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Front-office transformation in chemical manufacturing: Navigating pitfalls and legacy IT

Jan 5, 2021 | Admin, Latest News, Manufacturing, Sales Cloud

In a recent panel discussion, Drivers for change: Why it’s time to join the modern chemical revolution, industry leaders Michael Janney from Salesforce, Tom Lovell from Simplus, and Elina Peuhkurinen from Fluido shared experiential insights about the state of digital transformation at process manufacturers today. From common pitfalls they’ve seen clients make and how you can avoid them to the best ways to approach legacy IT to optimize your business, it was a can’t-miss session. 

Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from their insights here:


The CRM market for chemical manufacturers

Previously, the chemical manufacturer’s focus was on product and quality alone. While still critical, the focus has expanded to include the customer relationship. Our expert panel discussed how chemical manufacturers tend to be some of the most mature when it comes to back-office operational technology, but that the changing landscape demands that same level of sophistication carries over to the front office as well. 

A front office transformation is completely viable for chemical manufacturers, especially when partnered with Salesforce technology and Simplus’ consulting experience. An easy way to get started is to identify areas of technical debt (unscalable or inaccurate technology workflows impacting your business) and map out the requirements of your ideal future state. How should the back office and front office be talking in your organization in order to deliver that seamless customer experience?


Common front-office transformation pitfalls

Tom Lovell, Michael Janney, and Elina Peuhkurinen all weighed in during the discussion with a wealth of firsthand experience regarding the common roadblocks chemical manufacturers face when taking on a front office transformation initiative. While there is some variation depending on the maturity of the manufacturer, these are the top areas slowing down manufacturers:

  • Too many platforms not communicating with each other accurately
  • Siloed data between people, processes, and tech
  • Communication breakdowns/lack of alignment
  • Stakeholders not included at the start of the project
  • Poorly defined or undocumented processes

Salesforce is great because it not only turns your front office focus towards the customer but it helps keep your various departments aligned, your processes clear and defined, and your data accessible to everyone credentialed. If your company can agree on the business objectives and long-term goals, you can overcome any amount of pitfalls and transform successfully. 


But what about my legacy systems?

You may be wondering right about now—what about all the other technology investments we’ve made over the years? How would a Salesforce implementation impact those? The short answer is it depends on your particular business model and the tech stack involved. However, there are some common trends our expert panel spoke to regarding legacy systems and Salesforce coming together. 


ERP Integration

Many manufacturers cling to their ERP system and may have even tried customizing it in such a way that it behaves like a CRM platform. While clever, this isn’t actually sustainable for long-term growth, and here’s why: ERPs are built for product and resource planning. They’re great for following the order to cash, but not so much all the layers of engagement that lead up to the order. That’s what CRM is built to handle. You can shift from just B2B to B2B2C by integrating a CRM platform with your existing ERP. 

Old Data

The way data has been handled before CRM will likely need a revamp as well to complete front-office transformation. According to our experts, a modern chemical manufacturer needs a firm understanding of pricing constraints and modeling on the backend. CRM takes care of this process by surfacing data from other platforms, eliminating potential silos and allowing your developers to build inside Salesforce for more effective execution. 

The IT Department

Perhaps of greatest note is the way in which your IT department will need to change the way it thinks. Typically, the IT unit of many chemical manufacturers is fearful of large-scale technology updates. With a front-office transformation built on the Salesforce CRM platform, this is a fear they can move past. With the Salesforce platform there is ongoing innovation, which means you don’t have to get stuck with the original code you wrote. The platform is living and breathing and transforming with your front-office processes. 


Taking care of your legacy applications and avoiding pitfalls are just the start to front office transformation in manufacturing. Learn more about how different groups are building a CRM foundation for manufacturing and quick wins you can achieve by watching the full recording here.


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