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Automating Cloud Computing

A Salesforce.com-based quote-to-cash system

A mid-sized on-premise ERP software company has used Salesforce.com to manage its sales process for two years. As a rapidly growing, recently public company, the manual processes used to manage sales and fulfillment that were originally more than adequate showed signs of strain:

  • Account reps complained that they had to re-key the same order data into four separate forms/applications.
  • The finance team was distracted from its work every quarter to re-key order data during the quarter's close rush.
  • Errors were introduced as data was re-keyed multiple times by different resources into disparate systems and forms resulting in lost orders, reduced revenue, and unhappy customers.
  • Lax permissions allowed updates to critical sales data after orders should have been locked-down.  As a newly public company, this violated SarbOx rules.
  • Orders were lost due to the lack of fulfillment workflow management processes.

The company launched a project to assist in re-engineering its quote-to-cash process to mitigate these issues and prepare for its next phase of growth.

Original Quote-to-Cash Process: An Analysis
The project started by thoroughly documenting the company's original quote-to-cash process. This analysis revealed a mostly manual process that worked well before the company started growing both organically and through numerous acquisitions.

The company's original manual quote-to-cash process had seven steps is shown in Figure 1.

Step 1: Opportunity Creation
An account rep acquired a lead, qualified that lead, and converted the lead into Salesforce.com Account and Opportunity records. For accurate forecasting, the rep had to enter accurate information into Salesforce.com Opportunity. The rep entered customer demographic information into the Salesforce.com Account record and the Opportunity had to be populated with the mix of product SKUs and estimated license costs.

Step 2: Present Quote to Customer
When the customer was ready for a price quote, the rep re-keyed all customer, product SKU, and cost information into the Microsoft Word price quote form.

Note: This step was undesirable since the account rep could introduce errors into the process by inaccurately keying product or cost data into the quote form. The company had no control over the prices quoted to the customer; the rep could enter anything into the quote form. The rep's valuable time was wasted manually producing this form.

Step 3: Produce Contract Order Form
When the customer was ready to sign a contract, the rep re-keyed all customer, product SKU and cost information into the Microsoft Word contract order form.

Note: This step introduces another opportunity for incorrect data to be entered due to the manual nature of data entry.

Step 4: Software Distribution (Fulfillment)
After the customer signed the contract, the rep re-keyed all customer and product SKU data into a Microsoft Word distribution work order form. The software distribution team used this form to deliver software to the customer.

Note: This step introduces another opportunity for incorrect data to be entered due to the manual nature of data entry.

Step 5: Asset Creation
An asset is a related list under a Salesforce.com account. It represents the product that the customer has licensed from the company and thus entitles them to receive support.

The distribution team manually creates assets for each product SKU purchased by the customer by manually re-keying the information contained in the distribution work order form.

Note: This step is undesirable again because it can introduce errors and wastes time.

Step 6 & 7: Create Customer and Sales Order in Financial Systems
After order fulfillment, the revenue management analyst received the signed contract and manually re-keyed customer and sales order data into two separate financial systems, another undesirable step. The revenue management analyst should be focusing on the financial aspects of the order such as recognizable revenue instead of wasting valuable time manually re-keying this information.

Other Issues

  • Lack of visibility: Because there was no comprehensive workflow process governing the flow of orders between these steps, orders were sometimes lost resulting in unshipped software, a reduction in recognizable revenue, and unhappy customers.
  • Insufficient security: Without a real business need, some individuals could update or review data at various stages of the Salesforce.com opportunity lifecycle, violating Sarbox rules that applied as a public company.

Summary - Original Process
A review of this process showed numerous deficiencies that had to be addressed for the company to prepare for its next phase of growth. A new strategy was needed.

Once the limitations of the original quote-to-cash process were understood, Atparia went to work designing a new process. The design for the new process would be centered around a few overriding themes:

  • Enter customer and order data once and only once
  • Provide visibility throughout a process to ensure no orders are lost
  • Ensure that only those needing to can update or view sensitive data

To this end the team began analyzing the company's sales process step-by-step. The team leveraged the cloud computing capabilities of Salesforce.com to eliminate the weaknesses in the original process. The total solution is multifaceted with numerous technologies brought to bear. Each of these will be examined in turn.

