Ballance Agri-Nutrients Achieves a 360-Degree View of the Customer, Growing Revenue Streams by Becoming a ‘Data Integrator’ in the New Zealand Agriculture Industry.
Ballance Agri-Nutrients (Ballance) is a New Zealand (NZ) farmer-owned co-operative that is committed to helping its customers farm more productively, proﬁtably and sustainably. From a core business of fertiliser manufacturing, supply, sales and advice, Ballance has grown to offer farmers a full range of digitally enabled, science-backed products and services.
CUSTOMER DATA SILOS RESTRICT DATA INSIGHTS
With the expansion of Ballance’s product offerings and distribution networks over time, silos of customer data had emerged across their business value chain. Previously, information systems did not integrate across Ballance’s disparate service offerings meaning customers had a disconnected experience with multiple entry points and interfaces for managing their farm information. Without a single source of truth, data could not be easily accessed or analysed across the business to gain insights into how to deliver better products and services to customers.
THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PLATFORM – PUTTING YOUR FARM AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
With SAP at the heart of its digital strategy, an implementation roadmap was established in collaboration with Zag to transform Ballance’s back office and front office operations to improve customer experience.
Ballance had previously worked with Zag to upgrade its Business Intelligence (BI) solution to SAP BusinessObjects and its ERP solution to SAP S/4HANA with Business Warehouse (BW). Using SAP’s newest business suite provides them with better opportunities for developing a complete customer experience platform, that supports online Commerce, Call Centre operations, Nutrient Specialist field visits and Loader operations within manufacturing plants and consignment stores.
Zag Enterprise Architects worked with Ballance to design an omni-channel eCommerce solution that removed data silos and provided complete end-to-end visibility of the customer journey. Ballance implemented the Commerce and Marketing components of SAP C/4HANA and SAP Data Services with the support of Zag’s experienced SAP consultants and specialist eCommerce Business Line.
“We partnered with Zag in the creation of MyBallance because they know how to innovate successfully with SAP solutions and really understand what we are wanting to achieve in the Customer Experience space. Zag are like an extension to the Ballance team.” – David Scullin, CDO
The customer experience solution aligns data and business processes within multiple SAP HANA applications, combined with complementary external data sources from National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and Ag-Research. The Ballance Business-to-Business (B2B) Commerce and Marketing implementation also leverages Geo-spatial and graphical interfaces embedded within SAP Commerce pages.
The resulting platform branded ‘MyBallance: Your farm at your fingertips’, links disparate data sources to create a comprehensive and seamless digital experience for farmers across all Ballance product and service offerings from nutrient analysis and farm planning, right through to fertiliser purchasing and placement.
The solution provides a responsive User Interface (UI) design that is intuitive to use and device agnostic providing easy access to farm information 24/7 via any desktop, tablet or smartphone. Farmers can place, track and see the status of their orders and have recommendations on the MyBallance system sent to spreaders, optimising planning and collaboration between stores and contractors.
“The journey we are on is allowing us to connect our employees, suppliers, customers and third parties to our digital core. With SAP Commerce, Marketing and S/4HANA at the centre, we are confidently leveraging data insights to provide recommendations and services to customers that enable them to be more autonomous, efficient and sustainable.” – David Scullin, CDO for Ballance Agri-Nutrients
With its Inter-Active Planning feature, farmers can create, copy and edit their own fertiliser plans, manage annual fertiliser spend, mitigate potential hazards and report on planned vs actual expenditure.
For data privacy, access to the platform is controlled centrally by Ballance according to the nature of the supplier, contractor or level of customer subscription. All customer users (except casual website browsers) are required to register as a MyBallance User presenting Ballance with opportunities for communications and personalised digital marketing.
Zag worked with Ballance to dismantle their legacy promotions business and system behaviours to deliver a major functional release to MyBallance which enables them to use promotional coupons in the portal in a structed system and process. “We are leveraging customer insights to deliver direct marketing campaigns to our customers,” says Scullin. “With promotions Ballance is striving to offer better value to its customers and improve its supply chain efficiency.”
This project incorporated the SAP Marketing Campaign and Offer functionality with integration to SAP ERP sales ordering and billing information. Their BW layer provides ongoing monitoring and trend analysis capability.
