When to Automate Your Sales Orders – and How

By Mervyn George on July 8, 2014

I recently hosted the Logistics & HR track at the inaugural EMEA Winshuttle User Group in Brussels. My original assumption was that sales orders are seldom automated in the SAP world. This is because order-to-cash (or, in contrast, complaint-to-refund) processes differ significantly and are configured in ways that force different system behavior.

Here are three examples of how the sales orders across differ:

  • A 30% pricing discount for staff sales at a Fast Moving Consumer Goods company is introduced automatically – a result of pricing procedure determination.
  • Retail cash sales orders at an Apparel and Footwear company might not involve a physical delivery as buyers may leave a store carrying the products.
  • Base station sales orders at a Telecoms business might follow a make-to-order model and invoke a production order, delivery and related invoices.

To tackle this broad area of SAP functionality, Winshuttle User Group delegates and I discussed various scenarios and deduced the following:

  • B2B customers place more predictable orders, which are potential targets for automation.
  • Returns, complaints or credit memo requests may be less complex and a good target for automation quick wins.
  • Enabling external parties to populate the order/request template directly is advantageous.
  • Workflow routing is required in many order-to-cash scenarios, especially when creative pricing or a refund is being considered.

What’s the value of this approach?

Using this kind of automation, you can eliminate the cutting and pasting of line items or the manual rekeying of sales orders when B2B orders are received, which greatly reduces the chance of users capturing erroneous orders. For a Winshuttle-enabled solution, we discussed using an Excel spreadsheet mapped to a specific sales order type. Using the cell-based mapping capability, the header of the template could be made specific to each B2B customer, and the sales order line items could be selected from a drop down list of materials (populated by Winshuttle’s data extraction capability, along with current prices).


Sample Winshuttle sales order template for B2B customers

Sample Winshuttle sales order template for B2B customers

To enable B2B customer interactions, this template can be made available via email, Dropbox, or a similar file sharing platform. The customer is able to work directly within the spreadsheet. Once it is routed internally, the Winshuttle user sees the same Excel file as a data load template and can use the Winshuttle Excel add-in to directly validate or post the document to SAP.

Why is this important?

You still want to control who is posting data to your system of record and to ensure that data is clean.

Workflow involving external parties

Workflow involving external parties

Although it is very convenient and saves time, it seems that this type of offline Excel form scenario is not widely used today. But when presented and discussed at length at the conference, the benefits of cutting out the manual rekeying steps in these order processes was obvious.

As an extension to this quick win solution, we progressed to discuss the internal workflow sequence that is likely to be followed to route the sales order, refund request or similar document to brand managers, finance teams and quality inspection units. Why would you want to do this? To ensure that the right people are informed and that posting to production SAP systems takes place only when approval has been obtained. Winshuttle’s workflow capability handles this with ease.

Read more about perfecting the order-to-cash process in our whitepaper or watch the testimonial by Home Meridian International, describing their use of Winshuttle in order maintenance and related master data and transactional data maintenance processes.

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