For Ywain Cheney, Fridays used to be dominated by manually uploading documents and photos to his company’s intranet. He spent several hours updating the site to provide the sales department with the tools it needed. Cheney, head of the art department at Paige Denim in Culver City, California, decided he needed to streamline the process while providing salespeople with access to resources — from look books and line sheets to press materials — on the go. He researched mobile applications that could do both. Six months later, the sales force has the tools it needs, Cheney said, using mobile devices in meetings to share pictures and product information with buyers and editors. He can update the app in real time, which frees his time on Fridays.
“A lot of these organizations make it really complex, and the key is to keep it simple,” said Chief Analyst Sanchit Gogia, and CEO of Greyhound Research. “You don’t need all points of information [on a mobile device]. We tell our clients to think about, ‘Who needs what on the ground? What is critical and what is not critical?'”
Greyhound’s Gogia said the problem is in how the technology is implemented. Organizations often have trouble selecting the right tools and deciding how to use them, he said.
Further complicating the issue is the quick pace of technology innovation. Gogia said some companies are blinded by new options and buy apps before determining whether they will improve workflows and the customer experience. A company might buy six apps over a period of 18 months, only to realize they now have the complex task of managing six different apps from six different vendors — all with different security issues.
“Most CEOs are busy comparing tools, and they completely forget, ‘Why are we doing this in the first place?'” said Gogia, who advises clients to test mobile sales force automation tools on a few key sales people before deploying them to the entire team. “Keep it simple. Move slowly.”
Greyhound’s Gogia said buying decisions shouldn’t reside solely with the IT department. Mobile sales force automation requires buy-in from top executives and the sales team. If sales reps have a problem using the technology, they have to communicate that to IT, he said. “The front office and back office really need to talk to each other,” he said.
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