior VP, and General Manager High Tech at Model N.
This virtual round table session focused on three conversation points:
- How are organizations approaching demand forecasting and what will 2021 look like in the current climate?
- How can we work with channel partners to improve data sharing and validation on end customers?
- How are organizations re-prioritizing projects and initiatives in the dynamic environment we find ourselves in today, and what’s driving the decision-making process?
Below are the ideas, thoughts, and a few comments captured from 6 companies representing various areas of high tech and semiconductor.
How are organizations approaching demand forecasting in 2021?
By and large, the general expectation was of a doom and gloom financial crisis from the pandemic. However, many markets haven’t been impacted as much as predicted and we’ve seen others flourish. The consensus is that this situation is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Organizations with diversified customer portfolios have been able to weather the storm well over the past few turbulent months, but much is still unknown and we’re still navigating through uncharted waters.
Reconciling demand and consumption in today’s market is challenging. While POS is a strong indicator of demand, many companies lack a view of the channel’s customers and inventory. Partnering with customers to help analyze business activities and predict market dynamics has been a focus for our discussion participants. Still, so much is unknown for how industries, such as healthcare and automotive, are going to net out, and what is going to be the new norm for inventory levels.
As industries and world markets recover, companies must be prepared to ask: can we manage allocations, match demand capacity, and are we prepared for the ripple on through the supply chain? Companies need to be able to make decisions based on current market signals with the flexibility to course correct often as needed. And we must understand macro signals so we can maximize revenue and profits, but also not be left holding the bag when the bubble bursts on markets with inflated demand.
How do we work with channel partners to improve our end customer data?
The need for reliable end-customer data from the channel was presented as a key challenge and the group offered ideas on how to approach and overcome this business hurdle. “We get some data, but it limits our future opportunities when the data is messy or bad,“ shared one participant, who manages many channel partners. Another participant agreed that “Getting someone in distribution to take ownership of the forecast is a very difficult thing to do when they are not incentivized or motivated to do so.”
The discussion surfaced the ideas of channel partner incentives and SPIF to entice partners to participate. Another participant offered that their organization’s approach is to do an end-run by increasing the sales team’s coverage so all customers are contacted directly—something that may not be feasible for organizations with a very large number of end customers.
One forward-thinking participant shared insight into their organization’s shift of mindset to view customer data to be as mission-critical as maintenance on manufacturing equipment. “If machinery breaks down, we can’t produce the product. We approach customer data the same way.” The team has invested in dedicated people managing, reviewing, and maintaining customer data. “We have tools and systems to help facilitate everything, so we know where to focus and prioritize, and put our attention on customers that are moving the needle.” Solutions built to address these challenges, such as Model N’s Channel Data Management offering, can be leveraged to better manage channel partners, automate data collection, and normalize and move data.
How are organizations approaching the decision-making process on what projects to prioritize during the pandemic?
“An abundance of caution,” was the general theme for organizations deciding where to invest and what initiatives to move forward. Staying agile and nimble is critical as markets have not behaved as many of us would have predicted just a few months ago. Organizations are seeing a lot of conservatism around spending and where to apply resources. Discretionary spending is generally on hold with a focus on cash preservation and paying down debt.
However, opportunities and reasons to move ahead with certain projects are still common, just with greater scrutiny. People are being pulled in different directions right now, so resources and timing are key drivers. Projects being given the green light are those that can demonstrate near term savings and execute quickly. Initiatives that can help the organization avoid additional costs, like AI, are being considered. One company is looking at how they can leverage AI to help them understand data collected from different systems better and reduce the need to hire additional people.
Staying plugged into peer insights and industry thought leaders
In conclusion, participants found value in the ability to connect with like-minded peers to share experiences and insights in a simple discussion format. Finding opportunities to network with like-minded colleagues has been difficult over the past few months; virtual idea-sharing events like our recent Walk & Talk are a great way to connect during our distanced times and check the pulse of the high-tech industry. Look for future dates and times to be announced. Until then, if you’d like to learn more about any of the three topics discussed with a subject matter expert, go here. To learn more about Model N, click here, or check out other resources here.