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SharePoint makes businesses flexible, responsive and competitive

Today, most large businesses of scale with global operations have created unified processes within their organizations across geographies that help achieve internal efficiency and optimize costs to serve customer requirements. The tool of choice has been SAP, the market leader in ERP that ensured Line of Business’ (LOB) and geographies follow governance mandated by Corporate Headquarters.

However, evolution in consumer tastes and changing customer preferences in today’s global economy have created a unique need for these large organizations to be responsive locally without compromising on response time or quality. Inability to quickly respond to changing demands within isolated LOBs or geographies often result in poorer customer satisfaction for these organizations. Consequently, small nimble players carve a niche for themselves in these LOB's or Geographies impacting businesses of these large players.

How can these large organizations become more flexible?
One way is for the LOB's or geographies to go up the corporate chain, to ask for the changes. Corporate can evaluate all the geographies and suggest back to LOB's what is possible. This approach however, compromises on the flexibility required by LOB's or geographies to make swift changes.
Another way to manage this situation is to make changes at the ERP level. The downside of this is the need for a long project to implement these changes. The pitfall is that by the time project nears completion consumer taste would have further evolved rendering such projects costly and useless. We have recent examples of such instances when Blackberry came out with a QNX OS or when Nokia took time to move away from Symbian. These were good projects that just ran out of time.

Given such shortcomings Corporate HQ might want to give more authority to LOB's and Geographies to decide at their level and implement changes that adequately respond to predictive customer changes. However, too much autonomy is fraught with risks to corporate resulting in unwanted monetary loss or credibility issues that might eventually impact market capitalization (Eg. Walmart in Mexico).

Within this context, the best way forward seems to be creating flexibility while retaining control. This however, is very difficult to achieve within the current ERP model of governance (Oracle, SAP, NetSuite et al).

However, we have successfully helped clients make this transition whereby they embraced a flexible technology that tied well with existing ERPs. SharePoint was the answer. SharePoint emerged as the layer between ERPs and the fast changing LOBs and geographies.

How SharePoint helps is that it is able to create Composite Content applications, which uses the SAP's corporate structure to bring the right amount of flexibility to the LOB's / Geographies to enable quick changes at the local level while adhering to corporate governance requirements. This is complements by an ERP Link Platform that helps bring local changes in a swift fashion to meet customer or client preferences. The applications suites from ERP Link, which goes by Intellidocx, expedite the application level changes for the LOB's and Geographies eventually creating businesses that are nimble and responsive to customer requirements

Power up the FMCG supply chain using SAP-SharePoint

A global FMCG company does business through a complex mesh of manufacturing, distribution and transaction points. The effective functioning of this supply chain –consisting of a a system of organizations, people, technology, activities, information and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer – is the backbone of a FMCG business. To illustrate with an example, if a FMCG business has to cover the entire range of countries in South East Asia it could easily have a thousand delivery points and a few hundred manufacturing plants. In such an environment, supply chain responsiveness is the key for a productive FMCG business.

Enhancing Supply Chain Responsiveness

At a global scale FMCG businesses easily operate a network of suppliers who provide a variety of raw and packaging materials that generates hundreds of different finished products. After manufacturing, the delivery happens to a diversified network of distribution centers and key customers. This undoubtedly is cost intensive and the challenge is to maximize profitability without compromising on customer service. Either businesses’ try to increase sales volumes and margins, which is not always feasible in an intensely competitive environment or the other alternative is to lower inventory levels and reduce lead-times. To be able to do so, it is important to maintain very high levels of accuracy on raw and packagin g material supplier’s delivery schedules and also have a well-balanced inventory of finished goods.

Challenges to building a streamlined supply chain network

In such a scenario, boosting the supply chain network by overcoming following challenges will significantly enhance business prospects. Such challenges are,

  • Finding and adopting a cost effective manufacturing and packaging processes
  • Optimizing the supply chain network and managing deliveries to support smaller and frequent orders (JIT - Just in time)
  • Introducing flexibility in the expensive supply chain processes
  • Capacity utilization of the total warehouse and resources/work centers.
  • Transport optimization of inbound and outbound flows
  • Effective usage of Auto-ID technology
  • Simplification of supply chain infrastructure

In addition, continuous manufacturing operations have to be carried out with optimal resource use, problems need to be anticipated and resolved, and, there should also be the provision for having consolidated and trustable information which is available quickly.The backbone of such a supply operation is automated and integrated processes.

The Technology Enabled Supply Chain

IT Systems and Processes have now made it possible to respond effectively to all these issues in supply chain efficiency. This is where SAP and SharePoint collaboration empower FMCG manufacturers to easily integrate additional participants in their value network and respond swiftly to changing MARKET conditions. With SharePoint it is possible to securely share design, product, process and inventory information, for example, to all stakeholders across the fulfillment lifecycle. ERP-Link tool provides a bidirectional and interoperable functionality that tightly integrates SAP with SharePoint and is essentially the key for the entire technology enabled efficiency. By leveraging this functionality SharePoint could be used as a fully transactional ECM system with workflow enablement. SAP could be used as the system of records. Using this connectivity feature, practitioners gain access to performance-driven dashboards in SharePoint, using SAP and SharePoint data, tailored to their role that guide them through personalized metrics to handle exceptions promptly. The dashboards empower these end users with Situational Business Insight to quickly determine the root cause of the issues flagged.

SharePoint can also be leveraged aggressively for streamlining the Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) process, another top priority for manufacturers. It can help manufacturers overcome the reliance on traditional methods of using Excel, PowerPoint and other desktop tools for information SHARING and analysis. It is error prone given the involvement of multiple cross functional teams. Using this functionality user could execute transactions, enable workflows, create approvals, and view KPIs on a mobile device without connecting to the native systems. This feature is especially useful for professionals in the field, who real time data and need quick turnarounds.

As businesses look for smart solutions to make their operations effective and efficient products such as SAP-ERP Link-SharePoint will see increased adoption because of its practical ability to solve supply chain problems in flexible ways. It will maximize productivity and power up the all links in the supply chain.