CRM giant Salesforce is making a big expansion today in its four-year-old industry clouds strategy with the launch of two new offerings tailored to the manufacturing and consumer packaged goods (CPG) industries. Based on the experience with earlier industry clouds, the new products will bring new customers on board, says Neeracha Taychakhoonavud, SVP of Industries at Salesforce, who spoke to us a few days ago:
The fact we're releasing a product for the industry, customers have perceived that so well. It shows we're investing deeply at the product level. That has made a difference at the prospect level in Financial Services Cloud and Health Cloud.
Salesforce is now looking to see the same effect take hold in two very big industries. Manufacturing Cloud is targeting a broad swathe of prospects across discrete and process manufacturing, while the Consumer Products Cloud is designed to appeal to any brand that sells through retail stores. As with previous industry solutions, the new offerings are very narrowly focused on sales-related processes that are specific to each industry.
Salesforce believes it has identified processes that are currently executed in very manual and ad-hoc ways, with a lot of use of spreadsheets, note-taking and emails going back and forth. There's also the opportunity to add better analytics by bringing all the data together in one place. In the case of manufacturing, there's a huge opportunity to make a difference just by enabling faster data sharing and decision making between sales and operations, says Taychakhoonavud:
There's a lot of things passed around manually. That's a lot of what we bring, and the ability to communicate in real time. If you pass documents around you're losing the ability for an engineer or an account manager in the field to collaborate.
While manufacturing is often seen as a laggard in adopting modern IT solutions, especially when cloud-based, many manufacturers now see the opportunity to engage with customers more proactively using digital technology, she adds.
The imperative has been around automation and figuring out how to understand the end customers better so they can deliver the right features and experience ... The early adopters will be those that understand some transformation has to occur, and that collaboration across the whole team is going to be necessary to manage their business going forward.
The new Manufacturing Cloud offers two new applications. One provides a 'single source of truth' for sales agreements, making it easier to see planned, committed and actual order volumes and revenues and to map performance against forecast. There's also the option to add an industry-specific Community Cloud template for collaboration with partners on sales agreements. The second application provides account-based forecasting of current business and future opportunities, allowing the team to collaborate and adjust forecasts in real-time for better predictability.
The Consumer Goods Cloud provides retail execution capabilities. It's designed to help automate and streamline the tasks carried out by consumer goods field reps the people who go out to stores and monitor how the in-store merchandising and marketing agreed with retailers is being carried out. It includes functions to help them plan their day's visits, and to use their mobile phone to carry out in-store checks and capture orders and data during each visit. There's also a new tailored version of Einstein Vision that automatically analyzes shelf contents and provides an instant report on how it's set up, speeding up an often laborious task.
With the continuing prevalence of products going out-of-stock, brands need to do this in-store monitoring more efficiently so that they can capture those missed sales, as well as making sure their brand is being correctly represented. While a lot of focus in CPG has gone into optimizing supply chains, Salesforce believes retail execution has become the missing link. Taychakhoonavud sums up:
How you deliver that perfect shelf and selling smarter through that channel, that's really what the Consumer Goods Cloud is focused on.
Salesforce has already had some exposure to this aspect of the CPG market through partnership with Accenture, which rebuilt its CAS trade promotion management software to run on the Salesforce Platform. Accenture has been a pilot partner for the new Salesforce application, which adds retail execution and forecasting to work alongside the trade promotion element.
At diginomica, we think a lot about what we call connected manufacturing. While this also encompasses the new frontiers of Internet of Things, 3D printing, augmented reality and so on, the bigger part of it is simply connecting up everyday activities more effectively. Salesforce's new Manufacturing Cloud is very clearly focused on the latter part.
It's evident that there are many processes in manufacturing that still largely rely on shuffling around bits of paper — or their modern equivalents, disconnected spreadsheets and emails. I recently heard from precision manufacturer Doncasters Group, which has built its own custom applications on Salesforce to streamline processes such as new product development and introduction, project control, capital expenditure projects, and order acceptance. Digitizing just one of those processes eliminated an estimated 46 miles of paper-passing and 10,000 manual signatures each year, speeding the process by 75% and saving more than 750 hours of administration and management time annually.
There is clearly low-hanging fruit here that Salesforce can target with its prebuilt processes. They won't suit everyone, but they will help many businesses modernize processes that let them focus more intently on delivering what customers want. In a world where long-term survival depends on how well businesses engage with customers, collaborate teams and streamline internal processes, there's a ready market for such offerings.