Building a Windows CE Application for Sales Management - Within Hours
Wish you could get your workflow onto a handheld device, but think it's just too complicated? Think again.
"Information is power," observes Michael Melo, "but only when you can get your hands on it quickly - otherwise it's useless. This is particularly true in the rapidly evolving wireless industry, where new products and business models are being introduced daily.
Melo is a Corporate Sales Executive for Rogers AT&T Wireless in British Columbia. As a consultant for corporate clients, he helps businesses choose the most effective, complete communications solution for their needs. He sells products and services encompassing wireless technology, including handsets and associated services, wireless data communications, and messaging and paging products.
He spends a great deal of time on the road prospecting for new business. Customers and prospects have specific requirements that have to be recorded and tracked efficiently. He also receives a constant stream of information about his company and his industry that must be available at his fingertips. He faced a dilemma: how to keep track of the information he needs.
Melo does not like to lug around a laptop - he wanted to use his 1 pound HP Jornada. However, the generic applications available off the shelf were too limited for his requirements, while spending vast amounts for custom development work was not an option.
The solution was to use a database and forms builder tool called Visual CE® from SYWARE (www.syware.com) to create his own applications for his handheld PC. Visual CE provides intuitive design capabilities that allow non-programmers like Melo to quickly define their own data capture screens. In addition, extensive database functionality allows him to manage and manipulate data to fit his specific needs.
"Conservatively, I'm saving at least an hour a day with this technology," he says. 'It's very comforting to be able to leave the office with something that weighs one pound. You hardly notice it, yet it still contains all the information you put in there."
Within the first month of getting Visual CE, Melo was already using five applications that he had created himself, even though he had no programming experience. "It took me a few hours to build an application that enabled me to finally keep taps on all the information I receive from my clients and my company," he says. "I was surprised at how easy it was to use, which is good because I hate spending time fiddling with computers. I just want them to do what they're supposed to do, which is to act as a tool to help me win more business."
Everything He Needs to Know
The program is synchronized with information on his desktop PC, providing consistency between platforms and also eliminating the need to enter data twice. Melo uses a desktop contact management program called On Schedule (similar to Microsoft Outlook) to store contact information for prospects, customers, and business associates. This program synchronizes with a Windows CE version of the same program called Pocket On Schedule that runs on his handheld. This means that the contact information that he creates on the desktop has an exact replica on the Windows CE device.
However, contact management programs only capture limited types of information such as company name, contact name, phone number, and email address. There's not much room for customization - that's where Visual CE comes in. Melo's initial Visual CE sales management screen is filled with pre-entered contact information from his Pocket On Schedule application. This opening screen serves as a launching pad, with numerous customized links and fields that allow him to enter a great deal of specific information about his accounts.
For example, one button links to an application that Melo calls his Sales Engine that tracks prospects through different stages of the sales process. The Sales Engine application automatically fills in existing sales contact information. Other fields are used to enter information such as Sales Stage (reflecting a prospect's status in the sales process), products they may be interested in (using drop down menus of all the products that the company offers), future plans, name of the decision maker, and similar data.
Additional buttons allow him to specify detailed information about different types of corporate accounts such as voice, wireless data, and wireless messaging. Corporate clients typically have more than one account, corresponding to the different types of service they receive. One button links to cellular accounts information, allowing him to enter and track information such as number of subscribers, and products/services used. Other buttons provide similar functionality for wireless messaging and wireless data accounts. "The relational database is where the true power lies, by providing the ability to link from one table to another," Melo adds.
When he emails documents to customers, Visual CE application automatically links the files that he sent to the customer record. "Not only can I keep basic contact information in my Windows CE device, but I can keep everything else behind it," he explains. "For example, documents that I send to a client can be linked to the Visual CE contact database, so with a few button clicks I can see all the files that I sent them."
Managing the Information Flow
"Where do you put all that stuff? You can save it on your C drive, but then you'll have to go back to the office or carry your laptop around. Another option is to save it on your handheld in Windows CE, but then you have to go digging for it." The Windows directory structure makes it difficult to search for and categorize documents, forcing users to drill down into a directory to find a document, and remembering what you called it
Once again, he was able to use Visual CE to create a solution, taking advantage of the built-in synchronization capabilities between Windows CE and his desktop. For example, new information that his company emails would be saved to a directory on his desktop, then synchronized with Windows CE on his handheld, where it can be accessed using Visual CE. He is then able to use the database capabilities of Visual CE to search for files and documents by various criteria, within all folders.
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Custom Reports from His Handheld
"A Huge Time-Saver"
Melo adds that Visual CE will probably be rolled out among his company's local sales team in British Columbia. "We'll see where it goes from there," he says. "In the future, I want it to track everything that goes on within my profession."
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