Effective Reporting in the B2B Organization
In the first three 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, both for EDI/XML orders as well as by Elemica’s QuickLink Email.
In this final installment, we will explore an important but often over-looked role in the B2B team, the reporting function. As we will see, this function is critical to continuously monitoring and improving the performance of the B2B group.
What is meant by “reporting” is dedicating one of the resources in your B2B group to monitor and analyze your universe of B2B connections, both direct-connections as well as QuickLink Email automations. Nothing stays the same in this world; everything is either improving or deteriorating, and your set of B2B connections is the same. Either an increased volume of orders is flowing through the connection for a given customer, or the volume is going down. Monitoring those trends and taking action is the function of the B2B reporting resource.
Lots of things can happen with the customer to cause a sudden or gradual reduction in the number of orders received. The customer may have made an upgrade to their ERP system, which caused their EDI traffic to start flowing. The customer may have been acquired. The customer may have simply decided not to order via your Web Shop anymore, or via the automated connection. Or they may have changed the format of the POs they send by email. Any number of internal changes may have driven changes to the customer’s orders.
One of the key duties of the B2B Reporting function is to detect these changes, and address them with the Order Management group as well as the other members of the B2B team. It could be that there are valid reasons for the drop in volume, e.g., spin-off of one of the customer’s business units. But it could be that there is something to be done by the combined Order Management / B2B team that will improve the order flow – even simply discussing the situation with the customer on the phone.
Another important duty of B2B Reporting is to identify candidates for QuickLink Email automation. Using their detailed reporting, the B2B Reporting analyst will spot customers with a large number of order lines, and recognize that this customer’s orders are arriving by email. By sitting down with the CSR for the account and the QuickLink Email on-boarding specialist, these customers can be added to the queue for automation and thus greater efficiency of order processing for the customer.
I have one client who sets goals for No-Touch Orders. They consider an order to be truly No-Touch only if it is automated all the way through to Automated Delivery Creation. (Some orders could move to the next step of automated invoice as well.) In this environment, one of the tasks of B2B Reporting is to continuously monitor the volumes of no-touch orders, and report on the reasons why some orders don’t qualify as No-Touch. They even look at specific categories of “touches”, and work on how to reduce those touches. Increasing the volume of touch-free orders brings huge efficiencies and cost savings to this particular client, making it well worthwhile to make the effort to continuously improve the no-touch orders, and reporting and analysis is a key component of that effort.
As one client said, “the B2B Reporting function is absolutely crucial. Otherwise, how would we know where we stand towards our goals? How would we know which new customers to target for automation? And how would we know how to make improvements?”
And that completes the picture of the best-practice B2B organization, in our experience. I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed this blog series, and that it has been useful in helping you think about your own B2B group and how it should evolve over time.