CloMoSo and Wholesale Distribution

Add it to your IT dictionary: CloMoSo, or cloud, mobile, and social media. (photo: Fotolia)
Wholesalers, start your engines! CloMoSo will turbo-charge your business (photo: Fotolia)

Last evening an article titled “The CloMoSo Prescription” caught my attention. Being someone who is passionate about technology and its use by distributors to drive business value, it got me thinking – should wholesale distributors care about CloMoSo?

CloMoSo is simply an abbreviation for “cloud, mobile, social.” There is no doubt that the cloud, mobile, and social media phenomena are happening much faster than past technology shifts occurred, such as mainframes, client/server, and the Internet.

But how exactly does CloMoSo add business value? And should wholesale distributors be doing something about it today? On the following pages, I’ll share with you my thoughts on these questions.

Weighing the pros and cons of cloud computing (image: Fotolia)
Weighing the pros and cons of cloud computing (image: Fotolia)

Cloud: A look at all the possibilities

Cloud computing for business management applications encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use application service that is available in real time over the internet. And it is gaining rapid popularity as it allows businesses to easily add enterprise level software capabilities without having to invest capital in new IT infrastructure, personnel training, or new application software licenses.

Nowadays, wholesale distributors have a wide variety of cloud-based application options to choose from. They can opt for an end-to-end ERP solution on the cloud to drive value for their business, or they can go with a specific solution for a line-of-business function, e.g. sales force automation, travel and expense management, talent management, or strategic sourcing solution. All of this, of course, is done at a predictable cost and low risk.

Although the economic-side of cloud computing is attractive, security continues to be a point of concern as corporate data resides in servers outside the company. Some businesses would rather not cede control of their data or have to pay recurring fees to an outside service provider.

In this case, they often opt for a so-called ‘private’ cloud, giving them all the advantages of cloud computing but also a sense of security and control. To enable this deployment model, service providers are scrambling to get certified by application vendors, e.g. ERP, in order to run these apps in a ‘private’ cloud environment.

Some other businesses, if they already have an ERP system implemented within their firewall, are putting in place a ‘hybrid’ cloud computing model. In this case, they opt to turn-on some of their fringe business processes – such as sourcing or travel and expense management – on the cloud.

Mobile business applications are becoming increasingly available and powerful (photo: grasundsterne)
Mobile business applications are becoming increasingly available and powerful (photo: grasundsterne)

Three steps to mobilization

With the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets for personal use, many employees are pressuring IT departments across all wholesale distribution companies to integrate this technology into the workplace.

The benefits of enterprise mobility are immense. Real time information can be made available to a sales manager on-the-go or a task worker at a customer site as business happens, not afterwards.

Unwiring the enterprise, however, also comes with its set of challenges: How do you manage the plethora of mobile devices, how do you secure your enterprise data, how do you deploy the apps across all the device types and across your company?

Today, mobile platforms are robust enough to handle these and other challenges so that you can deploy your mobile strategy quite easily. First, you should put together an enterprise-wide mobile strategy: What are you trying to achieve? Next, tackle the security and policy issues: What devices will be supported, who gets access, what happens when an employee leaves the company?

And finally, deploy the apps in a way that allows executives and line-of-business managers to drive real business advantage. Wholesalers usually have about 30-40% of their employees in the sales and service lines-of-business, so this often becomes the preferred area of mobile enablement as it can bring a faster return on investment.

Around 50% of Twitter profiles are linked to businesses (screenshot: Bing)
Around 50% of Twitter profiles are linked to businesses (screenshot: Bing)

Be a social butterfly

Social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, and LinkedIn have seen unprecedented growth as tens of millions of people have signed up and are actively engaged. Too often B2B companies like wholesalers assume that these tools are only useful for B2C types of companies.

While B2C companies have pioneered some of the best practices in this area, there are opportunities for B2B companies to exploit these tools and build a positive image for themselves online.

Social media can help wholesalers engage and connect with people at their customers’ and suppliers’ sites in completely new ways. Industry marketing is indeed changing. The emerging trend is a move towards business-to-people (B2P) marketing. Wholesalers should also take full advantage of these rich media tools and channels, which will help humanize their brands.

CloMoSo is far from being a passing fad. It is in fact a great prescription for a wholesaler’s competitiveness. Are you ready to incorporate CloMoSo in your business?

Neetin Datar is the Senior Director of Industry Marketing for Wholesale Distribution at SAP. His enterprise software experience spans ERP, E-commerce, Global Trade, GRC, Warehouse Management and Distribution markets. He has been with SAP since 1994 and is passionate about technology and its use by distributors to run better.

Follow SAP Wholesale Distribution and Neetin Datar on Twitter: @SAP_WSD