What is Middleware?
Middleware is functional software that enables companies to automate their business or add software functions that their current software cannot do. Users log onto middleware in order to do certain functions and access certain features.
Middleware is bespoke software that can connect CRM, back office, or in fact any systems. Quite simply, it is something that sits in the middle. If your CRM system does not have the capacity to automate part of your business process, Avrion can create a middleware solution that can:
- take data from different systems, amalgamate it and feed it back
- streamline the process between CRM and customer data in financial or operational systems
- be specific about how it collects the data, how to present it (i.e. data transformation) and how it is passed back into any back office system
- make data entry simpler and quicker, while knowing that the right information is being passed/created in the supporting systems
- reduce the number of licences required for CRM, finance and/or operational systems; they just use middleware
Avrion’s middleware is currently built using Angular – a Google framework and a worldwide technology. Our middleware solutions are bespoke to each customer, and ownership of the code/application is theirs. With Avrion as your technology partner, small iterations to the scope are undertaken as part of the ongoing support and evolution. Also, we are always looking at ways the system can be improved and optimised. By sharing our knowledge and experience, including solutions that our prospects and customers are unaware of, Avrion is able to help you further maximise efficiency and productivity. A true partnership.
Benefits of Middleware
Middleware’s primary role is to speed up processes and maintain better accuracy in your CRM and other systems. It can be anything you want it to be; the core engine of how your business works. We have customers who have used middleware for a variety of purposes but the two most common are Contract Management (including contract creation and contract renewal) and Quote Management (including quote creation and conversion to orders). These are typically areas that most CRM systems don’t have the detailed functionality required.
By streamlining the data entry process and feeding data between systems, better accuracy is maintained by only keying in information once. It’s fast to build so it’s cost effective, whilst customisation of CRM can be more expensive and limited by the CRM development platforms, especially if deployed as Software as a Service (SaaS).
A key benefit of using middleware is that it does not affect business critical systems already in place – this can be from both financial and user point of views. No need to replace costly systems and no need to re-train and transition users to completely different systems. Make use of what is in place and connect the systems with a middleware solution.
Another benefit of middleware is the ability to build the solution in an agile way, in short sprints or phases. This way, users are helped at each stage with the necessary training and support. As the solution evolves, it is also possible to factor in any refinements or improvements outstanding from previous roll-outs. It is effective, as the project builds, to keep the team on board at each milestone.
CRM systems, by themselves, do not always deliver the productivity dreams they promote, so middleware can bolt processes together and get solutions working properly for our customers.
How to identify prospective Middleware solutions for your company
There are many processes within companies, large and small, that are heavily repetitive and labour intensive. So a technology that can automate and streamline those tasks will create data and process consistency, enable users to work more efficiently as well as cost savings. This, in turn, allows them to concentrate on winning more business or providing better customer service.
We will work with you, spending time identifying what the challenges, opportunities or black holes are in your business, where processes can be streamlined, sped up and kept more consistent. Together, we will consolidate the business goals (i.e. what are you looking to achieve) so we can start setting out the middleware’s framework.
Keeping the business goals in focus throughout projects is key so the users and managers can ensure the purpose of the project is observed, limiting slippage in timescales and budget. It’s all about the value the system gives you as the customer.
Costs, Timelines and Support with Middleware
Avrion will work with you to map out how middleware can streamline the business processes in your company. We invest time upfront, during scoping workshops to cultivate a development plan for the middleware solution, allowing solutions to be more flexible, costs to be minimised and the project rolled out in iterative phases. As the project progresses, refinements and improvements are inevitable – we embrace the fluidity and interactive nature of the process.
End users are involved throughout projects to ensure the experience is rationalised and user-friendly at all points. Prototypes are created outside of live systems to enable realistic testing by users, so any issues can be resolved before going live.
