Digital Transformation

Quest for the Single Pane of Glass

If you’ve worked with technology platforms like Salesforce for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Single Pane of Glass” (SPOG) used. For business users, this holy grail of data-driven decision making gives users the ability to look at all critical pieces of a specific area of the business (or even the entire business) in one place, enabling a holistic view of exactly what’s going on in real time. This view allows them to make informed decisions on how to solve problems or make improvements to their processes, all backed by real data.

The Quest for the Holy Grail

This concept sounds–and in reality, is–great. Who wouldn’t want real-time visibility into all relevant business metrics in a single solution? Who wouldn’t want to look at everything in one place without the need to export spreadsheets and spend hours munging data together to come to a single conclusion, only to repeat the process for each discrete metric that needs measured and decision that needs made? Finally, who wouldn’t want the ability to make decisions more rapidly, innovate more quickly, and move the needle of the business at a breakneck pace?

There’s one key challenge to finding this holy grail, and it’s the same challenge that we’ve come back to as technology professionals for decades and one that is not unique to the Single Pane of Glass: siloed data that lives in disparate systems. While cutting-edge, best-of-breed technologies like Salesforce have accelerated our abilities to provide this single pane of glass view by leaps and bounds, there’s no silver bullet or Houdini-esque magic trick that solves the data accessibility challenges posed by an enterprise IT environment. In real-life environments, this data is often spread across a rapidly-growing list of silos of disconnected software, databases, legacy mainframes, 3rd-party applications, mobile data stores, spreadsheets, IoT devices, and more.

In order to have the Single Pane of Glass view, this challenge must be solved; the data has to be unlocked and accessible by our SPOG provider.

Enter the Application Network

What if we had a standardized way for all of the applications within the silos mentioned above to talk to one another and to communicate and surface their data to one another in a standard way? After all, Salesforce’s SPOG view is only one consumer in need of data from these systems; a truly integrated software environment should have all of these silos working together as a cohesive unit, each with distinct roles and adding differentiating value to the IT environment and the business as a whole. But how do we make applications that were never designed to talk to one another communicate seamlessly?

This is the promise of the Application Network, which is facilitated by the MuleSoft Anypoint Platform.

MuleSoft is a best-of-breed integration platform that allows organizations to create Application Networks, which greatly eases the burden of standing up production-grade integrations between the various components in your IT infrastructure. By harnessing the power of the application network, even data living in legacy applications can be “unlocked” and thus leveraged within any of your business’s needs, including but not limited to creating SPOG views into your processes. The Application Network allows all of these technologies to communicate more effectively and drive tangible business results, and investment in it sets your organization up to be more agile to better address the future needs of the business.

How Is This Different?

You might be saying to yourself “Yes, integration has always been a challenge, so how does a buzzword like “Application Network” change things?”

I’m glad you asked. The power of the MuleSoft Application Network spans several different areas:

  • Reusability: Once an application or data silo is online on the application network and integrated with another application, other applications that need to communicate can use the same assets that were already developed. Compare this with the standard point-to-point approach of yesterday, which creates a tight coupling of two applications within your IT environment but does nothing for you the next time you need to integrate one of those two applications with something else.
  • Delivery Speed: Because of the re-usability of the assets being created and the opportunity for a clicks-not-code approach via flow orchestrations, MuleSoft customers typically achieve a 4-6X increase in delivery speed for integration-related projects.
  • Standardization: An API is essentially a contract that defines how to communicate with a specific application or data silo. Building an application network allows your organization to define these contracts over time, surfacing business functionality that can be used to meet the present and future needs of the business.
  • One Solution: The MuleSoft Anypoint Platform was designed to be everything needed to design, implement, maintain, govern, re-use, document, share, and enhance integration-related assets. It is a holistic solution capable of replacing dozens of disconnected pieces of integration in areas like API documentation, governance, security, integration, orchestration, visualization, and reporting. Do you really want to integrate your integration software components together into a solution?
  • Enablement: The Application Network represents a shift in how IT organizations provide value to the business. In yesterday’s IT culture, the business would come up with a scenario needing integration, and IT would develop a solution to meet the integration needs. With MuleSoft, IT becomes an enabler for the rest of the business units, facilitating consumption of existing assets and adding new assets only when necessary.

Single Pane of Glass Made Easy

With a proper application network in place, every effort to build a single pane of glass view into a specific process is not a new one. By leveraging the Application Network, each new initiative becomes less time consuming and business stakeholders realize value faster. Over time, these initiatives have a snowball effect of enhancing the application network, which then speeds up future initiatives, and so on.

In today’s business environment, the only constant is change. Whether you’re creating a single pane of glass view, migrating off of legacy software, or connecting that shiny new CRM into your existing infrastructure, the Application Network allows you to be ready to meet this change head on.

Want to learn more about the power of the MuleSoft Application Network? Contact us today.

