What is a workflow?
Put simply, a workflow is a sequence of steps through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion. They are often created in order to automate or standardize complicated, multi-step processes across an organization. In the B2B eCommerce world, for example, a workflow could be used to guide the checkout process from order submission to payment, or to simplify the process of submitting a quick order form or a request for a quote, as well as much more.
Why it’s important in B2B eCommerce
There are many processes within the eCommerce world (and specifically in B2B eCommerce) that should be managed by a flexible workflow engine in order to support the exact needs of a company. In contrast to B2C eCommerce, where processes and flows are dictated by the seller, the processes in B2B eCommerce workflows (including those that determine how users checkout, request quotes, submit proposals, fill out quick order forms, and much more) are all dictated by the buyer. In addition, there are many B2B eCommerce use cases where certain actions, such as overdue invoices and un-submitted orders, trigger unique workflows that are nonexistent in B2C eCommerce.
To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at a purchasing/checkout workflow. In B2B eCommerce, different business buyers may have very different purchasing and approval processes. In one company, for instance, a buyer may be able to go through the entire purchasing process with no reviews and/or checkpoints. However, a buyer in another company may have to first send his order to his manager for approval if the total order cost is above a certain amount. To simplify this process, their manager/admin user can create a customized workflow that will prevent the buyer from continuing without first sending the order out for approval. Only after the manager has received the request and approved the order will the buyer be able to continue the checkout process.
Other companies may want to create a workflow for an entirely different reason. For instance, say a buyer has created an order valued at more than $50,000, but they still have not proceeded with it, even though a week or longer has passed. In response, a company can configure their system to trigger a workflow that sends an alert to the seller reminding them to follow up with that buyer and help him complete their order.
The mass digitization of operational processes is in a full swing nowadays. Organizations eventually recognize digital transformation benefits as they try to fulfill expectations of millennials, these truly demanding customers and new market makers. Against the backdrop of the digital era consumers looking for personalized web interfaces, 24/7 availability, real-time-interaction, and overall seamless customer experience, companies are bound to revise their entire business processes for improvements and tap into the potential of digital technologies and digitizing workflows.
Transformation of workflows (i.e. sequenced steps to be followed each time a certain business activity needs to be performed) is one of proven methods to improve all facets of your organization and increase its business productivity.
Business Digitization Is More Than Automation
Business digitization doesn’t distill down to a simple automation of company’s inner processes or use of online channels to engage customers. By digitizing workflows businesses reduce the number of actions required to accomplish a task, cut down on paperwork, facilitate error-free functioning, avoid performance inconsistencies, and improve staff productivity. Keeping some of business routines undigitized might simply cause a mess or even have business critical impact.
A pre-sales workflow involving processing leads is an appropriate example here. Every sales rep needs to make sure that they do not forget to qualify, reach out to and then follow up all the leads in their list. After that in case some of them get converted into opportunities the management would require to follow certain rules before the opportunity can be resolved into won or lost status, namely – specify the budget of the opportunity; reason of client’s refusal in case an opportunity was lost. When managing it all manually the sales reps have to face a lot of stress trying not to forget to input all the required data; and the management team in their turn often get frustrated as they get incorrect or dirty data in their reports due to the mistakes their sales team members commit. It all looks like a huge pain when you are trying to manage it without a proper digital solution, but once you adopt one you almost instantly forget that sales workflow tracking has ever been an issue so intuitive and smooth it all becomes.
Another example is managing high volume discounts or big bulk orders. Most of businesses would have to handle those according to a separate alternative flow. Usually it would mean that a certain sales rep would have to collect all the necessary data about the client and the order, trying not to forget any crucial info, and pass it to the higher standing manager for review and approval. Digitization of this business workflow can save the management from worrying if any of big orders and discounts slip by them unapproved, (as they would be automatically alerted once those come up) and save the sales reps from the turmoil of collecting all the necessary client and order info (as the system would automatically pull it all up for him).
Digital Transformation by Digitizing Workflows
Business customers nowadays are looking for the same seamless customer experience the B2C shoppers enjoy online. The B2B customers have already moved to the digital space: according to one of the in-depth B2B procurement studies, 94% of B2B buyers tend to research online for purchase decisions.
Organizations having commerce transactions with other businesses need to follow the digital paths their customers are already used to not to lose the sight of them and increase their sphere of prospects.
