SAP has been teasing us the last couple of releases with BETA availability but now it’s in General Availability as part of the august 2021 release; dynamic visit planning in SAP Cloud for Customer. In this blog I will provide you with some more detailed information on what you can expect from the functionality and what kind of configuration options are available.
Visit planning in SAP C4C has always been a bit of a manual activity. There are system features available to make the process a bit more efficient like visit frequency (e.g. once a month) and proposed next visit date based on the last visit date but still, the process consisted of many manual steps and checks. This will be different with the new C4C add-on “dynamic visit planning” which provides a more automated and a more data driven and intelligent approach. The add-on, just as the other add-ons for SAP C4C (Intelligent Sales and Service Agent Console), is licensed separately on top of the SAP C4C license, so it’s only available in your C4C client when a license has been acquired for it.
For the SAP C4C end-users, the dynamic visit planning add-on is just another menu-option in the C4C menu. The functionality is fully embedded into the user interface of SAP C4C and is available just like all the other functionality. However, from an architectural perspective the dynamic visit planning add-on is made available on a separate system and is exchanging master and transactional data with SAP C4C via interfaces. This is completely managed and configured by SAP and not even accessible from the C4C system. The data that is interfaced to the other system cannot be modified in there, it’s is read-only data and is required to allow the dynamic visit planning to work.
The dynamic visit planning screens are currently not available for screen adjustments (adaptations), personalization or open for custom development via SAP Cloud Applications Studio.
For the smart route planning features in dynamic visit planning SAP integrates with services provided by the company Here. The platform provided by Here, amongst many other features, provides routing-as-a-service so as a C4C sales representatives you get an optimal route proposal based on historic traffic data and current traffic information like traffic jams.
New menu options
In SAP C4C the menu option Dynamic Visit Planning will be available, it has 4 sub-menu options:
Cockpit: used by the sales representative and/or merchandiser to get insight into their current/planned visits and all features and functions to create new visits based on the configured recommendation logic
Route groups; used by team leads and planners to set up visit plans that generate visits for specific employees based on a data-driven approach
Visit list; a list overview of all planned visits, used both by sales representative and/or merchandiser and team leads / planners to get a quick overview of your own or team visits.
Visit administration; used by the key-users or support team to configure the variables used in dynamic visit planning
When starting the cockpit the employee get’s a quick overview of the planned visits for the day, on the left with some key attributes and on the right displayed on a map. The colour indication on the map displays the Visit Recommendation value (red, orange, blue, green) based on different variables that you have configured in “Visit Administration”.
Via the same screen new visits can be planned as well. Just select a new day and use the different selection options to create the visit schedule for the day. By default the customers are displayed based on the area on the map but it’s also possible to use free format search. The visit recommendation value/colour can be used to find/select the customers with the highest score, these are the ones that need to be visited based on the algorithm behind it.
Once the right customers are selected the “Optimize” button is used to determine the most optimal route based on location and historic/expected travel conditions. As an employee you can register your departure address (e.g. you home address) so this is incorporated into the optimal route. The proposal is displayed and can be adjusted if required. When you’re satisfied you use the button “Generate” to create the visits and have them available in your personal agenda.
The Visit Recommendation score is configured via the Visit Administration menu option. Typically this is only available for key or support users. There is an option to create multiple scores, each with a different configuration based on for example Sales Organisation or Visit Type (see below screen print header row). Currently there are 3 types of “Influencing factors” that can be used to configure the score: Account, Perfect Store and Visit Coverage.
In the above example several Account attributes are used, in one of the future releases SAP is going to make custom Account attributes available as well, currently only the standard ones are supported. The combination of the different factors determine the score value that is displayed in the planning views in SAP C4C.
In next releases SAP is planning to add more and more influencing factors that can be used to configure the recommendation score. These include internal signals (that are available in C4C) like survey results, visit notes and sales order trend) but also external signals like promotions, marketing initiatives, analytical insight.
While the cockpit is typically used by sales representative and merchandisers to plan their own visits, the Route group functionality is meant for team leads and planners that are responsible for the creation of weekly/monthly visit plans for the employees visiting the customer. In the route group application you define which customers a specific employee should be visiting, the potential visiting days as are maintained on the customer are displayed as well and can be adjusted.
In the above example only 4 customers are displayed but the list can be much bigger if required. Currently as a planner using the Route functionality you had to register visit day/time yourself but with this feature that’s no longer required, the system will do this for you using that data driven approach to determine the optimal visit planning considering the visit recommendation configuration that’s maintained in Visit administration. Only thing you need to do as a planner is add the relevant customers and the system will create a proposal with the optimal visit planning. So when the employee starts a new week, his agenda is already planned with the relevant visits.
We can expect new features and functions in next releases. Although this is “subject to change”, one of the main focus points of SAP is making the Influencing Factors API enabled. So that would make it possible to embed external data from a company like Nielsen (POS data) and incorporate this in your visit configuration for visit recommendation. Other area’s where we can expect updates are on dynamic re-routing during a day (one of your visits is cancelled, what would be the optional replacement?).
My first impressions of the add-on are pretty good, it’s a nice looking interface and maybe more important, it provides a much more automated and data-driven approach to visit scheduling giving the sales representatives and their management more time to focus on other activities instead of manually spending hours on creating the right visit schedule.