Digital Transformation Platform Migration & Modernization

Salesforce CPQ: The Foundation of Your Automation Strategy

What’s a CPQ?

The Salesforce CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) product has a plethora of advantages in the area of quote to cash automation. CPQ provides an advanced toolset that allows implementers to fully automate the process of selecting and configuring products, pricing and discounting these products, gathering approval from stakeholders in the event that pricing falls outside of guardrails, and automatically generating a quote for the customer.

This functionality has a very obvious return on investment for a sales organization in terms of sales rep efficiency, margin protection, quote consistency, and revenue maximization, but there’s also a key advantage that’s often overlooked that is the focus of this blog: CPQ’s impact on data consistency at the front end of your process and the ripple effect it has on an automation strategy.

Why Would a Quoting Tool Drive Customer Service Automation?

Every automation strategy must start with clean, consistent data. While human users can consume unstructured data and understand the intent behind what it is, automation works by interpreting well-formed data and taking action upon it to drive workflows.

While human users will likely understand that a customer name of “John and Martha Smith” with an email address field of “,” represents two different people and their corresponding email addresses, automated functionality will not. It will attempt to email “,” to thank them for their business and fail miserably. Therefore, when beginning on a path toward business process automation, starting with structured data is at the top of the agenda.

Since well-formed data is so critical to developing automated functionality, a great place to start is taking control of sales data. The sale of a product typically drives numerous other workflows within a business: shipping, accounting and revenue recognition, professional installation services, customer support, and many others are dependent on the initial sales transaction. Since all of these other processes depend on data that is captured during the close of a sale, it is imperative that the sales data be an accurate, well-structured representation of the transaction with the customer.

Salesforce’s Sales Cloud product is the gold standard for CRMs, and with good reason. It does an excellent job of allowing sales organizations to track and predict top line revenue via forecasting, to analyze sales performance with reporting, and to enhance sales rep productivity by providing tools to automate common tasks.

While Sales Cloud is great at managing revenue, the CRM was never designed to manage complex product configurations and the pricing and quoting scenarios that go with them. While it includes some level of baked-in concepts around products, most organizations’ product portfolios and quoting needs are far too complex for what’s provided out of the box.

As a result, many organizations rely on manual effort to create quotes that represent complex product configurations. In my experience, these manual creations were designed to be read by human users to keep track of what happened during the quoting process and therefore aren’t structured in a way that lend themselves to automation scenarios. Given these limitations, how do we move down the path of filling our Salesforce org with good sales data to drive automations?

Enter Salesforce CPQ

Consider a scenario where an account executive closes a deal containing several state of the art medical devices. Each device has its own warranty and associated installation and professional services required to set it up. In a scenario with manual quoting and product configuration management, someone in the organization is on the hook for recording details about exactly what was sold, which parts of the sale were warrantied and for how long, which services are necessary to install the devices at the customer site, and when the install services will be performed. All of these records need to be manually created after the sale, and they must be accurate.

Worst of all, there is no clear-cut owner for this task: a sales rep’s core duties end once a deal closes, and no one else in the organization has been involved in the process up to this point.

Let’s re-examine the above scenario through the lens of CPQ. While the sales rep is quoting, each product is grouped with warranty and installation services in a way that is easily interpreted by Salesforce’s robust automation toolset.

We know exactly which warranty goes with which product, when the customer purchased the product, and when each warranty starts and ends. By leveraging this data, we can kick off automated processes to email the customer when the product ships, schedule installation services, manage field rep schedules, and set up auto-reminders for customers and sales reps when warranties are expiring.

Additionally, customer support automatically knows the ins and outs of a customer’s warranty portfolio without the need for someone to go in and manually maintain the record: it’s all derived based on what happened during the close of the sale.

CPQ simplifies the handoff all of the moving pieces that happen after the deal is closed by giving Salesforce a complete picture of what happened during the deal. Without this data, there’s no foundation for automation.

Configure, Price, Quote… Handoff

Automating the entire quote to close cycle with CPQ not only removes burdensome manual tasks from the plates of sales reps and adds consistency to the sales process, but also serves as the foundation for further automation of processes that take place after the sale.
Consider all the touch points and handoffs within your organization that take place after a sale closes.

How much more efficient would your processes be if all of these handoffs took place seamlessly with 100% accuracy? How many support calls due to data entry issues would be eliminated? Finally, how much better would the overall customer experience be now that all of the dots are connected in the process?

Ready for a fresh look at your automation strategy? Contact Us today.

Digital Transformation Platform Migration & Modernization

It’s Not Salesforce; It’s the Build.

Salesforce is an amazing piece of technology. You don’t need me to tell you that; simply look at the business results, read the analyst reports, or look at their stock ticker (CRM). Their product managers, architects, and engineers have built a product that is truly special. Despite the advantages the software brings to the table, customers occasionally feel like they aren’t getting value out of the software and are left wondering what all of the hoopla is about. This blog examines why.