The total spend on commerce and order management platforms in the U.S. alone is predicted to amount $2.1 B in 2019, as per the Forrester Wave. This means the growth in B2B sales provokes high investments from your competitors, so if it’s not you who acknowledges an inevitable digitization, then it’s your business rival who does.
How exactly B2B companies can leverage digitizing workflows for their processes? What areas require digitization in the first place? We suggest these are the following:
Digitizing your inventory management will allow to keep track of the merchandize stored across your warehouses so that only the most up to date product info such as item availability is displayed to your customers in the webstore. With the help of an ERP system, e.g. solution by Akeneo, or OroPlatform-based solution Marello, you can control the stock, make sure you’re not running out of any crucial product in any point of sale and keep your inventory balanced due to the ability to forecast the stock you’ll need in the next month or two.
By digitizing your contracts approval and overview procedures you streamline the entire contract management process. Reviewing, approving and retrieving contracts becomes much easier and controlled. Your staff gets the administrative burden off their shoulders and can focus on tasks truly requiring their professional expertise. Specialized contract management software that can be found on review sites like GetApp, could be the first solution, however, you may not always want to acquire a standalone product to digitize the processes around your contracts. Some other business applications you may be already using, for example, a CRM system, also provides this option. Some B2B eCommerce solutions such as OroCommerce allow to set up various system access levels so that only authorized users could create and approve major contracts. Besides, it’s possible to configure personalized product lists and alternative checkout for bulk purchases.
Customer Interactions and Sales Activities
With your customer service and sales workflow digitized, you and your workforce can obtain an instant and holistic 360-degree customer view. All the customer data gets centralized, every single interaction is captured and all your teams are synced. A nature born software addressing the need for a digitized customer service and sales activities is obviously a CRM system. The benefits of incorporating a CRM system can usually be easily seen, as among other things a CRM solution facilitates sales and leads flow tracking. One of Oro customers reported an increase in their marketing campaigns ROI by more than 1,000% on average in just about 3 months after they implemented OroCRM.
Accounting and Billing
Having your accounting operations digitized will help you efficiently manage and easily perform your accounting tasks and business transactions. Bookkeeping software like QuickBooks we have integrated with OroCRM will streamline typical processing operations such as customer invoicing, tracking bills and expenses, and makes monitoring your sales and accounting reps easy and painless procedure.
To maximize the value of each customer and successfully market them, businesses should know who their clients actually are. Knowing your customer base habits and typical behaviours you can then refine your personalization strategies. Without digitizing the customer data this would be nearly impossible. A bundle of both eCommerce platform and a CRM software might be a proper solution enabling you to significantly personalize your customer approach. While the CRM functionalities can be used for customer segmentation to create specific target groups, the eCommerce platform capabilities allow to set up personalized catalogs and customized price lists for these audiences.
Analytics and Tracking
Comprehensive eCommerce dashboards available in best-in-class CRM products are the key to meaningful analytics. Based on data aggregated within a CRM, managers can build and analyze any charts and graphs they deem important, such as revenues, sales force teams’ pipeline and activities, lost sales, etc., to best understand their business performance and identify areas where optimization is needed.
How B2B eCommerce workflows are done in OroCommerce
Both B2B buyers and sellers rely on multiple processes and workflows each day to make sure their job is done correctly. The seller must allow buyers to work in accordance with their own corporate processes, as well as make sure they have the workflows in place to support them. Even more importantly, the buyer must give each of his customers and their business units the ability to follow the exact workflow they require in order to complete their tasks.
With OroCommerce, the seller can create unlimited workflows for each of their customers. To do so, they only need to navigate to the System menu, then select ‘workflow.’ The screen will then display all of the available existing workflows. At this point, the user can create as many new workflows as they require, each with as many steps as they need. Selecting a workflow will display the entire sequence of steps and transitions in both a table and an interactive diagram format.
The digital transformation benefits will not be long in coming. Companies refraining from paper based processes and digitizing workflows can diminish the number of steps previously required to function, improve the turnaround times, significantly increase the efficiency of their businesses, and eventually reduce operational costs. Performance-optimized business software such as CRM, eCommerce platforms, and ERP solutions will help organizations build robust digitized environments, streamline and scale their business operations, and make these consistent and secure.
About Oro, Inc.
Oro, Inc. was founded in 2012 by industry leaders in open-source business applications and is the software company behind OroCommerce, OroCRM and OroPlatform.
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