Opportunity-to-Cash (OTC) Process Orchestration for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Hardware Companies

Digitizing Lead-to-Cash process is one of the best ways to improve sales performance, fulfillment, customer experience and time-to-usage-and-billing in software-as-a-service (SaaS) and hybrid hardware+software companies. In fact, the effectiveness and speed with which SaaS, PaaS and IaaS organizations can execute the lead-to-cash process can determine many of the key metrics, including Customer Acquisition Cost, Lead Velocity, Recurring Revenue Growth, Net New Recurring Revenue, and others.


Streamlining Lead-to-Cash process to be digital and effective is anything but simple because of the cross-functional nature and number of systems and people that are involved. Specific pain points include:

  • Orchestrating Sub-processes (complex quote development, new customer onboarding, partner based manufacturing and fulfillment, provisioning software/hardware, billing set up)
  • Master Data Management(Customer Master, Product Master (Initial and Lifecycle), Pricing Master, Vendor Master) and Process Synchronization across CRM, Subscription Billing, and ERP systems
  • Closing the loop between Customer-facing, fulfillment and ERP systems (Changes to orders, renewals and amendments..)
  • Uniform view of the main Lead-To-Cash process and sub-processes across CRM and ERP systems and for all Stakeholders

Getting Your SAP System Ready For Remote Work

The global coronavirus pandemic is truly a once in a lifetime black-swan event. And we seem to be in the early stages of an unfolding multi-faceted (public safety, economic, and supply chain) crisis. As of today the more than half of the world’s population is staying home to mitigate the spread and to flatten the curve. In addition, it is increasingly looking like the crisis in varying degrees will be with us until a proven vaccine is taken by majority of the world’s population. As a result the trend of remote work is here to stay with us for the foreseeable future. Email, video-conferencing, messaging will be main modes of collaboration for getting work done.

However, many of the key processes that run the business on a day-to-day basis rely on ERP systems like SAP. And SAP, especially the older versions, have not been very amenable to remote and collaborative work for a variety of reasons. With ZFlow for SAP, your SAP ERP system regardless of its age, transforms into a collaborative business process portal accessible by anyone, anytime, and from everywhere.

We have also made ZFlow free to use until Dec 31, 2020. In Q4 2020, we will make a decision on whether we should extend the free use of ZFlow into 2021.


ZFlow is Free Until Dec 31, 2020

Many of our customers in several industries are waking up to a world that is suddenly anything but certain in the wake of coronavirus pandemic. It is also apparent that this pandemic will be with us with varying intensity until a majority of the global population is immune to the virus. And that may take a couple of years. None of this will stop human ingenuity, adaptation, and progress. The NEW NORMAL is likely that the lot of the progress will happen by people coming together virtually. And Digital Workflow solutions like ZFlow, along with Email, Video Conferencing (Zoom, Webex, Skype..), Messaging, and Phone, are part of the solution for NEW NORMAL.

We have also seen a few financial crises (Dotcom, 9/11, 2008 Financial Crisis..) in our lives and have first hand experience of the financial stress that it puts on organizations of all sizes and in all industries. The last thing we want our customers to worry about during this period is the cost of software and subscriptions.

As a small token gesture to make life easy for our customers during this period, there will be no subscription fee (for our Public Cloud Platform customers) and no license/maintenance fee for on-premise customers till December 31, 2020.

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A New Era for Master Data Management

Considering the importance of master data for achieving operational excellence in finance, purchasing, sales, commerce, manufacturing and supply chain, it is a surprise how inadequately and ineffectively current master data management (MDM) solutions support the master data lifecycle management. We know a thing or two about Master Data because master data management (MDM) workflows are some of the most popular workflows deployed on ZFlow.

We also developed significant appreciation for Master Data because of our experience in product development and supply chain processes with ZFlow’s sister product Cogence. As a matter of fact, what we have seen is that much of the master data (creation/changes) is usually an outcome of product development and supply chain processes. Most certainly Master Data Management is not


In addition,

How Master Data Management Really Looks like

Instead master data management should be an outcome of business workflows like this

New Supplier Creation





Materials Master Data Management

Materials MDM needs its own post – Mastering Materials Master Data Management.

