Digital transformation, fast-tracked

By: Dr. Mirka Wilderer, CEO De Nora Water Technologies.

Based on a Q&A with Business Insider

2020 has certainly been unprecedented in many ways. Despite all the challenges on a personal level for our customers, partners and families, the year has also provided opportunity to pivot and accelerate. One of the areas of tremendous progress has been our roadmap of digital transformation. While many of the innovative digitalization ideas on our roadmap were previously established, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly helped to accelerate the journey! With the shutdown of the economy, many of the ideas developed in the digital transformation we initiated in 2019 went from “nice to have but my customer will never accept this” to “must haves” when traditional engagement methods became impossible. Adopting a very customer-focused approach, digital tools have allowed us to enhance the experience and value we provide as we strive to shape the new normal of our industry. 

Upgrading our ERP was an important step on our digitalization journey, and included intense review, analysis and preparation for the new SAP S/4HANA in HANA Enterprise Cloud. When the implementation of the upgrade coincided with the global pandemic, we decided to carry on with the project, motivated by our vision to maximize digital technologies to streamline and improve business operations. In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown, we continued the companywide ERP implementation under 100% remote conditions. I’m delighted that our team met the challenge head-on and the cloud-based enterprise system, launched in a completely virtual work environment, is already demonstrating early benefits and improved customer outcomes. 

Among a variety of engagement options that have been fast-tracked this year, remote assistance is a critical new tool that will be launched next month. Remote assistance will enable De Nora to provide access to an expert faster than we could if we had to depend on that expert traveling onsite to solve an issue.  Our new exchange partners solution will let us look over the shoulder, so to speak, at our customer’s equipment while working from our homes. These solutions allow us to interact with partners by giving them visual cues on either a phone / tablet device, or through an augmented reality headset. Through this socially distant solution, we can instruct customers on the proper steps to solve an issue or even perform a complex start-up procedure.  This is a really exciting initiative that we think will make our connection to our partners and customers even stronger than it was pre-COVID! Read more about the DE NORA VIA™ customer care initiative here. 

De Nora has also recently implemented Salesforce(R) as our ecosystem of choice. As we continue realizing our vision to be a thought leader in the water industry, we know that we need to do two things. We must focus first on the customer, delivering them a world-class experience to make water easy for them. We now use Salesforce as the platform to bring to our customers in our business dealings the same rich digital experience that we’ve all become used to in our daily lives. At the same time, we know that our business needs to run on data as the fuel for our business intelligence to best serve our customers. Salesforce has the tools that allow us to make decisions quickly. These two factors are connected: Salesforce helps us deliver a more powerful digital experience to our customers, and we receive data that is analyzed to drive our business decisions. As a rule, the applications we continue to incorporate into our digital transformation must fit seamlessly into this ecosystem with smooth integration. 

Another key area of the journey of digital transformation at De Nora involves digitalized selling and deeper channel relationships. By leveraging digital tools, we are developing a greater understanding of customer needs and challenges. Like most of the world, we are now exploring with our sales teams an entirely new way to sell and build relationships virtually! We believe that technology provides us with unchartered opportunities to engage with our customers and partners. A series of new webinars, for example, has allowed us to communicate with the market in an interactive way, listening and addressing their question in a large, diverse, but very connected group.

Additionally, we are challenging our sales team to become more data driven. Leveraging the power of data and turning that data into intelligence is key for us. We have embarked on a Key Account Approach by tapping into the data and the abilities of AI to find customer purchasing trends. Analyzing our top 100 customers has allowed us to be more proactive in anticipating their needs as well as leveraging these learnings across our entire customer base. We are also focusing on expanding this intelligence to empower our channel partners to better serve our customers with a new Partner Portal.

Technology is a cornerstone in how we educate our customers on our solutions, using 3D technology to explore complex systems and see them in action with an experience that is delivered to them in a 3D rendering. Prior to COVID-19, one powerful selling tool for us was to bring in a key customer or partner to our facility for a tour of our innovative manufacturing processes.  Obviously with COVID-19, this has not been possible, but we are working now to implement 3D renderings of our facilities and products so that our customers can get that same immersive virtual tour experience as they learn about our products and manufacturing processes.  

2020 has been referred to as a dumpster fire, filled with many twists, turns and unexpected challenges. Like any crisis, though, it’s brought opportunity for learning. For De Nora, accelerating our roadmap for digital transformation has been one such opportunity. Since its beginnings a century ago, innovation has been in the heart of De Nora’s identity; you could say innovation is the engine of De Nora’s business model. Driven by this engine, we will continue to leverage this crisis to become a recognized thought leader in the water space by using technology to create a customer-first experience, enhancing relationships and building trust to  make water easy.