Over the past couple of years SAP has invested heavily in designing mobile business apps. The current suite covers the full spectrum of line of business apps and industry specific apps. SAP has indicated its intention to keep up this investment in line with the growing demand.
The Customer Financial Factsheet was released early last year to satisfy the need for the sales team to understand more about a customer after the sale has taken place. The first iteration was simple - easy to use and provided key information. The app was designed to be consumed via a mobile phone device rather than a tablet device so some of the functionality was limited.
The latest version of the Customer Financial Factsheet will be released (via ramp up access) this month. As you can imagine, significant enhancements have been made to the initial release of this app. There are three areas of improvements.
1 - Extra functionality within the app. The highlights of these are covered later on in this blog; however the user can now access more information including SAP FSCM and perform more tasks than previously available.
2 - The ability to access the app via a tablet. Due to the size of a mobile phone device the ease of use was not really there. The size of the screen limited the amount of information that could be displayed and by moving to a tablet version more information can be displayed and more actions can be carried out.
3 - New technology. The new app uses the latest Sybase version 2.1.2 . I am not going to pretend that I know what that means, or what that provides. What I do know if that the look and feel of the solution is much improved and I am lead to believe this is due to recent technology developments.
What problem does it tackle?
A common business process would have the sales force contacting customers to target sales. Depending on the industry and organisation contact to a customer could be daily, weekly or less often. The core part of the customer contact will focus on new sales rather than historic sales. Once the sale has been made, and the product or service received the baton is passed to the Finance department to complete the process by ensuring prompt billing and receipt of payment. In the main this is a formality and the process is fairly simple. However there are occasions where this goes wrong. The customer may have a fault with the product, the wrong price could be on the order, or the customer does not have the funds to make payment according to the payment terms set out in the contract. In some situations this critical information is not fed back to the sales force leading them to go into a meeting with the customer not knowing the true position of the customer. If for example the sales person knew the customer had adverse payment history and was not paying its current outstanding invoices they would be less inclined to commit to future sales. If the sales person was aware of a pricing issue they would be able to include this in the next conversation with the customer to ensure not only does it get resolved but the customer is aware that it is being addressed and will not occur again. In short the process of who is responsible for future sales and post sales does not change, but by providing the sales person insight into the later stages of the process enables them to make better decisions.
So what does the app do?
The Customer Financial Factsheet enables the sales person to consume all of the relevant information. The app starts with an overview of the customer's account looking at key metrics such as payment terms, days in arrears, amount overdue, and number of dispute items. Further to this graphical representation of key information such as historic sales volume per period provides a concise overview of the account to the sales person. Secondly, being able to action updates such as raising "disputes" or "promises to pay" from the customer, or being able to directly e-mail copy invoices and add notes back to the Financial team. Lastly external, non SAP documents can be attached to the customer via the app enabling key information to be held against the customer.
Who is it targeted at?
This is the most important question as having a pretty solution without a need is worthless. The app belongs to the line of business suite of apps so SAP deems this to be a cross industry product for which I agree. If we assume our target audience have the relevant mobile devices we can then be pickier around the target industry sectors. One of the simplest ways to break this down would be to look at industries or organisations that are set up in a way that the sales force has "face to face" contact with their customers. Industries such as FMCG, Media and Services would therefore be well suited, whereas Public Sector, Utilities and Retail would be less suited. All oganisations will be set up differently and this solution may be released to a sub set of the sales force within an organisation to target a certain group of customers (low volume high risk springs to mind).
The improvement within the app focusing on the usability and actions that can be performed increase the desirability of this product. With businesses focusing on improving cash this product will gain further momentum. One of the more subtle benefits that could be realised will be around breaking down the barriers between the Finance and Sales community. By providing the sales force key financial metrics relating to the customer will enable a consistent approach to be taken when dealing with "problem" customers, in turn reducing risk, increasing profitability and lastly increasing goodwill between the two departments.