ZFlow for Master Data Management

ZFlow is a fresh and effective take on Master Data Management. Master Data Management in ZFlow is an outcome of functional business processes related to New Product Development and Introduction, Commerce, Procurement, Supply Chain Planning, Logistics and Maintenance Planning. In addition, it is reimagined take on what an effective master data management solution should support


Lastly, ZFlow also happens to be the most customer friendly solution in the market.


Mastering Materials Master Data Management

Material, also called item/part/product in other domains and solutions, is THE most important master data object as it is central to many mission-critical business processes in sales, commerce, design, manufacturing, logistics, customer service and maintenance. The creation of material is an extremely cross-functional exercise that spans the whole supply chain. What starts off as a vision and a sketch on a napkin turns into a finished product. Like the Cybertruck below.

Coming back to the topic of Materials Master Data Management. We have seen a very unfortunate pattern of data entry oriented master data management tools (MDM) trying to tackle Materials Master Data Management and failing miserably. Right off the bat we would like to establish the following

Materials master data is not something you type into a form or an Excel sheet, run some validations, and send it via an approval workflow, and call it a day. Materials master data is the outcome of analysis and decision-making by Design, Manufacturing, Purchasing, Logistics, Marketing and Sales/Customer Service stakeholders.

Regardless of what some vendors advocate and would like you to believe, MDM most definitely is not the following


How Materials Master Data Management looks like in the Real World

New Material Creation

If you ask a design engineer, product engineer or material management stakeholder they will actually say that creating new materials might look something like below (for illustration only)

Changing Materials

And changing materials might look something like below. And typically an Engineering Change Request and/or Change Order is used to change materials.

Handling Bill of Materials (BOM)

Bill of Material (BOM) is a key aspect of material master data. New BOMs and changes to existing BOMs are actually related to new material creation or changes to existing materials. Any MDM solution that cannot handle BOMs will not be an effective MDM solution for Materials.

A BOM change is a change to Material

Document Management related to Materials

Files that are related to Materials (drawings, graphics, visualization files, specifications, etc.) are also a key aspect of Material Master Data. As a result master data solutions that need to handle materials should provide great support for managing files that are related to Materials.

Collecting Right Information from the Right Person

Since many people are involved in creating material master data it is best to get the right information from the right person. For example, a design engineer is in the best position to provide information related to “Weight” for example. On the other hand purchasing and manufacturing stakeholders are better able to obtain lead time and lot sizing information.

Validation at the Right Time, and By the Right Person

It is still a good idea to add validations (required fields, ranges, etc.) for materials master data. But there is a right time for validation. Too much validation right in the beginning can frustrate users and users that have no idea will select incorrect information or may just give up. Validation at later stages of the master data process can make sure that accurate master data makes it into downstream systems.


Materials Master Data Management is one of the most cross-functional process in the organization and the extended supply chain and is connected to many upstream and downstream processes in design/engineering, sales, marketing, purchasing, manufacturing and logistics. Treating it as a cross-functional business process leads to many advantages and benefits to individuals, teams and organizations.

Welcome to the (Business Workflow) Jungle, ServiceNow

We welcome ServiceNow’s entry into business process workflow market. Our strong belief is that more competition is always better for the customers. Usually more competition leads to lower prices, better products and higher quality. We are not very confident that such a scenario will reveal itself in the case of ServiceNow.

But first let’s evaluate the merits of one approach vs. another based on the needs, desires and aspirations of people that take part in, own, or design business processes for various functional domains. Many of these functional domains such as sales, commerce, marketing, design and engineering, manufacturing, order fulfillment, logistics, supply chain are interrelated. We can argue that ERP and various specialized application suites (CRM, Supply Chain, Human Resources..) already support many of the business processes. The problem has been that ERP and application suites due to their transaction oriented design, complexity and cost, have left huge swaths of people that are central to business process out of the business process. These huge swaths of people have neither the visibility, nor take part in the business process.

