7 Workflows in ZFlow That Blow Away Million Dollar Procure-to-Pay Solutions

We were rather surprised to learn that Procure-to-Pay solutions can cost millions of dollars. The first question that comes to mind is why should they cost so much money. The second and more important question is why are people spending so much money on something that provides no discernible competitive advantage. The reason current crop of procure-to-pay solutions don’t deserve that kind of money is due to the fact that what they promote completely miss the point of supply chain development as a strategy.

We believe a simple purchase requisition workflow on top of existing ERP can provide 50% or more value of a procure-to-pay solution for many customers. Once that is done supply teams should really focus on helping build better supply chains, not wasting time on spend analytics, RFP automation, and payment processing, etc. That is where ZFlow comes into the picture.

Below are workflows available in ZFlow that blow away million dollar Procure-to-Pay solutions in terms of value and effectiveness.

In addition to the above workflows, ZFlow supports the complete supplier development lifecycle as shown in the figure below.





Supply Chain Speed and Flexibility are more Important than Supply Chain Cost

A couple of good articles on why Supply Chain Speed and Flexibility are more important than overall Supply Chain cost. While this trend is very pronounced in Fast Fashion, it is also applicable for a lot of product categories.

New Product Introduction (NPI), Sustaining and Component Engineering Excellence – Session Materials


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Digital Transformation of New Product Introduction, Sustaining and Component Engineering at Smart Embedded Computing



Digital Workflows for Sales Operations Excellence


Sales Operations generally cover a lot of ground and can incorporate a number of activities depending upon the industry and specific organization. At its core, however, the primary goal of sales operations is to support the frontline sales team effectively respond to customer demand and fulfill the demand. And it usually takes the whole organization and in many cases the supply chain to successfully sell and fulfill customer demand profitably.


Depending upon the type of organization and how your sales and operations functions are set up the following workflows and related sub-processes can be useful to improve sales operations.



Process Orchestration for Sales Operations Excellence


Most organizations can benefit from having digital workflows for above sales operations processes. But true coordination between different internal functions (sales, finance, product, operations, customer service), and supply chain partners is only possible with digital process orchestration where handoffs between different workflows can happen easily and seamlessly. An example Quote-to-Cash process orchestration at a high level can be seen in the picture below.



Sales Inquiry

Sales inquiry is the first inkling that the prospect/existing customer may be interested in your organization’s product and services. Sales inquiries can come from many sources and the key is to channel these inquiries into a consistent workflow to ensure all inquiries are addressed and appropriate action is taken in a timely manner.




An example workflow Sales Inquiry workflow is shown below. Of course, you can design the type of Sales Inquiry that makes sense for your organization, division, or team with ZFlow.


Request for Information (RFI)

Many organizations as a matter of business process (government organizations, for example) issue Requests for Information to qualified vendors. Other organizations use RFI as a way to research the marketplace and get more intelligence about potential vendors. In either case, your customer facing teams are notified.

When a prospect or existing customer issues an RFI it is more or less close to being an opportunity. Time is of essence and your sales team or appropriate customer facing stakeholders need to be alert and respond (or not) to these Requests for Information. As a result it may make sense to create a simple workflow to support development of RFI response and sending it to the prospect/existing customer as soon as possible.


Sales Opportunity

Sales Opportunity is what drives large parts of the sales processes and CRM system. We can even say that it is the object around which the whole CRM industry revolves. Many CRM systems come with reasonable approach for workflow using stages and approvals.


Request for Proposal (RFP)/RFP Response

We were surprised to discover that many sales operations systems and processes miss the RFP/RFP Response workflows. When your sales team is asked to respond to an RFP it usually means that they have been selected as one of the few vendors to provide a formal proposal. If the proposal is accepted by the customer a detailed SOW may be needed and signed off before a purchase order is issued. RFP and related MoU/SOW is the preferred approach for complex deals.





Sales Quote

Sales quote is where rubber meets the road for most companies. Companies can use Configure/Price/Quote (CPQ) systems or just any method that is practical and supports your organization’s needs to create quotes. Once the quote is created there is usually need for internal approvals and approval from customers before a sales order is issued.