Common Factors

Let’s start by examining the commonalities that exist within these unsuccessful rollouts. When I speak to customers who aren’t happy with the software, several issues are almost always present:

  • Low user adoption
  • Inconsistent usage patterns amongst users
  • Lack of data consistency
  • Minimal amount of customization to out-of-the-box software to fit business needs
  • Little to no automation of common user tasks
  • User complaints of “one more thing to fill out”
  • Mismatches between desired business workflow and software workflow

These are all symptoms of the same problem: the software is only as good as the build. Salesforce is a world-class SaaS platform for running your business, but using it in out-of-the-box form severely limits its value to your business. This situation is analogous to buying a great house and then not furnishing it; the structure is of the same quality as your neighbors’ houses, but your value as a resident is severely limited by not having a couch, bed, TV, and refrigerator. Much like the house, Salesforce’s architects and builders designed it so that it could be easily furnished to meet your unique needs after purchase.

There’s an easy answer to this problem, and fortunately the answer isn’t anything complex or overly sophisticated: use Salesforce as it was designed. Follow our simple guidelines below and you’ll be realizing value from your investment in no time.

Old Habits Die Hard

Cultural adoption of a new piece of software is a tricky subject. Users, especially those who have been at a company for a long time, have internal processes that they follow to accomplish their daily tasks. Adoption of a new software tool means that these internal processes have to be altered, and altering an ingrained habit is something that is difficult to do.

I’ve seen many companies who simply mandate data entry into the new tool in a memo, declare mission accomplished, and move on to the next initiative. With minimal training in the new software nor incentive to use it, many employees stick to their old ways and retrofit the software into their internal processes. This behavior results in every Salesforce user using the tool differently, which causes inconsistent data, loss of productivity, and perpetuates the stigma that the software is a burden rather than a benefit. After all, how could the software be anything but a burden if a user is still following a manual process and the only difference is that he or she has added the extra step of entering data into the new system?

The old saying “the carrot is better than the stick” applies heavily to user adoption of new software. Dictating that users use the new software and enforcing the new policy can certainly increase your usage numbers, but are these users working in the tool at maximum effectiveness or are they simply trying to keep their names off of the naughty list? Solve the cultural adoption problem effectively with a two-pronged approach:

  1. Make your users want to use the tool.
  2. Configure the tool to dictate your process.

Make Salesforce a Fan Favorite

Every organization has small, pet-peeve types of problems that are the target of employee complaints. Maybe there’s a document that everyone hates filling out (think of the TPS reports in Mike Judge’s 1999 cult classic, Office Space), customer signatures that take forever to collect, or some other tedious task that requires hours of manual effort per week to complete. Make it a point to target at least one of these problems during your first Salesforce rollout.

Announcing that the new software solves a common headache does a few things:

  1. It gets employees excited.
  2. It puts Salesforce in the position of hero rather than nuisance.
  3. It shows the company is listening to employee feedback.
  4. It provides a reward for using the tool.
  5. It eliminates complaining about the pet peeve problem.

Tackling a problem like this one and solving it with Salesforce keeps your users more engaged throughout the learning process and rewards them for working hard to learn new software that may do things much differently than they’re used to within their internal process.

Dictate Your Organizational Process

Many of the customers I talk to who struggle with the symptoms of not having a tailor-made Salesforce environment have organizational processes that run through the Salesforce platform. They spend time documenting how the software should be used and teaching the users how to use the software to drive the process with the expectation that after this training, the users will use Salesforce as intended by the company.

This approach doesn’t always pan out, and there’s a much better way. When the system is configured properly to define the process, most of your process enforcement can simply become “use Salesforce.” The solution is designed to validate data going in and drive automation behind the scenes to step users through a workflow. By customizing it to fit your process to a t, many of the more mundane procedural elements can happen behind the scenes. The most successful companies at using Salesforce have users who use it to drive almost all of their daily tasks, and all of these organizations have invested in customizing the software to fit the way their organizations do business.

By designing the software to drive your process, you simplify your users’ day-to-day roles, reduce confusion, eliminate data inconsistency, and drive user adoption.

The Bottom Line

Much like you wouldn’t get full value out of a house with no furniture, you won’t get full value out of a Salesforce environment that is not purpose-built to your exact specifications. By making the investment in building the tool to solve problems within your organization and drive your organization’s processes, you’re positioning both your users and your executive team for success.

If the software can make the user’s life easier, the user will use the software. And if the software dictates the organizational process, the process will be followed regardless of which user is using the software. These two things alone solve every symptom of the user adoption problem that we started with in this article and put your executive team in position to leverage all of the data you’re now collecting with the platform to make better, more informed business decisions.

Need help designing your Salesforce org, or have a Salesforce-related question? Contact us today and take the first step in your organization’s Salesforce evolution.