The company is also using Salesforce.com's Chatter social media tool with the vendor's CRM platform to enable customer lead generation and to connect its 8,000 employees and management team to its distributor partners.
Lead generation is more effective now, says Don Lamping, associate director of sales/service programs. "We now have the ability to collaborate [among employees and partners and] follow all lead and opportunity records," he says. "Consumer leads are fed from Radian6 into our CRM contact database."
Another key focus for Chatter was "the ability to provide group collaboration around our product marketing functions and events such as national sales training," Lamping says.
Among the biggest benefits of using social media are increased and more effective collaboration, a more transparent organization and better cross-division and cross-geography interaction, Lamping says.
"Before we were socially engaged, we used voicemail and email" to collaborate within the company, Lamping says. But that had limitations because people often took a long time to respond to communications, or messages were forwarded to multiple people before reaching the most appropriate person. Chatter tends to generate more real-time response to queries because many people can view requests or updates as they are posted, he says.
Zimmer has created 75 user groups within Chatter, and since launching the product has seen steady growth in use of the social media tool.
Social triggers ERP actions
Energy Alloys, a Houston-based provider of oilfield metals to global oil and gas manufacturers and service companies, began using Appian's business process management (BPS) software as its social media application in December 2012.
The company recently deployed Appian Cloud to modernize its JD Edwards ERP system with Appian's social interface. When certain actions occur in the ERP system, Appian automatically triggers other actions in an interconnected ERP system operated by the appropriate Energy Alloy customer.
"We have Appian collaborate between a request for product in the ERP side from our customer, [as well as for] order fulfillment using business rules, workflow techniques and dashboards," says Kaushik Ray, director of the BPM Applications Group at Energy Alloys.
Appian looks for potential demand in the customer's system, validating data between the two ERP systems, running business rules to determine where there are exceptions and deviations from corporate policy and determining who needs to take decisions on each, Ray explains.
Once the demand is identified, Appian lets sales people know about the new demand and waits for them to acknowledge the demand, and sends an electronic acknowledgement back to the customer, Ray adds.
When issues arise, employees from both Energy Alloys and its customer get together on the Appian Tempo social collaboration tool to discuss the specific issue, look at data from both ERP systems and make corrective actions, Ray says.
This information is available on employees' desktops as well as on their iPhones via the Appian application, where they can respond to a task assigned to them, review status of product orders, prices, delivery times or shortage issues.
The key business drivers for using social media with ERP were to reduce the cost of processing transactions and improve response times from when customers make requests to when those orders are delivered or questions are answered. In addition, the company wanted to reduce the cost of carrying inventory and gain greater visibility of the status of transactions and increased accountability on the part of Energy Alloys and its customers, Ray says.