Focus was on more virtual collaboration in B2B distribution.

Activant Solutions offered information and advice at its Tech Center during its Summit 2011. (Photo courtesy of Activant Solutions)

Activant Solutions shared its vision for using Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems of record in combination with social media to help wholesale distributors improve efficiencies, customer engagement and collaboration at Summit 2011, held in Orlando, FL. Nearly 2,000 attendees participated in educational sessions and networking events.

“We envision an ERP evolution, in which ‘systems of engagement’ perform a vital role to help a distributor’s business become more responsive to customers, and more efficient operationally,” said Kevin Roach, executive vice president and general manager of Activant’s Wholesale Distribution division, in his opening address. “Virtual conversations regarding customer service, contract fulfillment, or project delivery become more meaningful augmented with the context of related transactions from systems of record. That’s where the payoff comes, by making it easier and more automatic to collaborate around information stored in the ERP system.”

He cited workgroup wikis as an example of this. “The process of getting any complex job done involves a series of conversations – asking questions, and gathering ideas and feedback,” Roach said. “Imagine all of those conversation threads consolidated in a single dedicated wiki workspace, accessible through any smartphone or computer. Wikis enable a convenient, centralized archival view that includes communications from all relevant parties.”

In this example, everyone is able to get relevant feedback, update documents and initiate new transactions, all in one location. Automated workflow processes are established that quickly deliver structured and unstructured information via emails, document links and posts.

Roach unveiled two new products, Activant AutoOrder, a module designed to eliminate manual order entry, and DynaChange Rules, an extensibility tool created to enable distributors to configure and insert their own workflow logic into the Activant Prophet 21 ERP system.

“The new global value chain is based on relationship management: coordinating, collaborating and communicating to expedite and troubleshoot orders across an ecosystem of suppliers and channel partners,” said business consultant and author Geoffrey Moore in his keynote presentation titled, “The Future of Enterprise IT.”

Distributors and other participants in the chain need to engage across a broad set of constituents, and are looking to have the same kind of individual empowerment that is currently available in the consumer IT space, Moore said. This includes information and video on demand, and instant communication. “Collaborative business networks are the ‘forcing function’ that will cause distribution companies to invest in systems of engagement,” Moore noted.

Activant said its Summit 2012 is scheduled for March 13-16, 2012, at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.