Executives today are scrutinizing the long-term value of their cloud investments, sometimes representing millions of dollars in annual IT spending. For these decision makers, it is critical to identify cloud-computing projects that will make tangible financial impacts and provide near-term ROI. Currently, customer relationship management (CRM) and ERP systems operate as key assets for companies, though they often remain as two disconnected applications. Between the two applications exists a number of complex business processes and time-consuming tasks, which when moved to the cloud enable companies to achieve commercial targets and, ultimately, their revenue goals.
insiderPROFILES recently asked Dave Batt, CEO of FPX, to discuss trends in enterprise cloud computing and how these trends affect SAP customers today.
Q: In the area of cloud computing, what is top of mind for SAP customers?
Today, SAP customers are actively exploring how they can better leverage cloud computing within their business to maximize ROI.
Sales automation is one of the more commonly understood processes for leveraging a public cloud platform. Sales force automation (SFA) systems typically provide assistance with lead distribution, sales pipelines, and opportunity management. The “bang for the buck” from these systems comes in the form of automating manual and tedious business processes to create a centralized view of activities.
Once this is established, the questions often asked are: What’s beyond SFA? How can an organization go beyond sales force automation and affect revenue performance, price performance, or operational efficiency? What is the best approach to automating these manual processes, and can these sophisticated business processes be run in the cloud?
Q: What business processes are SAP customers evaluating for cloud computing?
As obvious as this sounds, many companies focus on revenue performance, including:
- Quote-to-close processes. This varies from company to company, but often includes enabling product selections for building quotes and orders; pricing complex products and services; proposal generation, contract review, and contract lifecycle processes; and order capture and creation processes.
- Customer retention processes. Again, this varies from company to company, but typically focuses on the contract renewal processes for services or subscriptions and adjusting existing orders including the addition of incremental products and services to existing contracts.
There are many more examples, but C-Suite executives, especially CFOs, see value in improving their quote-to-close and customer retention processes. Both processes generate considerable ROI by leveraging existing IT assets, including big data, to create prescriptive guidance at every step in the business process. This approach enables companies to improve execution across what were previously manual and disconnected business processes.
Executives also find that global standards can be established for these cloud-based business processes — an added benefit that enables companies to have the best of both worlds. For example, companies can implement global standards and still allow for flexibility to support local, regional, or line-of-business specific rules and business practices. The processes also make it possible to eliminate revenue leakage through better governance without losing sight of local and regional requirements that typically affect user adoption.
Q: If so much potential exists in the cloud, what are the barriers to entry?
The barriers to entry are often summed up in two categories: IT application systems, and the data definitions to put these processes to work on scale.
One challenge is that the business processes best suited to provide optimal rewards in the cloud span both front-end applications, such as CRM and SFA systems, and back-end transactional ERP systems. Think of these as “application bookends” where disconnected and manual business processes traverse each end to fulfill a company’s commercial processes and revenue generation. Executives now look toward a new class of cloud-based applications to better manage the business processes between these bookends.
The other challenge is being able to harness the data needed to fortify business processes spanning the bookends. However, the requisite data sits in multiple systems of records. For example:
- Customer data traditionally sits in CRM/SFA selling systems, but can also reside in ERP fulfillment systems.
- Product data usually resides in product catalogs within ERP systems, but most companies warehouse multiple product catalogs, defined by region, product line, etc.
- Pricing data is often managed in spreadsheets.
- Business attribute data, such as discounting governance, channel entitlements, and products and services bundles, ranges from unstructured systems like email boxes to tribal knowledge locked in people’s heads.
Needless to say, it takes a lot of time and effort to make these processes work seamlessly. Cloud-based applications can help by defining relationships between disparate data sources such as product and pricing, with the ability to apply any business rule or definition in context to each and every sales interaction across all applications. Think about how you will want to extend your CRM footprint to meet the needs of your industry with complex configurations.
Q: Cloud applications are being deployed with the expectation of delivering benefits such as deployment speed, usability, and accessibility. What other benefits should companies look for?
Companies should know that, as they overcome the classic systems and data challenges, they can expect to achieve some of the following benefits:
- Increased productivity and revenue performance
- Reduced error rates associated with manual sales and order management processes
- Lower operational costs associated with human resources that are typically needed to administer manual processes
- Higher margin contribution as concessions and ungoverned discounting is better administered
SAP partners, like FPX, allow organizations to apply any unique and customized set of products, pricing, rules, and attributes to make data actionable for fast and easy accessibility in the future. Organizations will gain the digital business advantage of running complex processes in SAP’s cloud solutions to engage more prospects, shorten the buying cycle, and achieve higher revenue results. Companies also can extend sales force automation beyond opportunity management, empowering forecasting and sales channels to achieve optimal sales success by providing upsell, cross-sell, and renewal opportunities.
Measure ROI with more wins and more business by making the buying process as easy as possible. Lastly, and most importantly, increase customer satisfaction, instill trust, and build brand loyalty — these are the goals that will pay dividends well into the future.
Want to explore this topic further? As a dedicated SAP ISV partner, FPX wants to help SAP customers build a new confidence in the long-term investments they’ve made. To learn more about leveraging SAP CRM systems in the cloud to maximize ROI, visit www.FPX.com.