Over the past few months, CIO Republic has provided an in-depth series on collaborative commerce—where enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management (SCM), and e-procurement come together to create one intelligible system that seamlessly integrates commerce applications from supplier to customer. As the series revealed, the new commerce philosophy hits every internal and external business point as it stretches from the front-end CRM app to the back-end ERP suite.

To help your enterprise initiate that eventual move to c-commerce, we’re providing an overview in 10 steps to get the initial c-commerce pilot program up and running.

The c-commerce series

If you’d like to review or catch up on any previous installments in our series on c-commerce, click on the links below.

Ten steps to moving ahead

  1. Clean up your data. Spend the necessary resources to ensure your internal systems are accurate and timely—otherwise you run the risk of providing erroneous information to your partners and becoming known as the “little company that cried wolf” to the supply chain in which you do business.
  2. Organize your enterprise around the business processes rather than around departments or business systems. Go through all the processes within the organization, identify them, and pinpoint which ones are most relevant and which most need flow-through automation. Additionally, organize project teams around these processes, not around departments.
  3. If needed, upgrade to newer versions of your business applications so they are more open. Doing so will make it easier to connect with third parties when you begin collaboration.
  4. Define where the organization will see the most benefit from collaboration, and start there. For example, collaborating on product design may result in faster, more efficient time to market. Collaborating on supply chain execution may result in either inventory reductions or work-in-process reductions. Which is more important to your organization?
  5. Based on the conclusion you reach in step four, define which partners with whom you should begin to collaborate. Start talking to a fairly small number of trusted customers and suppliers about linking with their applications and corporations.
  6. Create a cost justification analysis based on steps four and five. Determine which areas will see the most improvements and which processes will become more efficient. Translate those into an expected ROI.
  7. Use the information you have gathered from the above steps to determine the type of technology you need—CRM apps, supply chain management modules, etc. Create a list of the current applications being used (ERP/SCM/CRM, etc.) and the specific components still needed. Make note of any current applications that are likely to be tricky, such as legacy applications.
  8. Once you know what apps you need, research applicable vendors. The vendor you decide on should be strong and stable. This will be a partnership for the long haul. It doesn’t hurt to jump on a company’s Web site and browse through customer lists, user studies, press releases, and any financial reports available.
  9. Contact vendors—but don’t make too quick a purchase. Now that you have your ducks in a row, be patient and confident. Ask the vendors lots of questions.
  10. Congratulate yourself and the team—you’re now ready to start a pilot project.

Follow these 10 steps and you’ll be well on your way to success in c-commerce. Remember, as in any heavy-duty tech effort, it’s always better to ask more questions than not, and reach out to peers and comparable enterprise leaders to get real insight on lessons learned in their approach to c-commerce.