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PDA Database Developed to Synchronize Field Sales & Marketing Teams

One 2 One Mobile Puts PDA Forms to Work in the Field
by Frank Yacano, Director of Business Development, SYWARE, Inc.

Visual CE enabled Zync Solutions to develop the PDA database application without coding
Visual CE enabled Zync Solutions to develop the PDA database application without coding.

One of the keys to an effective sales effort is a well-coordinated flow of information between sales personnel in the field and the marketing department at headquarters. The field team needs the latest presentations and current information about products and pricing. Headquarters needs feedback from the field to ensure that its marketing programs are working effectively, and to make necessary adjustments. When the process is working smoothly, the prompt two-way flow of information leads to a steady increase in sales effectiveness and the ability to land new business. Unfortunately, the reality is often less satisfactory, with paper-based processes leading to inefficiencies and delays at both ends.

One to One Mobile (, one of the largest mobile phone companies in the UK, with over 8 million subscribers making more than 200 million calls each week, needed to face this issue head-on. To differentiate itself in a fiercely competitive marketplace where several major companies battle for market share, One to One turned to Zync Solutions (, a UK integrator and hosting provider. Zync worked with One to One to create a special application that automates the two-way flow of information between sales force PDA databases and the internal Intranet-based marketing database.

One to One's field sales staff now uses PDA databases to capture customer survey data, which is uploaded each night to a central database and published immediately on an Intranet web page for analysis by marketing management. The PDAs also store and display the company's complete 300-page sales presentation, which is updated automatically during the nightly synchronization. This means One 2 One now has field survey data available for analysis the same day - rather than weeks later - while the field sales force has up-to-date presentations and product information. In addition, by eliminating the costs related to distributing paper presentations and duplicate data entry work, the automated solution paid for itself after only three months of operation.

Visiting 6000 Outlets Monthly
Each month, One 2 One sales personnel visit over 6000 outlets where the company's products and services are sold. They conduct training, promote the latest offerings, and answer questions on anything related to One 2 One and its products. Their primary tool is a Vadem Clio PDA, which has a large enough screen to allow customers to easily view sales presentations and training materials. After talking up the latest offerings, they use the PDA forms to conduct a survey about sales activities in each outlet. One 2 One has created an extensive survey to assess the value of marketing materials, share of window space, what products are on display, sales volume, and other issues of importance to the marketing department.

During the day, consultants typically visit 10-15 stores, conducting presentations and gathering survey information. When they get home in the evening, they synchronize their PDA databases with a central marketing server - the only administrative task required using the new system. During synchronization, the field survey data is uploaded into a master database for analysis and reporting, while the latest presentation material is downloaded to the PDA. The synchronization can take place over a modem or wirelessly via the infrared port on a mobile phone.

Power Tool for PDA Database Development
Zync designed the PDA forms using a database tool called Visual CE® from SYWARE ( Enabling PDA database application development without coding, Visual CE combines ease of use with capabilities typically associated with much more complex and costly products. A drag-and-drop development environment enables even non-programmers like Fisk and his colleagues to easily create highly functional PDA database and forms applications. Applications can include a wide range of controls that provide users with extensive flexibility when interacting with forms and databases.

"Visual CE allows us to create and modify forms faster than any other product," notes Ian Fisk, Managing Director, Zync Solutions. "It was also something we could use without getting a programmer involved." Fisk had considered using Visual Basic for building forms, but determined that the coding required would have taken too long and cost too much.

Database forms can be created and maintained either on the PDA device or on a desktop computer. This flexibility allows forms to be created and updated on a central office system and then automatically deployed to PDAs in the field during synchronization. "If One 2 One wants a question changed or a complete new form created, we can write it once and deploy it to all PDAs out there," adds Fisk.

Zync Solutions used Visual CE to create an eight-page form that allows salespeople to capture all field information of interest to marketing management, while using a variety of clever techniques to avoid unnecessary keying. On the initial page, the user can enter a store ID or customer name and Visual CE automatically fills in details such as the complete address, phone number, and contact name. The remaining pages allow the salesperson to record details about One 2 One products sold, utilization of shelf and window space, condition of displays, and other information that indicates the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Drop down lists allows choices to be selected by point and click rather than losing time writing the answers.

Figure 1. PDA Database Opening Field Survey Screen
Figure 1. Opening Field Survey Screen

Figure 2. PDA Database Survey Detail Screen
Figure 2. Survey Detail Screen

Comprehensive Reporting with Current Data
Survey data captured using the Visual CE forms is entered into the Windows CE Store on the PDA. During synchronization, the data is copied to a master SQL database hosted on a server in the Zync data center, where it is immediately available for viewing on One 2 One's Intranet. Managers can view details about visits to individual stores: what time the salesperson arrived, how long he or she stayed, how much window space is allocated to One 2 One products, and about 80 other elements of detailed information about the visit. Managers can also create numerous reports that provide a view of sales activities at all outlets - what is selling and what isn't, activity by day, week, month, and quarter, by product line or regions. Results can be cut in a myriad of ways, all based on information less than 24 hours old.

Fisk also sees particular advantages in the new Visual CE Version 6.0. The latest version allows different forms to be associated with individual stores, since not all questions are applicable for each store. When the user enters the store address, Visual CE automatically presents the correct series of forms that is appropriate for that store. The latest version also validates information as it is entered, keeping track of details that could easily elude manual entry. For example, if percentages for estimated share of window space don't add up to a hundred, Visual CE displays a flag on the user's screen.

Solution Elements
In building the hosted solution, Zync integrated a variety of software and hardware products. XTNDConnect (from Extended Systems) manages the synchronization, while providing the flexibility to control the exchange of Powerpoint presentations, survey data, HTML pages, and all other documents required by field or home office personnel. Microsoft Remote Access Manager (RAS) controls the user connection to the hosted network, while managing security and user authentication. Additional Microsoft products were used to create the web site for viewing on the PDA and desktop systems.

Zync evaluated three PDA devices before settling on the Vadem Clio. Requirements included a large screen for viewing presentations, as well as keyboard and touch screen input. A Windows CE platform was needed for the added database functionality compared to Palm products, along with the familiar Windows environment.

Streamlined Processes for Users and Developers
"They know they're never going back to paper - the duplication of work was incredible. They can also make decisions based on reliable data, rather just attempting a best guess." The new solution replaces a paper-driven process that was slow and inefficient. Field surveys were conducted using paper forms, which were faxed back to the main office every night. Over the following days and weeks, survey data would be re-keyed into a central spreadsheet. By the time the data was finally available for analysis and reporting, its value had been significantly reduced. Updates to presentations were faxed out monthly, for manual updating by the sales force - another inefficient process, and often with inconsistent results.

"Based on the results at One 2 One, quite a few companies have asked us to engage in similar outsourcing projects," Fisk adds. "Visual CE will make our task much easier as we pursue these new opportunities. The speed of the process is phenomenal - we can develop and deploy a new form in minutes."

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