When issues arise, employees from both Energy Alloys and its customer get together on the Appian Tempo social collaboration tool to discuss the specific issue, look at data from both ERP systems and make corrective actions, Ray says.
This information is available on employees' desktops as well as on their iPhones via the Appian application, where they can respond to a task assigned to them, review status of product orders, prices, delivery times or shortage issues.
The key business drivers for using social media with ERP were to reduce the cost of processing transactions and improve response times from when customers make requests to when those orders are delivered or questions are answered. In addition, the company wanted to reduce the cost of carrying inventory and gain greater visibility of the status of transactions and increased accountability on the part of Energy Alloys and its customers, Ray says.
The company is already seeing benefits such as enhanced inventory accuracy, a 90% reduction in lead times in some cases, zero invoice errors, cost savings on logistics due to 100% accuracy of product deliveries, reduced inventory costs and improved accuracy in areas such as product pricing and delivery times. "Inventory-carrying cost is the least it's been in years," Ray says.
For organizations just getting into social media, one important decision will be determining whether to use multiple social platforms with enterprise applications or to standardize on a single social platform, Forrester's Koplowitz says.
"This is where it gets complicated," he says. A specific social-media platform is paired with the enterprise application it's sold with. "Do I want four or five of these? Do I want all these stovepipes, or do I buy [Salesforce.com's] Chatter and everything has to snap to that? [This year] will be an interesting year to see which leaders emerge in this space."
Of course, enterprises can opt to mix-and-match various social platforms and corporate applications, but there are no guarantees of integration. Customers would have to roll their own.
Another challenge is getting consistency in messaging across channels. Many companies have multiple social media platforms to reach different types of customers, IDC's Wardley says. "In marketing, it is not uncommon to have multiple fan pages or brand-related pages in Facebook. In addition, multiple brands can be using a variety of handles in the various social networks."
The addition of social also opens questions about privacy, governance, risk and compliance. "For industries in which these are particularly an issue, such as any highly regulated industry -- government, financial services -- there need to be safeguards and clear rules of engagement," Wardley says.