Solution #1: Automatic Quote Form & Contract Order Form Generation
To eliminate re-keying customer and order information by the account rep for each quote and contract order form, these forms should be generated automatically from Salesforce.com Opportunity, which already has the accurate information entered by the account rep in Step #1 of the process.

To do this, the team recommended using a free AppExchange tool called PrintAnything. With this tool, the account rep simply presses new custom ‘Produce Quote Form' or ‘Produce Contract Order Form' buttons in Opportunity. PrintAnything automatically produces a precisely formatted quote or order form with accurate customer and product information pulled directly from Opportunity. PrintAnything produces an immutable PDF file that prevents reps from intentionally or unintentionally quoting inaccurate prices.

The team developed all custom Apex and S-control logic to accurately interface with the PrintAnything tool. With this solution in place, numerous benefits were realized:

  • The account reps no longer re-key customer or order data, freeing them to sell, sell, sell.
  • The account rep can only produce quotes that conform to company pricing policies.

Solution #2: Salesforce.com Workflow
The company had documented cases of lost orders using the manual process. To eliminate these loses, the team recommended leveraging Salesforce.com's workflow capabilities to keep track of every order as it was processed through the company's quote-to-cash process.

To effectively notify the distribution group that an order is ready for fulfillment, a distribution queue was needed. Distribution analysts log into Salesforce.com and pull up a dedicated Distribution View Report. This report shows only those opportunities that are ready to be shipped. A new stage was created in the Salesforce.com Opportunity lifecycle called QA Complete to represent this status. From this view the distribution analyst can drill down into any opportunity and get accurate company and product shipment data without filling out a distribution work order form, freeing the account rep to sell and eliminating another source of data errors.

Once distribution has fulfilled the order, the Opportunity stage is moved to the traditional "closed/won" stage. A separate view (report) is used by the finance team to identify those closed/won opportunities that are ready for entry into the company's financial systems.

This simple solution eliminates another re-keying exercise and provides visibility throughout the sales and fulfillment lifecycle virtually eliminating lost orders.

Solution #3: Automatic Asset Creation
To free the distribution analyst from the burden of manually creating assets that match the Opportunity products, the team suggested using an Apex trigger. This trigger automatically creates assets that directly correspond to OpportunityLineItems when Opportunity reaches the "QA Complete" stage.

This solution eliminates more re-keying.

Solution #4: Automatic Customer and Sales Order Injection
To free finance's revenue analysts from having to manually re-key customer and sales order information into two on-premise finance systems, the team recommended using Salesforce.com partner CastIron System's technology. CastIron's integration appliance allows Salesforce.com to integrate seamlessly with both cloud-based and on-premise applications.

The team developed CastIron orchestrations that automatically inject customer and sales orders into both of the company's finance systems (Softrax for software billing and Costpoint for services billing). The integration automatically detects when an opportunity has reached the closed/won stage and, in minutes, automatically creates customer and sales order records in the finance systems.

The revenue management analyst is notified that a new sales order is ready for processing in Softrax through a Salesforce.com "View" (report) that acts as a queue showing only those opportunities that are in the closed/won stage. This workflow management process ensures that orders aren't lost.

This solution greatly limits the amount of data that must be entered by the finance team and significantly reduces the opportunity for faulty data entering the system.

Figure 2 shows the new automated quote-to-cash system.

Other Improvements
The team conducted a complete review of the company's security policies and suggested a new security model. This new security model identified all the roles involved in the quote-to-cash process and the fields and buttons that can be viewed and updated by stages. The team implemented this model using a combination of Salesforce.com roles, profiles, and page-layouts. The following table captures the security model.

Summary - Streamlined Process
With the solutions in place, the company can process many more orders with less effort, more accuracy and complete visibility. It's ready for its next phase of growth and the increased order volume that will follow.

More Stories By Andrew Lawlor

Andrew is President and Chief Architect of Aptaria, a consultancy dedicated to helping medium and large-size organizations realize the potential of on-demand computing through the use of Software-as-a-Service offerings such as Salesforce.com and cloud-computing offerings such as Amazon, Google and AppNexus. Aptaria assists organizations service-orient their enterprises with the application of Webservices and Integration technologies.

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