When companies upgrade their multichannel “front office” digitally and integrate it with back-office ERP software, the potential of growth through omnichannel commerce is limitless, writes Paul do Forno, managing director of the commerce practice at Deloitte Digital.

Paul do Forno, Managing Director - Commerce & Content Practice at Deloitte Digital

Paul do Forno

The impending surge of 16,000 SAP S/4 upgrades spotlights the back office as a pivotal and well-understood element foundational to business operations. Yet, within this widespread acknowledgment, a strategic opportunity surfaces: the front office, though often overshadowed, emerges as the key to unlocking new revenue and seizing untapped opportunities.

A robust, well-oiled front office has the potential to unlock more revenue, covering the investment made in upgrading both back- and front-office systems.

While the back office provides core capabilities, the front office presents a new pathway for businesses to venture into innovative realms or channels, driving growth and capitalizing on newfound potential.

Navigating the SAP S/4 wave

The heartbeat of this transformation lies in the need to upgrade back-office systems, specifically SAP S/4HANA. These SAP updates are triggering a surge in upgrades, aligning with the broader trend of technological advancements. The focus is not solely on customer-facing roles but encompasses the entire operational spectrum. Many companies find themselves at a crucial juncture — a crossroads that demands a holistic approach to updating both the back and front office.

The role of the back office in supporting and facilitating seamless operations and financials is paramount. Upgrading and maintaining these systems is not just about internal efficiency; it is a critical move to ensure customer satisfaction and drive overall business success. The synergy between the back and front office becomes evident as companies explore streamlining their back-office processes. Synchronizing the upgrade of the front office can help to pay for the back-office updates, ensuring a cohesive ERP system.


The front office, encompassing marketing, sales, service, and commerce, is the face of the company. Recent technological strides enable the synchronization of front- and back-office functions. This synchronization eradicates manual data entry, minimizing errors, and ensuring real-time access to customer data for the front office. Such streamlined operations facilitate personalized service and swift responses to market changes.

B2B commerce stands as a linchpin in the front office, seamlessly connecting with the back office. Think of B2B commerce as the digitization of B2B sales. The omnichannel view of B2B commerce, spanning direct commerce, B2B marketplaces, procurement commerce, and sales-assisted channels, is critical. This importance is further emphasized by a Forrester Research study projecting a 50% increase, reaching $3 trillion in B2B ecommerce over the next four years.

B2B Commerce: The Catalyst for Front-Office Growth

Today, customers prioritize companies who offer digital tools — officially putting the paper catalogs on the back burner. And if companies want to remain competitive and grow, they will need to have robust self-service options that users can not only opt into, but a system that allows for a smooth and seamless experience. And a robust, well-oiled front office has the potential to unlock more revenue, covering the investment made in upgrading both back- and front-office systems.

When companies firm up their front office by tapping into the array of digital tools that help them sell across channels — Omni-Channel B2B Commerce — the potential is limitless. They can provide an end-to-end digital sales experience that empowers them to more efficiently and effectively serve their customers through:

  • Direct commerce / Customer Portal / Dealer Portals – a website that supports marketing and catalog management online. This also includes mobile responsive design.
  • B2B marketplaces – a company’s own and third-party marketplaces in which companies can sell both their own products and facilitate others to sell via online marketplaces.
  • Procurement commerce – a platform that facilitates buyers to access a supplier’s storefront from within the buyer’s own procurement application.
  • Sales Assisted allows direct connection with customers through call centers and online chats to complete orders or resolve any issues in a timely manner.

As B2B commerce is expected to grow over the next four years, digital transformation should be seen as a growth channel for any B2B company.

Success has been proven through a manufacturer’s recent digital transformation. While the investment was 24% for the front office, it resulted in 57% of the overall business value case in both the front and back office.

By investing in their front office, companies can help pay for their back-office upgrades — continuing to fuel strong revenue growth, building strong relationships with their customers as well as creating new efficiencies across their business, ultimately leading to easier sales processes and increased return of investment (ROI).

About the author:


Paul do Forno is the managing director of Deloitte Digital’s Commerce Practice.

Sign up

Sign up for a complimentary subscription to Digital Commerce 360 B2B News, published 4x/week. It covers technology and business trends in the growing B2B ecommerce industry. Contact Mark Brohan, vice president of B2B and Market Research Development, at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @markbrohan.