Cloud based CRM system brings digital ease and social media fluency to industrial equipment sales, service, and support across southern Africa
For most organisations, the concept of time to value is well understood – at least internally in the form of needing to bring products and services to market ahead of competitors.
Time to value has also gained external significance as customers expect the same availability and response times from industrial organisations as they experience in their social networks. In a digitising world, time to value contributes to customer satisfaction at the point of sale or service.
That's because real time, comprehensive information about a customer empowers a sales or support person, whether in the field or not, to tailor offerings to accurately meet the expectations of any given customer, anywhere, anytime. This increases customer loyalty and, therefore, customer retention. All of which increases sales, triggering growth for the organisation. It also motivates staff.
In other words, time to value in the field of customer service is money banked.
When Barloworld Equipment and Handling decided in 2014 to move its sales management capabilities from a standalone solution implemented 12 years previously to an extension in the cloud of its enterprise SAP platform, it would not only increase is ability to provide time to value for its customers, it would itself be a beneficiary of time to value.
SAP's Cloud4Customer (C4C) hosted customer engagement solution was implemented by a combined Britehouse / Barloworld team of 12 people in only six months. This, in spite of the project spanning the usual extended South African summer holiday period, the complexity of covering 350 000 users in 10 African countries, the need to load master data, and the challenges of rolling out a change management programme across such a high volume of users dispersed across multiple geographies.
In fact, the inherent agility of the cloud and of the SAP C4C solution meant that the technical implementation took only six weeks of the six month bulk project duration.
A wholly owned subsidiary of Barloworld Limited, a multinational brand distribution company that is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Barloworld Equipment is the sole dealer for Cat earthmoving machines, power systems, and related mining and construction equipment in all its African territories.
These include South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo's Katanga Province. The company also represents Rotary blasthole drilling equipment from Atlas Copco, Metso Minerals Mobile Mining, Construction Crushing, Screening Plants, MAK and Perkins Diesel Engines.
In 2002, Barloworld Equipment implemented a sales management solution that, advanced for its time, enabled both on and offline transacting by the sales force in the field, and drew certain information from Barloworld's SAP enterprise resource planning system, including financials.
However, offline transacting called for high levels of synchronisation which, eventually, across 350 000 users, began to strain servers and the network.
Also, because it was a standalone solution, it had its own master data separate from that housed in the SAP instance. This made management and maintenance of both systems more onerous, a circumstance that was exacerbated over time by extensive customisation of both the SAP and sales management system.
The major reason for replacing it, however, was the evolution of technology. The system had not been designed for an era of high mobility and the universal digitisation that has led to the mass uptake of social media.
Barloworld Equipment looked at several replacement options, including SAP's new Cloud4Customer offering. Britehouse, as SAP's most certified partner in Africa and also a long-standing implementation partner for Barloworld, was a natural choice when it came to executing a proof of concept.
"C4C appeared to be able to eliminate our most urgent issues while giving us many additional options," says Barloworld Equipment E-process manager, Andrew Kerr. "It would bolt on to our existing platform. So, it would enable us to consolidate master data management. It would give us mobility options we hadn't had before. It would give us a real time flow of information and communications. And it would give us off and online transaction capabilities without the need for synchronisation.
"However, we were concerned that the customisation we had done in SAP might create integration issues. And, given that ours would be the first C4C implementation in Africa and that C4C was very new, we wanted clear evidence that our existing SAP instance, which had been implemented on premise before the cloud came into being, would work comfortably with a cloud solution whose functionality was so very different."
Using an agile approach, the Britehouse and Barloworld teams demonstrated in two weeks that flow of information and processes could be produced in C4C. Approval for implementation of C4C was given in October 2014, with tight timelines for go live focused on the company's year end.
Within both schedule and budget, the original sales management system was switched off and C4C switched on at the beginning of April 2015.
"This was the fastest SAP implementation with which I have been involved," says Barloworld Equipment general manager, sales and supply chain, Lloyd Thomas. "The teams worked extremely well together to overcome the few challenges that did surface and still meet the deadlines. The expertise and dedication of both teams kept everything on track."
One challenge was indeed a matter of creating links from Barloworld's customisation of its existing SAP ERP system to C4C. Another was the success of the data integration process, creating the need for control processes to be put in place for data coming back from the cloud.
As a hosted CRM solution that forms part of SAP's Customer Engagement and Commerce unit, C4C allows customers to extend the data that resides in on-premise CRM, SAP ECC and BI and link it to transactional systems designed to make sales planning and execution more effective. The solution also integrates to service, marketing, and ecommerce solutions.
Although C4C has a software development kit, Barloworld Equipment made a strategic decision not to customise the solution.
"SAP solutions are being designed to be more agile, in the sense that they can be implemented in months rather than years," says Britehouse project manager for the Barloworld Equipment C4C project, Stephen Wardle. "As with SAP's Rapid Deployment Solutions, which are built around standard industry-specific processes, vanilla C4C gives you CRM best practice in a box.
"That's what provides such a high level of time to value. C4C gives most organisations a 90% functionality fit. Organisations must then adjust their own procedures to C4C for the final 10% .
"The adjustments are minimal, however, compared to the resultant increase in sales and the uptick in performance of your field force. It's rare to achieve so much with so little effort as C4C makes possible.
"That said, you still need high level data management, change management, and project management skills as well as solid business consulting capability to help your customer make appropriate and forward-looking decisions about the implementation."
To ease Barloworld users through adjustment to cloud capabilities in general and C4C in particular, both Barloworld and Britehouse appointed dedicated change management experts to drive the change management and communications process throughout the implementation.
The business wins
Although no customisation of C4C was done by Barloworld, SAP did agree to update some functionality within the solution to make it more generic to the equipment industry and, therefore, more rapidly deployable in that industry. This accelerated SAP's time to value with the solution as well as sales and service time to value for Barloworld customers.
User adoption for the C4C solution has been high, partly because the technology users now have at their disposal is very similar to that which they use in their personal lives.
The implementation has given Barloworld Equipment sales, service, and support staff direct access to detailed customer information that had previously been available only to the finance department. Within the first two weeks of go-live, this enabled the updating of almost 2 000 client records. With billing information, among other data, now more accurate, cash flow management has been enhanced.
The empowerment of sales staff through access to data has strengthened pipeline management. Salespeople can now get a complete overview of business activity with a customer before going into the field. This positions them to target their sales very accurately. In addition, C4C's reporting functionality allows salespeople to manage their pipeline more effectively and managers to be more strategic.