Effectively Implementing QuickLink Email Integrations
In the first two installments in this 4-part blog series, we explored the best-practice organization of a B2B group in a well-run company using a Supply Chain Operating Network (SCON). We also described how a new B2B integration request comes into this kind of organization, and how it is processed through to go-live. In this third installment, we will explore how the process changes when the technology being deployed is Elemica’s QuickLink Email.
As a reminder, QuickLink Email is the Elemica technology that takes customer Purchase Orders sent via email, in any customer format (PDF, Excel, Word, flat file) and translates them to the Elemica client’s B2B format using a special intelligent mapping technique. Those electronic orders are then delivered to the Elemica client’s ERP system as if they were EDI orders. The beauty of the technology is that each customer can have its own format with its POs, and the customer does not have to be involved in the order automation at all. In fact, the emailed POs can be automated without the customer even being aware that the automation is occurring.
With QuickLink Email, often the Order Management rep will approach the B2B group with candidate customers for order automation. That is, once they have been trained on this Elemica technology, the Customer Service Reps (CSRs) know how to spot a customer whose orders can be automated in this fashion – good candidates are customers who always submit their POs via email, and always in the same format.
Sometimes the request for QuickLink Email will come from the reporting function within the B2B group (more about that in the next installment in this blog series). Via their detailed reporting, the group will spot customers with a large number of order lines, and recognize that this customer’s orders are arriving by email. Again, these could be good candidates for QuickLink Email automation.
In a best-practice Elemica B2B environment, there will be a B2B resource dedicated, or at least specialized in, the QuickLink Email automation process. Some Elemica clients have a single dedicated resource, and other larger clients who are deploying QuickLink Email by the dozens or by the hundreds of licenses have two or three dedicated resources on their B2B teams. This is critical, since the QuickLink Email implementation process is quite a bit different from the standard ERP-to-ERP type of B2B integration process. (The B2B group might also have one or more resources dedicated to their Web Shop, if they use a web-based portal for customers to place orders and monitor their progress.)
As a starter, these types of integrations typically do not get registered with the Project Management Office. That’s because QuickLink Email projects are fairly modest in duration, generally lasting only a few weeks, and most of the work is done by the B2B team and the CSR.
With a QuickLink Email implementation, the dedicated B2B person will normally validate that the customer is a good target for integration, by looking at the format of their emailed POs and ensuring that they are (1) machine-readable and (2) consistently follow the same format. Again, each customer will have their own customized PO format, but those POs must be consistent internally from one order to the next for this specific customer.
After the validation step, the dedicated B2B person will go to work on the Registration Form, which is a requirement of the QuickLink Email implementation process. The form captures all the relevant data about the customer and their POs, such as, who are the valid Buyers, what are the relevant products to be ordered, which Ship-To’s are allowed, and so on. The B2B person creates the first draft of this form, then sits down with the CSR to make sure all the details have been captured correctly.
Having validated the Form with the CSR, the dedicated B2B person then contacts Elemica directly for the next phase. The B2B person will leverage an existing budget for QuickLink Email implementations that has already been established with Elemica, or initiate a new budget with Elemica. Then the Elemica mapping begins, which typically takes only 2 days, and afterwards the B2B person begins testing the new map using existing Production orders. As a best practice the B2B person will involve the CSR only at the end of the process, as a final check that the electronic order in the Test ERP system matches up with the original customer order.
IT support is required only at the end of the QuickLink Email implementation process, to enable these setups in the Production environment. In a best-practice B2B organization, these changes can be effected very quickly and efficiently using a simple email request to IT.
And that’s it! The result is an operational QuickLink Email customer. The customer’s orders will now be automated from the supplier’s perspective – they will show up automatically in ERP, like EDI orders. The customer will continue to send their POs via email, just as they have always done, without even noticing that their orders are being automated by this particular supplier.
In the final installment in this blog series, we will explore an important but often over-looked role in the B2B team, the B2B reporting function.