It is unfortunate that discussion in the media regarding the benefits of cloud computing has primarily focused on cost savings and the related ability of companies with smaller budgets to essentially rent by the hour the kind of computing capabilities that more well-funded organizations employ. To be sure, both points are valid—cloud computing capabilities are less expensive to implement and do help equalize the playing field between IT departments of varying budget size. However, these benefits are only periphery compared to the most game-changing benefit of the cloud: the ability to collaborate in real time.
Beyond cost savings, the real value of cloud computing is its ability to facilitate collaboration across all business units—an ability that becomes increasingly important as businesses are spread across the globe. Cloud-based solutions are web-based and offer a real-time, single view of what is going on; they provide a kind of visibility and cohesion that on-premise software simply cannot provide, no matter what the department’s budget is and how powerful the mainframes are.
There are many business functions that, although they may have been practiced for decades, are difficult, if not impossible, to carry out effectively without leveraging the cloud. For example, accurate forecasting—which requires the constant, real-time input of numerous parties in numerous locations—requires a kind of global visibility and information sharing that can be achieved only in the cloud. As the benefits of companywide visibility and the ability to freely share information include lower supply chain costs, higher inventory turns, improved customer service, manufacturing efficiency and higher profitability, companies—even those that can readily afford huge mainframes and multimillion-dollar implementations—can hardly afford to dismiss cloud computing as a trend.
As the speed of the business cycle continues to accelerate, companies can increase their agility by creating a system in which disparate departments across the globe that normally do not even communicate can share information on which to base decisions. In this way, the cloud and other flexible technologies can dissolve departmental barriers that tend to silo information and keep decision makers in the dark.
Such is the case with Gates Corporation, a global, diversified industrial business, which recently worked with Bluewolf, a business consulting firm, to meet its need to automate and track a complex sales cycle across its entire global operation. Ultimately, Gates was able to generate metrics on customer interactions to give senior management a 360-degree view of the status of leads and proposals.
With operations in 29 countries, Denver, Colorado, USA-based Gates is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of industrial and automotive products. Recently, the company needed to enhance its ability to automate and track a complex sales cycle across global operations. Since Gates could not efficiently generate metrics on customer interactions, sales personnel could not easily view the status of leads. This deficiency delayed the time it took to close deals.
“We needed a CRM system that would allow us to establish worldwide standards, but which also featured the ability to customize processes for each region,” says Karl Moritz, senior vice president at Gates. “This was particularly challenging with offices on several continents. Cultures and processes vary widely.”
To take on this challenge, Gates Corporation decided to deploy the cloud-based Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) solution, which offers flexibility to adapt to particular sales processes. In addition to providing a CRM platform that supports global operations, Salesforce also offers features that can be tailored for specific industries, such as manufacturing. For help in deploying Salesforce, Gates turned to Bluewolf. The “blueprint” approach, which is designed to help an organization gain a clear vision of its cloud-implementation requirements, timelines and switching costs, and which consists of specific process strategy definitions and optimizations, was used to help Gates determine how to move forward. In this case, it was determined to deploy Salesforce CRM in one region at a time, and to have customized processes that matched the local sales requirements of each region.
“A global implementation like ours is complex,” Moritz explains. “The European region itself has five localized languages, as well as needs specific to our business that include sales processing, customer-interaction tracking and sales forecast analysis. Bluewolf’s expertise and the blueprint approach, combined with Salesforce, met our requirements with enough flexibility to adapt to the local needs of each region.”
To ensure the success of the rollout, pilot tests were deployed within each region before the entire region was brought online. In addition to customizing Salesforce for the needs of each region, all of the data from the previous CRM solution used by Gates were transferred, and onsite, end-user training was coordinated and localized for each country.
The first region in which Gates rolled out the Salesforce CRM solution was North America, followed by the Middle East. In each region, the system was designed to match local requirements. In some cases, regions tested two configurations and then decided on the more useful one for their business model. Once the configuration was finalized, all users were given access to it. To ensure the ongoing success of the Salesforce CRM deployment, Gates is also taking advantage of Bluewolf’s Managed IT Services. As a subscription program, the service monitors Salesforce CRM to make sure it performs at optimal levels for Gates and adapts to the changing needs of each regional sales team.
As a result of this implementation, Gates has improved its efficiency at managing and following up on leads, which has led to the ability to close proposals more quickly and to generate increased revenue. “The ability to adapt Salesforce to match our needs was critical in achieving these goals,” Moritz says. “In addition to planning and implementing, Bluewolf helped us with translating the processes across each region’s culture.”
In addition, the new system provides managers with the ability to see how well their sales representatives pursue leads. This capability enabled Gates to create a follow-up incentive program. As a result, the effectiveness of prospect follow-ups has improved greatly.
Gates leadership has recognized the value of the Salesforce CRM solution to the extent that the team has repurposed the global, internal and professional sales training program not only to include CRM, but also to position Salesforce CRM as the centerpiece of the sales reporting strategy. “We view this Salesforce CRM solution as the foundational element of our plans to systematically deploy other customer information portals in the near future,” Moritz says.
Leveraging cloud-based CRM, Gates is now more efficient at managing and following up on leads, and has accelerated its account-opening process. These competencies enable proposals to close more quickly and generate increased revenue.
Eric Berridge is cofounder and principal of the business consulting firm Bluewolf, which provides life cycle innovation, cloud implementations, IT staffing, managed services and other services to sync business and IT for efficient, adaptive performance. He also coauthored the book Iterate or Die along with Bluewolf cofounder Michael Kirven.
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