Australian export success Ego Pharmaceuticals has radically overhauled its IT over a six month project, with its frontline sales using Salesforce.com and Google Apps on a fleet of iPhones and its backend systems migrating to SAP.
The company that has 26 brands such as skin care product QV and sun screen Sun Sense has embarked on a modernisation program that swapped out Lotus Notes for Google Apps delivered over the web, and a legacy custom ERP system for SAP.
And it gave sales staff Apple iPhones running a custom mobile app and Salesforce.com's CRM system.
The project breathed life into a field sales team that was overloaded with paperwork and isolated from their peers.
The company's 60 sales reps and merchandisers had traditionally approached pharmacies with paperwork by day, and tended to take this work home with them, said ego National Sales Manager Scott Meddings.
"They would sometimes do two hours of paperwork when they got home to their families," he told iTnews. "Repping work is usually working out on the road all day, then 1.5 hours or two hours paperwork at night.
"A key part of this project for us was to give them back their family time."
From a systems perspective, prior to the refresh orders were batch processed rather than in real-time. The IT team also had to spend time dealing with support calls around its Lotus Notes/Domino implementation, and were down to just one staff member (of retirement age) that still had skills around an unsupported PICK custom ERP system.
Ego Pharmaceuticals ICT Manager David Slattery opted to migrate front office functions to the cloud, and use the support savings it derived from this outsourcing to reallocate IT staff to the rollout of SAP ERP and Business Objects BI software.
But before the cloud solution was adopted, Meddings was first tasked with surveying the needs of his sales staff to understand their pain points. Sales staff were further given a fresh course of best-practice sales training.
The output of these two exercises were delivered in a "phone book"-sized volume of documents to mobile app developer Quattro.
Ego sought from Quattro a complex application for field staff using mobile devices - including an ordering function, the ability to record call notes on any given account, integration with the systems of wholesale partners, and visualisation of past sales and market data, as well as data from discount, sales and co-op promotions.
The mobile app would also need to integrate with both Salesforce CRM and calendaring being rolled out as part of Google Apps.
The app also required the ability to access key sales data whilst in offline mode for those field staff visiting pharmacies in regional areas with questionable mobile broadband access.
Slattery further requested "a clean API" such that the platform could be extended into the future.
Slattery and Meddings were pleased with the result. But more importantly, sales staff were ecstatic.
Ego's 60 field staff were originally told they would be accessing these applications on RIM Blackberry smartphones.
But after months of feedback from staff and exploration of the various mobile platforms, the company decided instead to issue the staff Apple iPhones.
Meddings said sales staff felt they had a hand in choosing the solution.
The solution guides the sales staff through their day's work via a workflow process developed during the pre-rollout sales training.
"In this sense, the technology was built around a process we already knew had worked, rather than the other way around," Meddings said. "The feedback from staff was - 'you have listened to us and built what makes our job easier.'"
Sales staff no longer need to spend their evenings organising the next day's activity, he said.
The first screen staff see when they wake in the morning is a call schedule, synced with their Google calendar, which details the day's meetings, and steps the rep through details about the customers they are to visit.
Orders are placed in-store on the iPhone and copies are emailed directly to the customer. Multiple sales and merchandising teams can make notes for their peers or create diary entries to ensure their colleagues know the next step in the sales process.
Taking sales social
Ego Pharmaceuticals now uses Salesforce.com's CRM and Chatter social networking service to encourage its geographically isolated sales and merchandising reps to collaborate.
Meddings said that merchandisers, for example, might take a photo of their latest display and upload it to chatter for peers to review.
"We now have a sales culture driven on peer-to-peer accountability," he said. "We encourage staff to communicate successes and failures - to be open and transparent."
Staff have warmed to Chatter, he said, even if it means having to face the critical input of their peers.
"It works, providing you don't flog people over the results," Meddings said. "The point of knowing about success and failure is for people to get better.
Meddings said the organisation created a "culture that accepts change" - where it is "OK to be confused and ask questions."
He is unconcerned by the security ramifications of encouraging staff to communicate in a Twitter-like fashion on work systems.
"It comes back to the people," he said. "If you are worrying about somebody saying [something that could harm the company], you probably aren't recruiting very well."
Meddings said the solution - deployed on an iPhone - impresses customers.
"It helps to reinforce the ego brand position - that we represent innovation in healthcare," he said.
Slattery's IT team meanwhile, is enjoying far less support calls.
"Mail support calls down to just about zero," he said.
Inhouse vs cloud
Slattery said Ego Pharmaceuticals continues to run in-house systems for ERP, helpdesk, and lab test systems (for TGA audit) among others.
But he has no qualms with migrating applications to cloud services, "as long as we can maintain control and security of information," he said.
The two-factor authentication offered by Google and encryption offered by Salesforce.com were both decisive features, he said.
Now the Australian company plans to roll out its Salesforce/Google Apps/iPhone app solution to its global network of sales staff, which rivals its Australian sales team in size.
By September 2011, Slattery expects the company's Middle East operations to be running Salesforce.com, and will gradually roll-out the solution to more territories in the months beyond.