The Manufacturer’s Playbook for Ecosystem Collaboration

Manage change and accelerate digitization strategies.


Why is now the time for digital optimization?

For decades, manufacturers competed on the ability to build and distribute the best product. Today, COVID-19 is changing everything from how manufacturers work to how they conduct business with partners and customers. It’s forcing a “digital imperative” in which every business process must be transformed from the “old school” ways of working to a new, digital-first world. Working collaboratively with colleagues, partners, and customers from anywhere is the next normal. Manufacturers that continue to depend on face-to-face interactions and employees anchored to legacy systems in the office risk their relevance with partners and customers.

In a recent Salesforce-commissioned study of 100 manufacturing leaders, Forrester Consulting found the top three priorities are:

1. Increased engagement.

2. Superior customer experiences.

3. A single view of the customer.

Forward-thinking manufacturers are defining, developing, and rapidly accelerating digitization to compete on the most important market differentiator: their ability to understand, engage, and earn the trust of their ecosystem. These companies put their partners and customers first. Salesforce’s business has been built on the gradual evolution from a product-centric world to one in which partners and customers demand to be at the center of your business. This playbook is focused on helping manufacturers accelerate digitization strategies — by putting partners and customers at the center of the innovation cycle. The steps outlined will help you lay the foundation for business agility, responsiveness, visibility, digital collaboration, and actionable insights.

Chapter 1: Manage change within your company.

Evolve your company to drive ecosystem collaboration.

Change management is particularly difficult in the manufacturing space. When you hear “digitization,” memories of yearslong ERP implementations probably come to mind. Moving toward a partner and customer-centric vision requires not only changing what you do, but how everyone in your company thinks about digitization. First, let’s break down mindsets. Most CEOs see two ways to change. They can renovate their existing business to drive down costs and increase productivity. Or they can use freed-up cash to experiment with new ways to generate partner and customer value, also known as a transcend mindset.

How do we put our partners and customers at the center of our business?

But there’s a third way: shifting from a renovate mindset to evolve your company to drive ecosystem collaboration.

Get started: Apply continual improvement.

Chances are, your organization is making valiant efforts to catch up to new needs due to COVID-19. But your teams may still be reluctant to make big changes due to concerns over presumed costly, time-consuming transformation initiatives. But guess what: Improvements, even to the smallest projects, drive high impact. Digitization is about supporting best practices now, over the next few months, for the future. Use these conversation starters with your leadership team to begin your improvements:

  • Do we have a vision for what a partner and customer journey should look like through collaboration and shared insights?
  • Can we institutionalize this vision? Why not? Who in our organization and across our ecosystem is already doing it?
  • Outside our company, who is doing this well? What can we learn from them?
  • To make this vision stick, our customers and partners should love what we’re doing. How can we use it to drive success?

So, how do you begin to evolve? These are your four pillars:

  • Redesign business processes
  • Center around your ecosystem
  • Leverage agile and scalable solutions
  • Sense and respond to find resilience



Next: Chapter 2: Redesign your business processes.

Every interaction is an experience. Consider these metrics:
  • Planning decisions made in real time based on demand and consumption reap rewards, including a 15–25% reduction in lead time
  • Salespeople — once focused on channel and revenue performance — are now including both channel and end customer satisfaction metrics
  • Customer service improves 2–5% with successful sales and operations processes

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