If your front-office systems (for sales, marketing and other customer-facing functions) and your back-office systems (for accounting, tracking, fulfillment and operations) can’t communicate, you end up with silos of information. As a result, your daily business processes can’t run seamlessly.
Executing an order-to-cash process, for example, may involve much paper and manual transfers of information as the order makes its way from department to department.
Systems integration removes these silos, so you can streamline your processes and enable your employees to do their jobs more efficiently, using whatever interface they need. It also gives you clear visibility into your business, from the moment a quote is approved until you collect payment.
For high-tech companies, this translates into improvements in key industry-specific capabilities, as well as core business processes. These key capabilities include:
1. Forecast Management You can pull in external point-of-sale (POS) data from distributors, tie it into your systems and analyze it to forecast demand, so that you can determine how much to produce in the next three to six months.
2. Connected field service Product maintenance/repair services are scheduled with a field service technician in the CRM system. The technician can then use their mobile device to order replacement parts onsite, or to bill their time and invoice the customer for the service call.
3. Samples management. Your customer can request a sample from a website, and the request automatically goes from the website into your CRM system. The salesperson can view and approve the order and electronically send it off to accounting, which approves it and automatically sends it to fulfillment. Meanwhile, all the information flows bac k to the salesperson, so they can make sure the samples are shipped on time and arrive on schedule.
4. Distributor relationship management. Distributors and manufacturer’s representatives can log opportunities, record accounts and contacts, request samples and submit return material authorizations (RMAs), etc. via a portal. This makes it easier to manage these many relationships and respond quickly to your markets and customers.
5. Customer self-service. End customers can use a portal to access knowledge base product and troubleshooting information or submit a case, which can then be automatically routed to a technical specialist. This helps you meet service-level agreements, improve your customer service and contain costs.
The right platform of integrated systems also enables you to easily integrate new functionality down the road. You may want to add business intelligence for analytics, for example, or connected field service capabilities that leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) with predictive signals that enable you to schedule preemptive repair and replacement. This flexibility allows you to evolve on your own terms.
This is an excerpt from High-Tech Manufacturer’s IT Playbook from Armanino LLP, an independent firm associated with Moore Stephens International.