INTEGRATIONS AND THE MYBALLANCE ECOSYSTEM
Zag is building integrations between core digital applications and beneficial third-party data sources as Ballance continues to grow their customer engagement ecosystem with MyBallance. The vision is that MyBallance will be the common access point for all customer and third-party interactions and over-time it will become the one-stop shop for all things Ballance.
My Farm Forecaster
An example of MyBallance third-party integrations is the NIWA integration for farm planning and forecasting, combing climate data, soil and high-resolution weather forecasting with geo-spatial farm information. Using the SAP Commerce platform, Zag exposed property information to the NIWA developed app, branded as ‘My Farm Forecaster’, allowing registered MyBallance users to view exact weather information for their properties. This integration provides new analytical insights whereby Ballance can benchmark farm performance levels per farm, region and farming system, creating new data driven business opportunities.
My Pasture Planner
Zag redesigned and deployed a decision support solution within MyBallance for pastural nitrogen planning used by Nutrient Specialists and customers. It provides insights into the benefits of spreading a Ballance supplied nitrogen-based fertiliser by calculating expected pasture growth based on factors such as farm area, farming type and regional variations. Named ‘My Pasture Planner’, the solution supports an external web service which receives data inputs such as nitrogen plans, then performs agronomic calculations to return results back to MyBallance, complete with farm spend analytics.
With sustainability and compliance key motivators, Ballance entrusted Zag to integrate MyBallance with its breakthrough environment planning and forecasting tool ‘MitAgator’ developed with AgResearch. The MitAgator Risk Map brings a farmer’s nutrient budget to life, providing a comprehensive geo-spatial view of where nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment and E. coli losses are occurring around the farm. This informs farmers on which areas they should target to improve environmental performance and compliance.
DRIVING BUSINESS PERFORMANCE, CONNECTED AGRICULTURE AND SUSTAINABILITY
With its unprecedented convenience, MyBallance steps into the future of the ‘connected farm’, supporting improved management of nutrients for environmental reporting and financial reconciliation. “Due to Zag challenging what is possible and delivering exceptional results, this solution did not just deliver transformation for Ballance Agri-Nutrients, it delivered digital transformation and excellence to the entire chain of businesses connected with MyBallance,” says Scullin.
With an increased uptake of online ordering, MyBallance has reduced the administrative burden on salespeople (Nutrient Specialists) and reduced order processing times by Customer Services staff. Order entry times are 70% faster, only a 1-second wait for real-time insights into years of data, and sales reporting is 600% faster, down from 2-hours to 20-minutes. This means Ballance’s employees can spend more time servicing the needs of their customers.
Ballance has improved customer engagement through personalised data insights and optimised views. Scullin elaborates, “Through partnering and innovating in the creation of MyBallance, Zag has helped Ballance achieve 360-degree insights into our customers across the entire business, providing greater analytical, benchmarking and marketing capability that will drive new services and revenue streams for Ballance.”
Through better management of fertiliser placement, MyBallance helps farmers operate sustainably, protecting the environment while maximising production efficiency and profitability. The result is improved accuracy of fertiliser application on farms and reduced run-off contamination into New Zealand waterways.
Zag has helped Ballance digitally transform their business and set the stage for the next level of connected agriculture. Taking advantage of new opportunities provided by the Internet of Things and predictive analytics, the MyBallance ecosystem continues to grow with new applications, integrations and technologies.
MYBALLANCE RECEIVES GLOBAL RECOGNITION WITH INNOVATION AWARD WIN
Recognised on the world stage, Ballance and Zag were awarded the prestigious Best Run SAP Innovation Award in 2018 for exemplifying SAP’s ultimate vision of digital transformation, effectively demonstrating how to use SAP technologies to lead an industry and succeed in today’s dynamic and digital economy. With this award, the CEO of SAP recognised MyBallance as the project with the most significant scope and impact of positive change on the business, as well as the most impressive or creative use of technology to drive that change.
“We would not have been able to take this transformative step in our business – or win this global award for MyBallance – without Zag challenging what is possible and delivering exceptional results.” – David Scullin, CDO
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