New Customer Onboarding

New customer onboarding is a critically important process when a prospect is becoming a customer for the first time. For many organizations it can promote and increase customer satisfaction as well as reduce revenue risk and quote-to-revenue cycle time. An example workflow is shown below. Learn more about New Customer Onboarding.


Sales Order

Sales orders are usually created directly from sales quotes. The only exception is when quotes requires significant enrichment before your order fulfillment systems can accept the quote as a Sales Order.


Sub-contract Purchase Orders

If your organization works with contract manufacturers or suppliers to make/assemble/test  products/services sub-contract POs need to be issued for these companies. It is a good idea to keep an eye on the status and progress using digital workflow with suppliers/contract manufacturers so that products/services can be delivered on time to end customers.



Fulfillment Workflow

The final workflow is the fulfillment workflow. You can use this workflow to coordinate internal teams and partners (suppliers if they are directly delivering to the customers, distributors, systems integrators..) so that products and services are delivered as promised an on time. An example workflow (of a networking hardware and software setup scenario) is shown below.



Sales operations workflows and quote-to-cash process orchestration are some of the most cross-functional workflows and critically important for sales operations excellence. Digitizing Sales Operations workflows and Quote-to-Cash process orchestration are two of the best ways to improve sales performance, fulfillment, customer experience and time-to-fulfillment/provisioning/revenue.


Collaborative sales operations for assemble-to-order, make-to-order and design-to-order scenarios


Many organizations support assemble-to-order, make-to-order and design-to-order manufacturing and fulfillment options as part of overall customer and business strategy. All of these options are inherently more complex and collaborative compared to simpler quote-to-cash (make-to-stock, software..) processes.


Unfortunately, the following scenario is pretty common in many organizations making coordination of cross-functional workflows and quote-to-cash process long, error-prone and inefficient. More often than not this situation is recipe for customer dissatisfaction, long sales cycles and longer time-to-value/revenue.



Challenges and Pain Points

The complexity and coordination needs increase along the assemble-make-design-to-order continuum. Following are the typical challenges in different scenarios


  • Translating the configured/quoted product and service to constituent part, assembly instructions and delivery/implementation requirements
  • Scheduling the customer quote/order for assembly and providing customer with reasonably accurate delivery date
  • Communicating purchasing needs to suppliers
  • Coordinating assembly with external suppliers/contract manufacturers
  • Coordinating delivery/implementation with the customer
  • And keeping customer/sales/customer support aware of the status of the order
  • Customer onboarding


In addition to many of the challenges in an assemble-to-order scenario, make-to-order scenarios add the following to the list

  • Coordinating internal and/or external manufacturing
  • Quality control during various stages


Design-to-order is by far the most complex in terms of coordination required from a sales operations workflow and quote-to-cash process perspective. In addition to all of the above, additional challenges in this scenario include

  • Design coordination with customer
  • Qualification of new parts and suppliers
  • Handling customer-driven and internal changes
  • Ensuring supplier readiness
  • Supplier quality engineering


Assemble/Make/Design-to-order Sales Operations Workflows and Quote-to-cash Process Orchestration

ZFlow is ideally suited for supporting the digital orchestration needed for assemble/make/design-to-order quote-to-cash process. For many industries and organizations in fact the process usually starts with a sales inquiry, request for a quote, or a quote.





Sales Inquiry

Sales inquiry is the first step of the sales operations workflows and the first meaningful step of the lead-to-cash process. Sales inquiries can come from multiple places and it is very beneficial to have a workflow to evaluate and filter serious inquiries for attention and engagement. Sales inquiries can also be considered as early forecast (with appropriate probability) to support long range sales and operations forecast.



Sales Opportunity

A sales inquiry can become a sales opportunity once the buyer (or buying organization) shows some intent. It is at this point that salespeople start to enter (often reluctantly) the intent as opportunities in CRM systems (like Salesforce, Dynamics). Many of the sales opportunities fizzle out. Some become real and require salespeople to generate sales quotes.


