– Your market is a highly competitive one. What does the demand depend on in such circumstances?
– The main determinants of demand in the canned meat market are the price and availability in food stores. Well-organized trade marketing activities are of big help when it comes to promotion. Just as always, the faster you are, the better the chance of success.
– How did you decide to start using process management?
– In the last few years, we widely expanded our production and the distribution network. However, with the growth of business we experienced the loss of management control. We sell our product through a wide distribution network, which involves sixty distributors working throughout the country as well as abroad. In each city where our products are distributed, we have a sales employee representing the plant. To attract the final customer and stimulate the sales, the sales reps organize incentive campaigns (trade marketing activities – editor’s note). The distributors run these campaigns using their own resources, and then we compensate the expenses. As our business expanded, the sales department grew larger. When there were over 35 sales reps working for us, we started to lose control over the situation: we launched the campaigns a week after they were coordinated and approved, there were constant delays in issuing letters of indemnity, and paperwork was not delivered on time. This became a real problem to us. A sales rep would launch five or seven campaigns and then forget to do the paperwork; as a result, the distributors would not have their expenses compensated. The whole process became very unhandy and uncoordinated: it took a lot of time and effort, people got confused, made errors, different departments of the company constantly argued and quarreled. Our administrative procedures were of no help, we desperately needed to start using automated business processes.
– Which processes you automated first?
– We tried to be consistent. First, we decided that the implementation had to start with the sales department. Then we began to think which process to automate first. After having considered seven or eight processes we selected the marketing activities process, it seemed to be the best choice to start with. The process is as follows: our sales rep arranges with a distributor to organize a campaign, gets the necessary information from them and sends it to the head office. In the office, the request is processed and an indemnity letter is issued so that the distributor is guaranteed to get back the money spent on campaign. Once the distributor receives this letter, the campaign is launched. When it is over, the distributor sends us a report on expenses, which we later compensate. The tasks that I have just described sum up to about a dozen. What is more, the process is asynchronous, because marketing activities can be organized and launched at any time. When the number of campaigns organized per month raised from twenty to over a hundred, things became too confusing for us. At that moment, we were using a classical electronic document management system with threads similar to a forum. Someone would specify the subject and the task, hold a team discussion and then start working. For budget monitoring, we used 1C. Our classical EDM system did not have a notification feature: it was not able to send a notification about the end of an event, or a reminder to submit a report.
In summer 2014, we finally recognized that traditional management methods did not work for us any longer and decided that we needed to automate our business process. We already knew which process to automate first, so all we needed was to select a BPM system. The situation was rather critical, and we looked for a system that could solve our problems fast. After having viewed and tested various systems, we understood that ELMA suited us best with its intuitive interface, fast technical support and reasonable prices.
– Why did you decide to implement ELMA independently?
– We had our own resources and a rather limited budget. In summer 2014, we bought a small number of licenses to start designing the processes on our own. We created a few support processes to see how to work with this software. When everything started to work out, we got down to the main issue. By September, we had modeled and automated the entire process. Moreover, we managed to simplify the process by using the ELMA integration module for 1C: it allowed us to create financial documents in 1C while completing tasks in ELMA. Three employees worked on this implementation project: the lead developer, C# programmer and 1C programmer.
Of course, in the course of work, we found and corrected many errors, and after a while, the process started to work smoothly.
– How did the employees react when they had to start using ELMA?
– In October 2014, all the personnel was officially obliged to use ELMA when initiating any marketing activities. After ELMA was put into operation, we individually trained the employees for six weeks. Of course, it wasn’t that easy in the beginning; we all know that sales people are not too keen on software programs.
– How would you evaluate the impact of ELMA implementation?
– Once we implemented ELMA, we noticed two types of changes. First, the quantity changes: By automating business processes, we managed to improve the workflow and started to spend 2-6 days less on launching our campaigns. Second, the quality changes: We put the number of ruined campaigns to a minimum and significantly reduced the time in which the distributors received their compensations. Now, the employees never forget to prepare the paperwork on time, and all the work is done according to the specific procedures.
How are you developing the system today?
– The first process that we automated has since then expanded and developed greatly. From being a simple process of registering and accounting the plan and fact values, it has turned into a tool for analyzing the performed activities, which implies evaluating each campaign and providing recommendations for the future. This has a great impact on the marketing of our plant, because it allows us to plan the activities considering all the aspects: region specifics, types of activities, and terms of the contracts with distributors. Right now, the implementation project is in its development stage. We have already implemented the logistics management block and are now ready to release a new process: receiving orders from customers and coordinating special terms such as prolongations, discounts, credit limit increase. The next objective is monitoring of receivables with SMS notifications about upcoming payment, comments about overdue receivables and coordination of actions when working out a solution.
-What are the most significant achievements that the plant has gained through this implementation project?
– With ELMA, it has become easy to forecast and control the company’s goals progress. Before we started using BPM, marketing activities only backed up sales. After we implemented ELMA, they became more transparent and flexible, and turned into a business driver. Speaking in general, the process-based approached gave us a major competitive advantage.
– What advice can you give to those who think of business processes implementation in their company?
– In the beginning, it might seem like too much work, but it becomes easier if you divide the project into different parts and implement the processes each after each. Implementing step-by-step is a lot easier for the users. If you give them 25 processes to deal with all at the same time, they will find it difficult and confusing and will lose a lot of time. That is why it is best to automate the processes keeping in mind the capability of the employees to comprehend the new approach. The speed at which the developers can do their work and prepare the processes is less important. Of course, this is not the only strategy, but for us it was the only right way to get the project running.