The Two Things You All Have in Common, and The One Thing That Matters Most
Manufacturers and distributors large and small all have two things in common: you have data, and you have people. Each of these comprises a significant portion of your business. Your people are the ones who make it move and keep it moving. They make the decisions, make your products, and interact with your customers. And all the while, those same people and their efforts are creating vast amounts of data: customer orders, inventories, sales data, service orders, and much, much more.
At your organization, this data most likely lives inside an ERP. That ERP might be Epicor, Infor VISUAL, Prophet 21, or another system. And while that ERP is intended to centralize all your data into one single, useful location, it’s often only accessible and usable within the four walls of your facility. Perhaps you’re ahead of the curve a bit and have a cloud-based solution in place to provide access from other locations. If so, well done. You’re already ahead of 50–60 percent of your peers who are still stuck in the Spreadsheet Age.
But even if you’ve given your employees access to enterprise data in the cloud, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your field service and sales teams have what they need where they need it most. And where’s that? In the field!
It’s Time to Catch Up
And here’s why: more and more manufacturers and distributors are transitioning to field-based models for both sales and service. In fact, many manufacturing organizations (around 72 percent according to the Salesforce Connected Manufacturing Services Report by TSC Research) are gearing up to make field service revenue their largest profit center over the next few years. While this isn’t necessarily or entirely the result of consumer preference shifts, it is certainly similar.
Organizations’ preferences, just like consumers, are changing rapidly. Your customers want service, support, and solutions faster (just as you probably do from your own suppliers and partners). And that means that you need to adapt. Field service is where it’s at, but field service is effectively nothing more than ill-equipped public relations when it can’t utilize enterprise data immediately. They must be connected with the information they need to better serve customers and keep the blood of your business moving despite their location.
So, what’s the solution here? Clearly, a mobile solution that connects your field teams with enterprise data. But where do you start? Who builds it? What does it cost? Is it turnkey? What are the long-term benefits for employees?
Giving Employees Access to Enterprise Data Is Easier Than Ever
The good news is that platforms are available that can make immediate use of your existing ERP data without the need to recruit a developer or hire a third-party application development company. Even better is that you don’t need to strategize and deploy a costly and burdensome enterprise mobility platform with rugged devices that’ll just need to be replaced after a couple of years anyway.
You can simply allow field teams to use their own mobile devices, saving your business resources by not having to buy or lease expensive equipment as well as time in not having to plan and manage an exhaustive enterprise mobility project. Your new mobile solution is simply an existing layer on top of your current ERP implementation or even an existing app designed specifically for field service and sales professionals.
Those are some of the upfront benefits that make opening the door for employees to access enterprise data in the field faster and easier than ever. But what about in the long haul? What will having a mobile solution for employees to access enterprise data actually do for your manufacturing or distribution business?
You’ll Join the Revenue Revolution
Remember how many organizations are starting to prioritize field service as a source of revenue? By “many,” we mean 75 percent by 2020. Yeah, it’s a lot. The last thing you need is to find your business at the bottom of the competitive ladder because those companies prioritized and built out revenue channels that simply matched the way the world works. You can achieve that by giving employees access to enterprise data right in the palm of their hands.
More on the ground-level, giving employees access to enterprise data means you’ll be able to close more deals and win more opportunities. Arming field teams (whether sales or service) with an ERP-specific mobility solution means your employees will have the information they need when it’s needed, wherever they are. Sales will be able to pull up customer data and generate new orders for warehouse inventory replenishment without having to wait to get back to the office. Field service will be able to log job statuses and item orders, track time, and update customer data on the fly.
This isn’t limited to field sales and service alone, either. As a manufacturer or distributor, your warehouse or shop teams have an immediate need for enterprise data as well. Whether that’s pulling up the location of inventory within a warehouse or ordering new stock, mobile data access has valuable implications for on-site workers, too. Even if they’re not customer–facing, shop employees that are able to quickly find information will be empowered to make better decisions, better manage the many particulars of a warehouse, and provide more in-depth reports to leadership. They’ll be able to focus on doing what they do best without getting bogged down in paperwork, spreadsheets, or emails.
Loyalty Will Increase Across the Board
Last but certainly not least, loyalty will increase for employees and your customers. You might be wondering how. At Bezlio, we believe that data helps to build stronger business relationships. This means employees as well as customers. These separate yet connected audiences both want to be connected to your business. Sharing data outside of your four walls is the key to making you a stronger company.
Your field and shop employees will become more efficient and effective in the roles when they have access to enterprise data in your ERP and can engage with it in real-time from their own devices. And when safely shared with customers, your data can help to increase loyalty via better experiences. They’ll be able to view and place their own orders, view inventory levels, and more — completely self-service.
Collectively, giving people access to enterprise data helps to build better relationships internally and externally, putting your organization in a stronger central spot to focus more on doing what you do best and less on how to get information to the people that need it.
ADAM ELLIS, CO-FOUNDER & CEO
Adam Ellis is the Chief Executive Officer of Bezlio and one of four co-founders. Adam is a lifelong entrepreneur and has extensive ERP and mobile software knowledge through his consulting and management experience. He has a passion for exploring innovative ideas and how they can change the status quo. Connect with Adam on LinkedIn to learn more about his involvement in the ERP space.