Sales Quote

Other than for the most trivial opportunities, quoting is a very cross-functional and collaborative process. For complex scenarios, quoting requires multiple teams working concurrently as well as input, review and approvals from different departments. Products and services that can be configured can also leverage commercially available CPQ systems (if they work well), internal apps or Excel based CPQ systems. Quoting might even require going back-and-forth with prospects/customers and some level of negotiation. One of the key contract terms is delivery and fulfillment date(s). Many organizations provide delivery date estimate based on Available To Promise (ATP) capabilities of ERP systems.

Once the prospect/customers agree to the quote it is usually converted into a sales order. The conversion of a quote into a sales order that can be used to assemble, make, design and deliver products and services is non-trivial.


Sales Order

Sales order is where the rubber meets the road. While the sales quote resides mostly in CRM and quoting systems, sales orders firmly belong in the ERP and Supply Chain planning systems. Sales orders are used for many processes, including sales and operations planning, manufacturing planning, purchasing, supply chain planning and for collaboration with contract manufacturers and distributors if they are in mix.


Internal Design/Manufacturing/Assembly/Test Activities

Once the sales order is planned for execution, internal design, manufacturing, assembly, and test activities are orchestrated so that the product/service can be delivered to the customer fully as promised and on time.


Sub-contracting Assembly/Manufacturing/test activities

Certain industries such High-tech, Pharma use contract manufacturing, assembly and test services extensively. In these instances, the sales order and related information is sent to contract manufacturing partner(s). Depending upon the extent of the relationship, the product(s) and related services are delivered directly to the customer and fulfillment operations are completed by the sub-contracting partner.


Systems Integrators/Distributors in the mix

For complex products and services, systems integrators and distributors are often involved in the delivery, setup, integration and onboarding of the customer. Smooth coordination is even more important in this scenario.


Customer onboarding and reducing time-to-value for customers

Customer onboarding is often the first time the customer experiences your organization’s capacity and capability to deliver (value) on the promised products and services. Depending on the complexity of the product and related services, customer onboarding require considerable coordination internally, with suppliers/distributors and systems integrators.

If your organization is primarily a Software-as-a-service organization we highly recommend that you read and implement some of the best practices recommended by Lincoln Murphy.


Digital Workflows for High Performance Sales Operations

April 15th, 2021 8:00 AM PST

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Organizations that have cross-functional (sales, finance, operations..) sales operations processes and disparate CRM, ERP and Supply Chain systems find it incredibly difficult to design and implement seamless sales operations workflows and seamless Quote/Order-to-Cash process. Specific pain points include:

Join the session to see how ZFlow effortlessly digitizes sales operations workflows and orchestrates the Quote/Order-to-Cash process with disparate CRM, ERP and Supply Chain systems.

Build Better Products Faster – Digital Workflows for New Product Introduction, Sustaining Engineering and Component Engineering Excellence

Thursday, March 25, 2021, 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM, Pacific Standard Time

Join the session to see how ZFlow offers innovative digital workflow based approach for New Product Introduction (NPI), Sustaining Engineering and Component Engineering Excellence.

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Below are some of the topics that will be covered during the session.

Multi-domain SAP Master Data Management Made Simple and Effective

Join the session to learn how your organization can make managing SAP master data cross-functional, intuitive for business users, and most importantly, easy. Best of all, ZFlow accomplishes this at a fraction of the expense and effort of a traditional data entry focused Master Data Management approach.

Multi-domain SAP Master Data Management and Governance Made Simple

Feb 11th, 2021 8:00 AM PST

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7 reasons why ZFlow is a breath of fresh air

  1. Innovative approach to SAP master data management as an extension of collaborative business processes in Design, Purchasing, Manufacturing, Sales, Marketing and E-commerce
  2. Readily usable master data workflows for Material, Bill of Material, Approved Vendor/Manufacturer, Customer, Vendor, Plant Maintenance, and others
  3. Beginning-to-end implementation in a matter of weeks
  4. Master data creation is a business activity with the right business stakeholders involved and providing the right information
  5. Deep and out-of-the-box SAP integration
  6. No need for expensive middleware and related implementation
  7. Ability to integrate with multiple SAP instances, SAP solutions (CRM, SRM…) and other solutions (Salesforce, Netsuite, etc.) as part of individual workflows to support global and cross-functional Master Data workflows