The movement from bricks and mortar to Web-based commerce is well-established. So it’s not a question of “if” but “when” to extend your business processes to the Web and integrate them with core business systems where possible. Sure, it sounds great, but what does it mean? A common business process example illustrates this point:
A prospect lands on your business Web site and finds the needed product. Best case with a brochure-like Web site, the visit ends in a phone call or an e-mail to an firstname.lastname@example.org
With Web and systems integration, a seamless business process occurs to provide a better user experience, an improved lead tracking process and a greater chance at landing a sale:
A prospect finds the product of interest and completes a registration form and a small survey to indicate interest. The prospect views a product demonstration video and chooses a free trial. The registration information becomes a qualified lead and the information is passed to the customer relationship management system for follow-up. Information gathered during registration sends a product or service e-mail to the customer and routes the qualified lead to the appropriate sales representative based on product specialty and a skills profile. After viewing the product demo, the customer selects the “buy now” option.
Making the Case The “buy now” process creates the customer account in the financial system. The next step checks and reserves inventory in the order management system and establishes shipping information with the shipping vendor. Tracking information is captured for business operations and customer tracking purposes and is communicated for order fulfillment. The customer is notified at each key step in the process by e-mail or even by text message, and a follow-up customer care survey is initiated after confirmation of receipt of the goods.
While this type of operational efficiency and improvement in quality can result in reduced labor costs, more often the return on investment is realized through improved customer satisfaction and expanded operation capacity. Improved customer satisfaction and a reduction in per unit cost for a delivered product are keys to growth.
With these steps in place, process measurement might be the most important business benefit of Web and core business systems integration. Process measurement and management reporting empowers leadership with operational understanding and the tools to hold teams accountable. Management reporting also can drive marketing and sales campaigns, support innovation and business process optimization.
Additionally, an integrated Web platform naturally supports expanding the breadth of products offered through seamless integration with business partners offering complementary products. Through a single, unified purchasing experience, the customer can buy your product and complementary products, expanding the customer’s perceived value and the margin opportunity per transaction.
Data from this single purchase can drive subsequent marketing and sales activities such as consumables, warranties, service contacts, replacements and upgraded products.
Getting Started Admittedly, all this can be overwhelming or seem cost prohibitive. If not done properly, it can have negative unintended consequences. However, if executed correctly, this integration can set the course for business growth and improved operating ratios. In other words, companies can’t afford not to take this action. Here’s why:
Competitive advantage and operational efficiencies require data analysis, fact-based decisions making, end-to-end design and leadership to involve and enroll stakeholders. There are three steps to get started:
Collaboratively create the vision – Collaboratively create the vision by pulling together business process owners and subject matter experts from your organization to create the vision of the orchestrated and integrated customer experience.Consider adding “the reality layer” by inviting both satisfied and very critical customers to the vision creation efforts. The dynamics will likely result in a more complete solution. When building the process, consider the value add of each step and look for ways to eliminate low value steps. In addition, identify or create measurable steps in the process. Process measurement and reporting are keys to achieving the benefits of the integrated customer experience. Generally speaking, it takes at least three iterations through a design to enroll the team, gain consensus and produce an actionable result.
Execute structural changes – After the process design is complete, evaluate the ability of the current structure of the organization to support the newly designed process. It may be time to reshape the organization around the new and broadly supported integrated business process. Structural changes might include leadership reorganization and replacing systems not capable of supporting the new process. This can be as simple as replacing a spreadsheet or a bit more complex, such as adding integration to existing systems or even a system replacement. Get the process right and then put the people, systems and resources in place to support the target process.