Acumatica isn’t just a flashy new ERP product with a nice user interface and fancy dashboards. There are a lot of substantial features under the hood and the email engine is one of those features. Note: this post is an expansion of the last point from a previous post (click here).
First, Some Thoughts On Email
Email is a fixture in the constantly changing landscape of technology. It doesn’t get much simpler than sending someone a message with a subject and maybe some attachments. Nowadays, many times people don’t even bother to exchange phone numbers; they just exchange email addresses. Typically an email address is easier to remember than a phone number and many times it has a longer lifespan because a person is more likely to change their phone number than their email address.
Some people are constantly trying to find a better way to communicate electronically, but I personally don’t see email going away anytime soon. Why? Because you don’t have to use a proprietary platform to view your communication. Those proprietary platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yammer, Lync, etc. control how information gets presented to you and you often have to deal with extra “noise” like advertisements which distract from the content that you care about. With email, you are in control of what program you use to view the communication and you don’t have to deal with distracting clutter. Email is simple, but it works and it works well. Also, for many people, email is just as good as a text message because they receive the email instantly on their phone.
When it comes to the business world, knowing how to organize and prioritize your email inbox is a requirement for any white collar professional. Many office workers spend a significant part of their day reading and responding to email. Plus, if you take a vacation, sometimes you come back to find hundreds of unread email messages sitting in your inbox. Bottom line, email is a critical part of modern business communication.
The main problem with email is that the communication gets recorded in isolated silos. You send a message to someone, but no one else knows about it. Sometimes you want an email message communication to remain private, but, especially in business, many times you want to give others visibility into that communication.
When email gets used as part of a business process flow, it would be nice if that specific email communication was stored in a central place. You could “cc” a bunch of people, but the communication still isn’t stored in a central place. It just gets stored in lots of silos instead of just your silo. Also, having a group conversation by email with lots off “cc’ing” can get out of hand very quickly. The best is if workflow-type emails could be captured in a central place. Acumatica allows this.
Email and ERP: Been There Done That?
Introducing email functionality to ERP is not a new thing. Other ERP systems have integrated email into their products to allow sending of Customer Invoices, Monthly Customer Statements, Vendor Purchase Orders, etc. Typically you create a central email account that gets used for all this communication and all the emails from the ERP system get sent from this account.
This is nice, but in most systems it leaves some things to be desired.
Enter The Acumatica Email Engine
The Acumatica email engine can do more than just send emails from a central account.
First, Acumatica allows you to setup multiple email accounts and then associate those accounts with users. So, you can have Acumatica use your existing email account to send documents electronically, instead of one central email account used by everyone. This way, if the person on the other end responds, you will get the response instead of it going to an unmonitored central email inbox. It also adds a personal touch because the email comes from you personally, allowing the person on the other end to know who initiated it. But, since the email is sent from Acumatica, Acumatica can keep a copy of the email and associate that copy with the related record in Acumatica. It’s the best of both worlds.
Since Acumatica can keep a copy of the communication, all the other users in your organization can now see that communication in Acumatica. This solves the problem of isolated email silos. Maybe someone is looking at a customer record. They can easily see which invoices were sent electronically to the customer, who from your organization sent them, when they were sent, and who at the customer they were sent to.
Second, Acumatica doesn’t only give you the ability to send email. You can also have Acumatica receive email! This is very powerful and I think it has a lot of potential.
Third, the email capabilities are built into the core of the product. With other ERP products, the email functionality feels like a separate module, an afterthought that was added in later. With Acumatica, the email engine is baked into the core of the product which allows it to be leveraged anywhere.
Finally, Acumatica provides a central place for storing important communication. Many employees have years worth of email, a gold mine full of important information. The problem is that no one else has access to it. Acumatica solves this problem. But, of course, Acumatica doesn’t take anything away from email since each communication record still lives in the email account as well.
The Potential (Some Theoretical Ideas)
I’m not positive if anything in this list is possible, but here are some ideas that, theoretically, could be carried out with the Acumatica email engine.
- Automatically email your customer at different stages in the order fulfillment process: when their order gets entered into Acumatica, when the pick list gets generated, when the pick list gets fulfilled, when the shipment has been put into packages, when the shipment leaves (complete with tracking numbers and estimated delivery), etc. Then, you could also attach any email responses from the customer to those automatic notifications. Their responses could then be automatically attached to the sales order so your salespeople could see if the customer responded with something like, “why did this ship so late?” or “wow, you guys are fast!”
- Create an Accounts Payable email address that all invoices flow through. Whether it’s a vendor submitting an invoice or an internal employee submitting an invoice that got mailed to them from a vendor, all invoices would route through one central email address. Acumatica could then read the emails and bring them in for processing. From there you could attach workflow that automatically routes the invoices for approval based on vendor name, who approved the last one, dollar amount, etc.
- Instantly notify your customer of a sales promotion. Maybe you are a retail company and you want to run some kind of crazy promotion that requires a customer to act within a few days of a qualifying sale in order to get a big discount. You’d want an automatic email sent to the customer immediately after that qualifying sale is entered in Acumatica.
- Notify field service technicians when a dispatcher adds a service call to their schedule. Also, record when the service technician is en route. Acumatica allows you to communicate via email/text (which is crucial for on the road workers), but still tie that communication to the service ticket in Acumatica instead of it living completely outside the system. This is very powerful.
So How Do You Set It Up?
Basically, there is just one screen that you need to go to for setting up email. The screen is Email Preferences (SM204001) and it’s under Configuration –> Email. When you go into this screen, you can add new email addresses by using the plus sign on the bottom of the grid.
Next week I’d like to cover how to setup a Gmail account for Acumatica to use. Then I’d like to process some sample emails so you can see how Acumatica interacts with email.