Placing Spreadsheet Orders Directly into SAP

Written March 30th, 2010 by
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If you think of yourself as a car company, you’re destined to produce nothing but cars.  However, if you think of yourself as a Consumer Electronics Company, as Fast Company magazine just dubbed the Ford Motor Company, you’re free to produce cloud enable entertainment centers that can take you places.

Sterling Commerce and GXS recently funded a private Forrester Research study entitled “Joint Industry EDI/B2B Survey”.  Since both companies have a vested interest in helping companies move documents around within their Supply Chains, it should come as no surprise that they uncovered the fact that companies aren’t doing a great job of exchanging documents with their partners.

Wow!  How convenient :-).

One of the more interesting findings was that 95% of the survey’s respondents report that they use Microsoft Excel (or similar format) for some, or all, of their B2B transactions.

So, GXS takes advantage of this study to promote their solution that automates the exchange of spreadsheets.  That’s a great solution for manufacturers who have to work with suppliers around the world who run their businesses on spreadsheets.

But what about SAP Manufacturers who want to receive orders from their customers.  Isn’t there a simpler way to consume spreadsheet based orders?

I think we’ve invented a better solution and it has the zen-like quality that in order to “move spreadsheets around quicker and more reliably” you really shouldn’t be moving them around at all.

Here is what’s wrong with a customer shipping a spreadsheet based order to a supplier.

That order has latent issues within it that will only be uncovered after they are received by you, the supplier, and you attempt to enter it into your SAP system.   Depending on your customer service hours of operations and your customer’s native time zones, that could be hours or days after they send you their order. Some of those order “issues” could be bad part numbers, invalid shipping
addresses, product unavailability, incorrect pricing or shipping
methods etc.

If you’re lucky, you’ll uncover and resolve these issues with your customer before the order is placed and fulfilled.  If you’re not so lucky, as one company recently shared with me, you’ll end up with over 2500 bad orders per year and you’ll have to eat $6M worth of lost revenue/cost to deal with them.

Ouch!

The best solution is to make your customer aware of issues with their order in real time and have them  correct them, right then and there.

But here’s the rub.  Your customers don’t want to re-key their orders into your  SAP Integrated B2B Order Management Website, but they do want the real time feedback about their order.  And we couldn’t agree more.  So we’ve given them the capability to upload their spreadsheets directly into SAP by uploading it into our shopping cart which is then integrated with SAP.  Now they can run an “order simulate” and begin the process of cleaning up their order themselves.

I created the following demonstration of this capability exactly one year ago:

In the last two weeks alone, this feature was used 58 times at just one of our clients. This represents close to 5% of all their website orders for that time period.  While that may not seem like much, it represents a disproportionate percentage of revenue generated because the upload spreadsheet feature is used mostly by customers who place many line items per order.  On average, during this time period, we consumed orders with 77 line items, with the average range spanning from 5 – 113 line items.

UploadedOrders

So, what’s the best way of ensuring that spreadsheet based orders make it into your SAP system as safe, quick and accurate as possible?

Cut out the middle layers.

Don’t send it.  Don’t translate it. Don’t build logic into it.

Just upload it into our secure SAP integrated shopping cart and let SAP do the rest.

As for Ford, they’ve bet their foray into Consumer Electronics on Microsoft’s operating system.  Good luck with that :-).

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