Summary:Nilkamal\u2019s attempt to boost the effectiveness of its sales people with Salesforce was being stymied by an inability to efficiently link the SaaS-CRM tool with Nilkamal\u2019s ERP. Could IT find a way?Highlights:Karan Doshi, Manager, Nilkamal, found a novel way to integrate SAP with Salesforce.The real challenge, however, was integrating various ERP databases.The Organization: Nilkamal is a Rs 1,500-crore company best known for its almost iconic plastic chairs. But less known is the company\u2019s other business including plastic crates, containers and bins, and metal pallets for manufacturing and retail companies. In April 2010, about 45 percent of it's revenues were generated by this part of the business.Business Case: Nilkamal\u2019s businesses are driven by a 300-strong sales force spread across the country. As Nilkamal\u2019s feet on the street, they meet with product managers from, say, a manufacturing company who would purchase plastic crates from them.With a vision of empowering the sales team, Karan Doshi, who leads IT initiatives at Nilkamal, purchased 200 Salesforce.com licenses for the company\u2019s key sales agents. But he soon realized that Salesforce alone wasn\u2019t going to get the job done. The Karan Doshi, Manager, Nilkamal, found a novel way to integrate SAP with Salesforce. But Salesforce didn\u2019t have access to critical business information sitting within the company\u2019s ERP. And without that sales people had their hands tied.The Project: \u201cFor a sales guy to be able to make a sale, he needs to know a client\u2019s latest delivery status, pending payments, etcetera. All of this information resided within the ERP,\u201d says Doshi. As a result, despite having a cloud-based CRM model, Nilkamal\u2019s sales found itself spending a disproportionate amount of time talking with managers at head office over lengthy, long-distance calls. That manual dependency negated some of Salesforce\u2019s advantages.For a sales guy to be able to make a sale, he needs to know a client\u2019s latest delivery status, pending payments, etcetera. All of this information resided within the ERP.First Steps: Doshi had to take a call that most CIOs dread: Integrating middleware with his ERP. His earlier tryst with SAP PI was a disappointment, he says. \u201cWe were running SAP PI to integrate our ERP with Salesforce for one of our retail outlets. It was excruciatingly slow.\u201d Months of research lead him to middleware vendor Fiorano, whose ESB solution was exactly what Nilkamal needed, says Doshi. It was fast, allowed bi-directional access, and integrated beautifully with SAP.The Challenge: Integrating the middleware was easy, says Doshi. According to him, Fiorano went live in 45 days, against the projected 60 days. The real challenge, however, was integrating various ERP databases. \u201cERP is a complex giant. Unless you have a dedicated team of ERP experts such an exercise is impossible. For any successful ERP integration project you need to invest in the right skill sets,\u201d says Doshi.The Benefits: Fiorano essentially acts as the link between Salesforce and SAP. When a sales agent sends a query on Salesforce, it, in turn, queries Fiorano which then talks to Nilkamal\u2019s ERP. It then throws back all the relevant information to Salesforce. And this happens both ways. \u201cUnlike traditional point-to-point coding systems, this is a multi-point visual code that seamlessly transfers information across disparate systems. The tool can integrate not only with SAP but with other applications that Nilkamal may decide to integrate in the future,\u201d says Doshi. Doshi expects the middleware to achieve ROI in less than a year.For a sales guy to be able to make a sale, he needs to know a client\u2019s latest delivery status, pending payments, etcetera. All of this information resided within the ERP.