Global manufacturers must solve the challenge of supporting dealers and distributors in multiple languages and currencies. Here are 6 key steps to leverage economies of scale for success.
Global manufacturers encounter a unique challenge when it comes to B2B portals. If you have multiple divisions, product lines, or sales areas, you may need a B2B portal for each. But it’s incredibly challenging to deliver all these portals, plus integration to SAP ERP, with the IT resources you have on staff.
For some companies, it’s not just challenging. It’s impossible.
And yet you need those B2B portals. How can you move forward?
The key is to leverage economies of scale for the portal technology. When you choose a reusable SAP integration architecture, it’s actually quite easy to launch one portal first, then reuse that investment for spinoff sites.
Here’s a high-level, 6-part plan for executing your global B2B portal program.
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1. Choose a platform that includes SAP integration
If you want to leverage economies of scale, then you’ll need to choose your platform carefully.
Conventional B2B portal platforms don’t include SAP ERP integration. They’re built as standalone solutions, and they require middleware connectors to pass data between the portal and the ERP.
If you’re going to launch several portals around the globe, you’ll need to implement a separate ERP connector for each portal. As your business evolves, your business logic will change, and you’ll have to update it separately in every connector and portal solution.
Over time, that becomes a huge burden for IT. When data errors multiply, they create a bad customer experience. Ultimately, these issues can threaten customer relationships.
So what’s the alternative?
Look for a B2B portal platform that includes templatized SAP integration.
By “templatized,” we mean two things:
- The built-in integration package contains everything you’ll need (and it conforms to best practices for SAP ERP configuration).
- The integrated portal architecture can support multiple “spinoff” sites. In other words, you can purchase and implement the architecture once, then run as many portals as you need on that same architecture without a large additional investment.
A word to the wise: It’s hard to find this kind of solution. Corevist is unique in this area. Our platform is built to empower manufacturers who need numerous portals but don’t have the IT resources to support a custom integration for each one.
Assuming you’ve chosen a solution like this, you can move on to the next step.
2. Start with the right business unit
Take a look at your divisions. Think about the business rules that govern each one—things like pricing rules, inventory calculations, credit rules, order creation rules, and so on.
Which business unit looks the most like a template for your other business units?
Which one offers the most reusability in business logic?
Think of this business unit like a big brother for all the others. This division defines the SAP configurations and best practices that your organization prefers.
It’s also the perfect candidate for your flagship B2B portal. When you roll out to this business unit first, you’ll have the opportunity to configure the portal solution (and integration) to match your organization’s best practices. With your integrated portal architecture configured this way, you’ll build value into it that you can reuse in spinoff sites for your other divisions.
Once you’ve chosen the business unit for your flagship implementation, it’s time to start that first project.
3. Launch in your first division and learn the ropes
Here’s a little secret: You’ll hit some bumps in the road as you launch your first B2B portal.
In fact, there’s no way to avoid them.
But it’s better to hit those bumps with your first portal—before you launch your global program.
This is one reason why the iterative approach is so valuable. It gives your organization an opportunity to experiment with digital business in a low-risk scenario.
If you’ve only invested in one B2B portal, and you’re only working with one division or customer segment, you have a great opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t. Your organization will encounter its own unique pitfalls and opportunities, and you want to do that with minimal impact to the business as a whole.
In this phase, you want to run your first B2B portal for 6-12 months. Engage customers for feedback and collaboration. Monitor the impact of the portal on operations (like cost savings in customer service) and revenue generation. The more information you gather during this phase, the more value you can share with your other business units to prepare them for digital interaction with customers.
4. Share learnings with other business units
Now it’s time to put on your collaboration hat. 😉
After you’ve run your flagship B2B portal for 6 months or a year, you’ll have all kinds of information. You’ll know what works (and what doesn’t) for your customers, your market, and your company.
Now it’s time to share your learnings with the additional business units that are getting a B2B portal.
You’ll want to make this a coordinated effort. As much as possible, you should bring in stakeholders from every division to the same meetings. In each gathering, share a topical learning that’s relevant to all and open the floor for discussion. Prepare guidebook materials that reiterate this information, and make everything available to all participants.
Stress comes from confusion, and your divisional stakeholders will appreciate the guidance they get from this process. When you provide a vision and structure for the B2B portal program, people will rally to the cause. The key is to make everything simple, clear, and logical—and to demonstrate the business value that each division will get from their B2B portal.
Once business leaders have bought in, it’s time to cover the IT side of your global rollout.
5. Align everyone with your flagship implementation
Remember how you chose the “most representative” business unit as a starting point?
Now it’s time to deal with the outlying divisions and their business rules. Chances are, they have a few differences from your flagship division. You’ll need to identify these differences and sort them into two categories.
- Unique business rules that can’t be changed. These are non-negotiable SAP ERP configurations, perhaps due to government regulation or the unique cultural expectations of different regions.
- Differences that can be harmonized. SAP ERP is incredibly complex, and configurations can get out of hand through years of alteration. If your other divisions have messy SAP configurations, or business rules that live in “tribal knowledge” rather than in SAP, you’ll want to identify those issues and place them in this category.
You can’t change the first category. These SAP configurations will have to stay as they are. In the case of a solution like Corevist, your B2B portal partner may be able to tweak the configurations of separate portals to accommodate these differences.
The second category should be addressed. An integrated B2B portal program pushes you to clean up your ERP implementation, and that’s a great thing—both for customers, and for your internal processes.
6. Reuse architecture for other business units
Once you’ve made any required ERP configuration changes, you’re ready to roll out in subsequent divisions. An architecture like Corevist makes this incredibly easy. Everything is reusable, including that built-in SAP integration that’s been configured to your organizational preferences. As you launch in additional geographies, you begin to leverage economies of scale. Due to our unique SAP integration architecture, you can grow global revenue in the portal without linear cost scaling.