Once upon a time, there was a major manufacturing corporation with 12 plants located throughout the United States. The corporate IT department selected a canned program and modified it, installed the new system in every plant and provided technical support for the system. However, each plant had needs that were not met by the system, but because every plant had different needs, corporate saw no reason to provide such a variety of solutions. Instead, it was up to each location to figure out the best way to meet the needs that were beyond the scope of corporate IT.
At each plant, employees were forced to come up with their own solutions. Some employees were adept at creating worksheets, while others taught themselves to create databases in MS Access. A handful of employees designed solutions in VB or dBase IV. The solutions were found, work went on and all was right with the world.
You probably know what happened next. Employees retired, resigned to take a job with another company or became ill. No one else knew how to use the stand-alone applications they had created or how to modify or expand them. Productivity slowed, and the current employees were forced to create new applications to do their job — and the cycle was repeated. It was obvious to all that the plant was in dire need of IT modernization, but no one knew just how to proceed.
In the meantime, the sales manager was becoming increasingly frustrated. Because the corporation viewed sales as the most critical department in the entire operation, sales budgets were always approved with virtually no questions. The sales manager, therefore, could not understand why the cost accountant, for example, or the production and planning department lacked the tools needed to provide him with whatever information he needed within minutes of his request. He began to pressure other department heads, who in turn pressured their employees. Morale fell to an all-time low, and employee turnover rose to an all-time high. Naturally, the turnover meant that once again, the stand-alone programs became orphans and the wheel had to be reinvented.
The cycle was broken when the sales manager heard that Salesforce was not just for sales. He recommended that other departments investigate a Salesforce solution. The plant manager and controller took his suggestion, adopted Salesforce and banished employee-generated stand-alone apps. There was great rejoicing as the manufacturer used Salesforce to increase employee productivity and operate more efficiently. Even the sales department reaped unexpected benefits.
On the Employee Side
Employees had access to powerful apps that helped them do their jobs more efficiently, including third-party apps built around Salesforce. Field personnel had access to the same data as office staff and at the same time — and they could access it from their favorite mobile device from any location. Audit compliance was made easier, as was meeting new regulations regarding data security. Employees at a plant in Florida could collaborate with their counterparts at the California plant with ease. The payroll department no longer had the stress of trying to round up time sheets for employees working in the field. Customer service reps had instant access to a caller’s complete order history, and they could also check product availability, determine when an out-of-stock item was scheduled to be produced and track shipments. The purchasing department could easily determine whether pending orders to vendors would be adequate to cover projected sales. The entire operation ran more efficiently, resulting in higher profits.
On the Customer Side
Today’s customers hold more power than they did in the past. Modern customers are empowered by the Internet in three ways. First, the Internet has allowed them to become more knowledgeable than in the past. Customers conduct research to determine the advantages and disadvantages of a particular brand or product. Second, customers can use social media sites and other online forums to report their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a company or a product — information that other consumers can find while they are conducting research and attempting to make a purchasing decision. Third, the Internet makes it easier for customers to find another company supplying a similar product — and they generally have little motivation to continue to buy from a company that has disappointed them.
Salesforce allowed the manufacturer to engage customers in a one-on-one manner that would have been impossible without modern technology. The manufacturer could provide superior customer service, “listen” to what customer were saying about the company on the social media sites and tailor marketing efforts to enhance their perceived strengths and eliminate their perceived shortcomings.
On the Distributor Side
Many manufacturers do not sell directly to the end buyer. Instead, products are sold to distributors or partners who then sell the products to the public. These distributors need a reason to stock Company A’s insulation instead of Company B’s or to give Company Z’s product the most strategic location within the store. Any competitor not favored by the distributor will likely be actively “courting” the distributor. Salesforce can support a partner community that offers distributors the ability to collaborate and communicate with the manufacturer, find support, access educational materials or earn rewards.
Everyone Worked Happily Ever After
Well — maybe they did, and maybe they did not. However, the issues were far more likely to involve who took someone’s lunch out of the refrigerator in the break room than how they could possibly find the data needed to compile a critical report by the end of the day.