Support is ongoing and issues dealt with in a timely, often real-time way. Customers talk directly to the developers, not through a series of people, so communication is clear at all stages. Small changes are executed as the project goes on – bigger changes or new directions evolved are best approached as a separate scope and budget to maintain focus.
Examples of Middleware
One of our customers, Restore Datashred, completely streamlined their quotes and contracts process. In a nutshell, quotes can now be created in their middleware solution and pushed out to finance departments and customers for approval with digital signatures before being pushed back into CRM and any operational systems. It’s an interface which a lot of people and different departments use, not all of them needing a CRM (or accounting or operational) licence to do so. It automates the whole process at speed, with absolute accuracy, ensuring zero duplication of data entry between systems.
A middleware solution can be used to connect your CRM, back office or any other systems to amalgamate your data into an accurate and 360 degree view of your prospects and customers. Simplify and speed up data entry safe in the knowledge that the right information is being passed/created in the supporting systems.
Middleware can help in so many areas:
- Automate creation of quotes, ready to send to the customer.
- Validate data entry to ensure complete and accurate information.
- Ensure your sales teams are selling from the current price book.
- Ensure Contract Renewals are dealt with in a timely manner.
- Reduce operating overheads per sale.
- Increase revenues by managing sales agreement performance.
A middleware project can include a Customer Portal as a self-service tool for your customers to see their invoices, quotes/orders and customer service tickets. Alternatively, your contract renewals and quotes can be automatically sent to your customers and tracked removing the need for expensing e-signing subscriptions.
By all departments using a middleware solution as the central hub, processes become streamlined and efficient, duplicate entry is reduced, data inaccuracies are eliminated and inter-departmental communication is improved.
Middleware enables you to build a cost-efficient solution that can be evolved in stages.
Access quotes and service agreement application ‘outside’ of CRM reduces the need to license all users for CRM.
Use Middleware as a quote and service agreement application to create and modify quotes / view service agreements and associated jobs and sales transactions.
Middleware offers the ability to configure and upgrade your CRM system independent of other systems. Similarly, Middleware can be evolved and upgraded independent of other systems.
Middleware also offers a solution to centralise CRM, quote, contract data for use at a later date, for example sub business processes, customer portals and apps etc.
A Middleware solution can seamlessly update CRM Opportunities through processes based on quotes to automate your pipeline and improve accuracy.
Send automated states on the pipeline to management.
It can also automate prospect/customer profile information and improve accuracy.
Build a price list into your Middleware solution to manage it centrally and link it your CRM and ERP to ensure your sales teams are using the most up to date prices when they raise quotes.
Acquisitions can be overwhelming if not well integrated quickly. A Middleware solution can help you grow without increasing operational costs by adding the acquired business’ systems into a middleware solution. This leaves the newly acquired staff free to continue using the familiar systems while they settle into your organisation.
At a later date and if appropriate, the acquired business can move over to the centralised corporate systems with minimal effort.
A Middleware solution ensures that information such as addresses and site information is consistent across all your systems. No more quotes or contracts with inaccurate information.
Your accurate information can then be used to:
- Send notifications to sales people for customer engagement, based on KPIs.
- Segment customer data to create targeted marketing.
- Integrate with marketing platforms for automated campaigns and communications.
Middleware is quick and easy to use, enabling quotes to be created speedily over the phone.
Middleware also empowers fields salespeople to quote face-to-face with the knowledge that they are quoting accurately.
Your customers can be updated with notifications at every step.
Having consolidated the data across your business into a Middleware solution, you can then point your BI tool e.g. Power BI at this single data source. You can also pull in any additional information not already in the Middleware.
Absolutely! Middleware is extremely flexible – it can have its own data “hub” or use an existing data warehouse.
The data warehouse is used to consolidate the data from some or all your business systems. This data in turn is presented to the middleware users in a simple and easy to use interface.
When planning a middleware project, it can be broken down into smaller projects with the first step being to amalgamate your data.
Talk to us about how Middleware can transform your business efficiency, customer satisfaction and revenue.