ZFlow was designed and has been in use among many medium-sized to large customers for several years to address the above problems that many of these companies faced with ERP systems and application suites. Our customers have designed (themselves) business process workflows in many functional domains, including sales, engineering, manufacturing, order fulfillment, quality, finance and maintenance. What we learned from that experience is that workflow systems are best when they

  • Can support simple to sophisticated workflows that can bring user oriented activities (data preparation, reviews, approvals, etc.) and system integration (now called automation) activities into one process
  • Can handle process data, some of which can be fairly complex, that provides rich context to the process and often drives workflow logic
  • Provides an easy and methodical way for a very large number of people from within the organization and the supply chain to take part in and complete workflow activities
  • Do not charge for every user that participates in the workflow as it can be cost-prohibitive and counter-productive to the whole concept of collaborative workflow
  • Support invitation and participation of users dynamically as part of workflows
  • Require minimal or no programming (We definitely understand the need for programming for sophisticated workflows. In our experience, any introduction of code in a workflow system makes it less dynamic, but in some cases that is what is needed to provide meaningful and useful workflows)
  • Allow continuous updates and improvements to workflow easily. What’s the point of having a workflow if it cannot be improved as and when needed.

In all of the above facets, ZFlow has proven to be one of the best and remains unmatched. We don’t see that changing even with ServiceNow entering the market.

How Excel and ZFlow solve the complex sales quote problem elegantly

While selling is an art, quoting can be maddeningly bureaucratic, riddled with errors, and the pace plodding. The Configure, Price and Quote (CPQ) software experience has been, like many things that come out of the world of enterprise software, mostly disappointing. Part of the problem is that there is no end to configurability of quotes and selling is pretty elastic. As a result sales people and analysts run into the hard constraints and rigidity that CPQ systems impose. And the cost of CPQ systems and related implementation can rival GDPs of small nations. Hence the popularity of Excel as the CPQ system of choice. However, just using Excel as the quoting system can lead to process, visibility, search and query related issues.

A few of our customers that have complex CPQ logic and processes have instead decided to use their existing CPQ engines built in Excel and ZFlow (which has tight integration with Excel) to get the best of both worlds. Below is one such scenario. The advantages of this approach are many, including

  • Ability to continue using CPQ logic developed (often over many years) in Excel
  • Sales analysts can still retain control over the CPQ logic as opposed to heavy customization of CPQ, which is usually hard to do and not accessible
  • Support comprehensive workflow that is based on business rules dependent of quote values (for example, a million dollar quote needs to CFO approval)
  • Full visibility of the quote process to all participants
  • A much more flexible and usable CPQ process at a fraction of the cost of CPQ systems



Simple workflows are usually more effective than procure-to-pay solutions

As the Digital Workflow for the Modern Supply Chain we often support procurement workflows. Here we sometimes encounter the poorer cousins of finance and ERP solutions in the shape of procure-to-pay (aka P2P) solutions. Don’t blame us for that unimaginative, and slightly icky, acronym.

What is odd about procure-to-pay solutions is that they tend to equate procurement to buying papers and pencils. We, however, equate procurement to the full lifecycle of supply chain relationship, which includes the dating that happens before companies become supply chain partners, collaboration that happens throughout and not just when a purchase order (PO) is issued, internal processes for purchase requisitions, on-boarding new suppliers, quality and continuous improvement processes, audits, sharing forecasts, etc.

Our experience indicates that most companies gain very little value, and zero competitive advantage, by adopting procure-to-pay solutions that focus on paper and pencil buying processes. In fact, because of ever changing supply chain relationships, procure-to-pay solutions are severely under used and often replicate what is already in place in ERP solutions. A simple Purchase Requisition workflow on top of existing ERP can often provide 50% or more value of the procure-to-pay solution for many customers. Here is a little secret. In most cases, payment processes are triggered in ERP solutions. So the “pay” part of procure-to-pay is seldom used.

ZFlow provides a continuum of workflows that support the full lifecycle of supply chain partnership, including

  • Supplier Research, Qualification and Selection
  • Request for Information/Proposal
  • Design/Engineering Collaboration
  • New Supplier On-boarding
  • Purchase Requisition
  • Purchase Order Collaboration
  • Forecast Sharing
  • Non-conformance Reporting
  • Failure Reporting and Corrective Action System
  • Supplier PPAP (Production Part Approval Process)
  • Supplier Audit
  • Kaizen Events

Yes, we have a bit more complete view of the supply chain relationship unlike the paper-and-pencil pushing procure-to-pay solutions. That is because Procurement is a lot more than just buying paper and pencils.