There’s no way to overstate the magnitude of the lead to cash process, i.e. the process that encompasses everything from a prospect’s first interaction with your brand to the delivery of product and beyond. Lead to cash’s importance to nearly all businesses has seen it go through a significant digital transformation with the development of increasingly sophisticated software and SaaS solutions for enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), finance and accounting, marketing automation, support helpdesk management… the list goes on.
One thing that hasn’t historically been a big part of this digital transformation plan is the ability of all of these systems to work together in real-time. What keeps marketing automation in sync with the sales process? How are customer service reps kept up-to-date with billing changes? This is not just a matter of moving data from application to application en masse, but ensuring the right data reaches the right location, in a format usable by that application, at the right time…which is frequently “the sooner the better!” It’s not an easy feat when your tech stack includes a mix of legacy applications, microservices, and modern cloud-based SaaS offerings, which I’m sure it does.
The answer to this problem is integration technology. For many years message-oriented middleware (MOM) and enterprise service buses (ESB) have offered the data movement, transformation and orchestration needed to keep different applications on the same page, and more recently integration platforms as a service (iPaaS) solutions like Boomi and Mulesoft’s AnyPoint have been all the rage because they do all that as an on-demand service in the cloud.
These solutions do, however, have limitations. They can lead to some points of failure, be hard to scale up, and many don’t facilitate real-time interactions based on events, requiring constant period polling. Furthermore, the combination of technologies it takes to support diverse message exchange patterns and protocols leads to a complex infrastructure that is difficult to maintain, change, and grow. These complications can seriously hinder the efficiency and agility of a lead to cash technology stack.
Luckily, there is a solution. The answer lies in event-driven integration, an enterprise architecture pattern built on leveraging the best capabilities of event brokers and integration platforms. By combining the data transformation and connectivity of an iPaaS with the real-time dynamic choreography of an event broker and event mesh, enterprises stand to benefit from an integrated technology stack that will make their lead to cash engine hum.
Here are four ways you can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your lead to cash process by implementing event-driven integration.
Imagine an application or database that housed all of your lead to cash information, with proper permissions for who can see what, automatic distribution between different elements of the system, and no conflicting information between applications. What a vision! But here’s the problem – for most companies this “single source of truth” is a pipe dream. CRM and ERP systems have long promised this one-stop-shop for customer, order, billing, support, and marketing data, but they can’t be all things to all people and be effective in each and every use case.
Many organizations are moving toward best-of-breed toolsets instead of monolithic applications. While APIs and plugins can help bring important data from these apps into your CRM or ERP system and having them take the functional place of the monolith, it is impossible to effectively manage the entire lead to cash process from a single monolithic application without sacrificing functionality. Alternatively, databases and MDM approaches can be used to maintain a canonical record of lead to cash information, but they create complications when it comes to putting that data to use, I.e. incorporating it into business decisions, processes and customer interactions.
This is where event-driven integration can help. When systems are integrated using events as the informational currency, you end up with a canonical, distributed truth because many apps are kept synchronized, in real-time, by the powerful combination of an integration platform and an event mesh. Applications can subscribe to receive all of the events that are relevant to them, so all apps are updated simultaneously when something happens. So when a lead is marked “Closed – Won” in the CRM, that event updates marketing automation so the customer is sent a “Thank You” email, order fulfillment is instructed to send the product to the customer, a customer support profile is spun up, and so on. Keeping these systems on the same page is crucial when it comes to meeting modern customer expectations – fast, reliable, and simple transactions .Event-Driven Integration: 5 Things Every CIO Needs to KnowAs event-driven integration becomes more top of mind with developers and architects, CIOs need to familiarize themselves with these 5 key takeaways.
Such a system demands something called eventual consistency, which means events have guaranteed delivery and are always delivered in-order. With eventual consistency, even if there are outages or load capacity limitations, all involved systems will eventually reflect the same value. In cases where it’s appropriate, eventual consistency can seriously simplify your architecture and error handling, and this “single source of truth” scenario is just such a case.
Breaking down silos between business units is important, but requires some serious security. Event-driven integration offers a means by which architects can ensure apps get all the information that they need, and only the information they need, and never any information they aren’t allowed to have.
Support desk software needs to capture events from billing and sales but has no need for marketing automation information. Marketing automation, however, may need to receive events from the support desk in order to send automated follow-up emails. This sophisticated routing cannot simply be limited to which apps can share with which other ones, but must be governed at the event topic level. Proper implementation of event-driven integration is important for information security purposes – something your customers may not actively think about, but take very seriously should an issue arise.
Once you rework your lead to cash process to be event-driven, you can see and seize ways of improving efficiency. Exposing events to your distributed enterprise allows for nearly limitless possibilities in terms of process automation, which can improve speed while reducing errors. Keeping customer profiles up to date frequently falls on manual data entry, for example, while event-driven integration lets you have them updated automatically when something changes. Some organizations have entire teams dedicated to manually entering and maintaining invoice data in their ERP systems. By implementing event-driven integration between a Salesforce quoting tool and an SAP ERP system, these records can appear automatically with completely accurate information, in real-time.
Event-driven integration also enables easy collaboration and opportunities to break down silos between lines of business. Shared information about prospect and customer events give sales everything they need to know when going into sales pitches. Shared information about finance allows other parts of the business to make more informed decisions about budgeting. And a 360-degree view of every customer can give marketing the power to more effectively move customers along the sales pipeline through hyper-focused targeting of campaigns and communications.
In addition, the real-time data movement that event streaming offers can increase the speed of process handoffs, reducing friction. For instance, integration can decrease the amount of time between when a sale is closed and a customer receives their product.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of event-driven integration is its ability to make your technology stack faster and more flexible. The built-in messaging offered by integration solutions can sometimes act as a performance bottleneck or point of failure, while a full-featured event broker like PubSub+ can ensure the delivery of massive volumes of events regardless of any application or network outages, and always delivered in the order they were produced.
In addition, the publish/subscribe message exchange pattern does what’s called “decoupling” applications, meaning that new subscribers can be added, changed or removed without affecting the publisher or existing subscribers. So as your organization’s needs change, on the business or IT side of the house, new applications can be added to your infrastructure without the need to re-code, re-test, and re-deploy a bunch of point-to-point connections.ELI5: What is the Publish-Subscribe Messaging Pattern?Exploring the technical and business explanations of what the publish-subscribe messaging pattern is and how it can benefit enterprises using microservices.
A well-designed EDA platform gives you the ability to discover event streams easily, immediately see the schema used, know who is producing and consuming and provide the details (if not the tooling) to easily collaborate with all affected parties about making changes. This adds to the flexibility in how events are leveraged in your distributed enterprise and makes their re-use much faster to adopt for added implementations.
Finally, event-driven integration future-proofs your infrastructure for the next generation capabilities of the modern distributed enterprise. For example:
By building your lead to cash process on an event-driven backbone, you can gain more insight into every step of the process, so you can make more informed decisions, optimize activities, create agility and adaptability, and stand up to the most rigorous technological demands. Building an event-enabled integration infrastructure that works with all lead to cash systems, from legacy monoliths to cloud-native SaaS, helps deliver business events to your distributed enterprise securely, reliably, and in real-time so that your systems can unlock value.