The hard thing about hardware: How JAI A/S uses Salesforce

Danish manufacturer JAI A/S has been building cutting-edge industrial cameras since 1963. That’s pretty amazing if you think about it.

Their product standards have stayed the same. But the processes behind selling, customer service and supply chain management have had to evolve.

A combination of these entrenched, overly manual processes and the different cultures of JAI’s global offices meant change was hard to effect. Though not impossible.

This is how JAI left the old school behind for processes as slick and modern as their cameras.

 

Nobody was really addressing how incoming leads were supposed to be handled and turned into opportunities.”

Usman M. Syed | VP of Strategy & Digital Innovation

A business culture tethered to the archaic

Usman M. Syed is JAI’s VP of Strategy & Digital Innovation. His core tasks (among many others) include shaping and executing the company's overall strategy in a way that ensures JAI’s IT and business processes are kept in lockstep.

His challenges were twofold. First, JAI needed to root out old and entrenched but still core processes without starting from scratch – while keeping a global workforce that relied heavily on these processes onside.

As Usman put it, “The challenge was trying not to mess up what we already had. There was an organisational challenge, a mindset challenge; ‘What's going to happen? Why are we changing? Is it going to be a lot more top-down compared to how we do things now?' That uncertainty is a critical part of change.

What’s more, the reliance on regional manual processes was causing almost as much harm as good.

“We were making things so damn difficult for ourselves. But after a while, the complexity didn’t have any added benefit,” said Usman. “We were constantly filling out fields and forms, but maybe only 30% of them were actually usable or necessary.”

Giving sales clarity to sell smart and often

Marketers and salespeople the world over know good leads are like gold dust. But JAI’s sales teams were struggling to get those leads further down the funnel.

This was in part due to a lack of rich, in-depth data on their prospects. Without this, it was hard to assess how many leads were valid and worth pursuing, or if they were part of JAI’s core target market.

“Nobody was really addressing how incoming leads were supposed to be handled and turned into opportunities,” Usman said. “as an example, based on market analysis, we knew certain countries in Europe used industrial cameras for food monitoring and defence measures – but we were selling too little there. And we didn’t know why.”

As a result, JAI was struggling to understand why its products were falling short in certain regions – and therefore struggling to correct its strategy. JAI needed its decisions to be driven by data.

So JAI and Salesforce ran a workshop with implementation partner, Fluido, to help make this happen.

“They had the technical knowledge, but also focused on the business aspect,” said Usman. “It can be difficult to find people who are technical and sales focused. The mix with Fluido was just right.”

Using Sales Cloud, JAI gets regular data-rich reports to inform their sales decisions. Now, the team checks progress against sales and marketing initiatives twice a week.

“Our Salesforce dashboard shows exactly what we're doing,” explained Usman. “We're selling highly technical products that are integrated into machines and sold to end users. The process is long – between six to 12 months. So we need that overview of what's been going on for the customer.”

The team can use Sales Cloud to drill down into the finer aspects of their sales performance, and adjust their strategy to address specific activities and KPIs. They now know how many leads are coming in, which ones are being chased and which ones should be chased.

“Honestly speaking, we couldn’t have done that without the setup we have today,” said Usman. “It would've been manual, unstructured and time-consuming. Now there's a flow to things that Salesforce has helped us realise.”

A gnarly supply chain

Hardware supply chains are complex beasts – especially when it comes to high grade industrial equipment. It’s not just the cameras themselves, but the individual components that make production time so lengthy.

“A camera isn’t just a camera,” explained Usman. There's a sensor in there. There are maybe six months of delivery lead times on these things. So how do you get sales to understand your input is important? Otherwise production is delayed, the shipment is delayed, revenue is delayed and the customer’s unhappy.”

With Sales Cloud and Tableau CRM, JAI have taken control of the cycle and informed customer and supplier conversations.

“Our reports and dashboard gives us a clear view of the timeline between confirmation and expected delivery. You can see now if you push this order just a couple of weeks, there’s a financial consequence.

“We can get really granular. You can find a product, forecast, booking and closure date, and you can base your SOP discussions around that data. These are the kinds of things we couldn’t do before.”

What’s really exciting for JAI is the impact this is having on its employees’ mindsets. More and more managers are engaging with this new way of working.

“Before, we had people labouring to create reports, said Usman. “It was difficult, it was complicated, it was a chore. Now, Salesforce is so easy to use. You don't need development skills or database expertise. You can pick and choose the right data and put reports together. Our Sales people were actually doing this themselves – voluntarily!

For Usman, it’s clear why this is happening. As JAI has integrated with the Salesforce cloud cluster, people can find exactly the data they need to have more informed discussions, more often.

“We're now using this input to feed decisions around the fiscal year and budget,” Usman explained. “It’s so much easier for management to talk about finances. We can look at our report and know what we can and can’t do to hit our budget for the next month.

“It's not just a sales tool anymore. It's a management tool as well.”

Connecting to more and more customers around the world

Usman is confident the business can continue to grow globally. Rooting out these complex, time-wasting processes has allowed JAI to look at new regions, and bigger opportunities in new parts of the world, with fresh ambition.

Selling industrial-grade cameras is far from simple. Complicated hardware, long lead times and sales cycles are the nature of the beast.

But Salesforce has brought a degree of simplicity to the processes underpinning all of these operations. “Simple is the key word, especially for a smaller organization like us,” said Usman. “Salesforce lets us not only technically connect to our customers, but going forward we also know we can do things more simply.”

Service Cloud has allowed JAI to start integrating other key business functions to the cloud and reap the benefits.

“We’re planning to connect our customer help desk to Salesforce,” explained Usman. “So sales can take a look and see how the business has interacted with them. “What have I transferred to the partner? How many help desk cases do they have? What's the revenue on this?" This is the depth of knowledge we want for our sales teams.”

This in turn gives JAI’s finance team new oversight and insight. JAI’s number crunchers have a clear view of sales numbers, revenue opportunities, forecasting and more.

“Salesforce is one of the main tools we use to get truly valuable pre and post-sale information,” said Usman.

“It’s rare you see a tool that helps you from sales to marketing, to finance, to supply chain. Connecting all these dots makes everything so much more simple.”

Proof that hardware doesn’t have to be hard

We’ve had the privilege of helping a lot of software companies undergo digital transformation at all sorts of levels.

Being part of a specialist and established hardware company’s journey to digital has been deeply satisfying and a genuine pleasure. Usman and his team have built an agile, sustainable and simple business operation to serve JAI’s needs today and tomorrow.

The old school’s been left behind. We can’t wait to see what they do next.

 
 

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