Subject: September 2001
ECMgt.com: Evolving Infrastructure and Tools
by Mitchell Levy, Author, E-Volve-or-Die.com
Many advances have been made toward the goal of integrating front office and back office systems, both within companies and between companies. Technologies that improve speed, collaboration or integration of processes will be a requirement for survival and growth in the future.
In addition to integrating front office and back office solutions, which create a more fluid E-Business infrastructure within an enterprise, Partner Relationship Management (PRM) and Collaborative Commerce solutions have recently synchronized front office and back office functions between enterprises, making them act as one unit to serve the needs of customers. We'll discuss the combination of front and back office solutions, and explore how the newer "inter-enterprise" world of PRM and collaborative commerce E-Business solutions, create internetworked and holistic E-Business architectures.
Front-office integration and CRM are key investments for any E-Business, because the quality of a product and "selling facts" do not guarantee success in the 21st century. More and more a company's softer assets its ability to live up to the customers' image of a good company, and to satisfy ongoing needs, are required to ensure "life-time value".
One of the greatest challenges for a sales force today is a knowledgeable, involved, and critical buyer. Can a sophisticated ERP system display integrated "intelligence" to support the development of good customer relations? More important still is the ability to develop business processes with the capacity to establish, enhance, and even transform customer relationships. Can a firm develop and provide unique opportunities to create added value? The first step is to integrate flexible sales solutions that are deployable in an open ERP system. This especially includes the ability to integrate the company's engineering, manufacturing, distribution, maintenance, and financial management processes with processes for marketing, sales, and customer care. This starts the process of "front and back-office fusion".
Front-office solutions can collaborate and manage the interaction and information flow between customer, supplier, and partner channels at all stages from marketing, sales, to delivery to service and support. The front office and CRM systems of yesterday are becoming the PRM and collaborative applications of tomorrow. An interactive sales system, integrating Web, phone, face-to-face, and channel sales, ensures that the prospect and customer see just one face of the company, and the sales team knows the prospect from every point of contact.
enabled but not integrated
Supporting mobile sales staff
Integrating the Back Office
Timely, accurate information is everything. Sales representatives need access to complete information about product variations, options, delivery time alternatives, and price at delivery. Instead of being limited to standard products, sales agents and /or customers can often configure less-expensive custom solutions, with better performance and shorter delivery times. Seeing that customers' demands and wishes are balanced against what is possible, from the engineering perspective, or understanding the criteria for the order, facilitates more immediate scheduling and delivery.
Back Office Services
Office Solutions for E-Business
Key vertical markets are already using integrated front and back office technologies, and serve varied product and service niches. Businesses and organizations in the following industries are typical of this growing trend:
Best practices for integrating front and back office solutions from these vertical markets include the following:managing semiconductor manufacturing of discrete and high value components; integrating heath care point -of- service patient contact with automated patient billing; process flow tools as used by UPS for combining supply chain and shipping data; better coordination of vendor managed inventory for retail and food; and customized product offerings for high value clients in banking, insurance and financial services industries.
Today, indirect channels account for the majority of sales in a number of industries; more than half of all high-tech sales come from indirect channels. Working with indirect sales partners is challenging, and involves more than completing a sale. It includes building business processes and channels of communication for vendors and their partners. Speed is always a critical focus in channel sales, including the logistics of a complex sale, delivery, and after-sale support. Internet-based PRM solutions fully enable the indirect model by tightly integrating companies with their partners. An automated, comprehensive set of PRM applications helps to overcome the complex challenges involved in acquiring, communicating, and supporting partners, as well as facilitating collaboration among multiple partners. PRM isn't just a critical component of an overall E-Business strategy; implementing a PRM solution can provide significant competitive advantage to a channel-focused company, including front and back office functionality.
Enterprise solutions for "dynamic collaboration" within and among businesses, called collaborative commerce, are an emerging business and technology trend, and are rapidly becoming a requirement for competitive advantage in an internetworked economy. Collaborative Commerce, also called c-commerce, allows rapid response to market opportunities with greater value and efficiency, according to leading industry analysts. Gartner Group predicts that c-commerce systems will become the predominant business-to-business application model by 2004.
The new era of collaborative commerce will allow companies all along the supply and value chain to communicate dynamically, anticipate and fulfill their customers' needs precisely and efficiently, and automatically respond in real-time to demand or supply changes. Collaborative applications that make this scenario possible eliminate the barriers posed by incompatible systems, and allows companies to focus their efforts on business instead of on their IT systems.
Definitions and reference sites:
CRM and Vendors:
CRM (customer relationship management) is an information industry term for methodologies, software, and usually Internet capabilities that help an enterprise manage customer relationships in an organized way. For example, an enterprise might build a database about its customers that described relationships in sufficient detail so that management, salespeople, people providing service, and perhaps even the customer directly, could access information. Users of CRM and sales automation systems can match customer needs with product plans and offerings, know what other products a customer had purchased and remind customers of service requirements.
PRM and Vendors:
Partner relationship management (PRM) is a business strategy for improving communication between companies and their channel partners. Web-based PRM software applications enable companies to customize and streamline administrative tasks by making shipping schedules and other real-time information available to all the partners over the Internet. Several CRM providers have incorporated PRM features, such as Web-enabled spreadsheets shared through an extranet, in their software applications. PRM is often compared to customer relationship management (CRM), and there is some argument over whether the complex relationships of channel partnerships makes it necessary for PRM to be discussed as a separate entity, or merely as a component of CRM.
Collaborative Commerce and Vendors:
Collaborative Commerce (C-Commerce) is the name given to commercial relationships carried out over a collaborative framework to integrate business processes of enterprises, share their customer relationships, and manage knowledge across enterprise boundaries. The ultimate aims of C-Commerce initiatives are to maximize return on intellectual capital investment, business agility and the quality of the customer experience. C-Commerce is far more crucial than basic B2B e-commerce that is designed to construct a virtual link for a pre-defined community of trading partners to buy or sell goods and services.
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