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When E-Mail Isn’t Enough To Justify Mobile Sales Tool

Evergreen Investments Needed CRM Connection To Justify Widespread BlackBerry Use

Evergreen Investments, which manages more than $246 billion in assets, spun its wheels the past four years looking for the right wireless tool to get salespeople on the road better access to customer data, and get quicker information back from them.

The businesss-technology team thinks it has the right answer now, but not before going through a few big changes of thinking along the way:

  • Coverage came to be seen as one of the most-important assets, so salespeople could be truly untethered and not have to do a wireless-plus-PC-synch operation.
  • Salespeople generally didn't need a huge amount of computer power on their wireless devices, such as PowerPoint capabilities. If they did, it wasn't a big problem to bring a laptop. Instead, they most wanted a mobile tool that provided instant-on access, E-mail, and very specific sales-meeting-related customer information that could go to and from the corporate office.
  • Commercial software has evolved to the point that Evergreen didn't have to build its own connection between its customer-relationship-management system and the wireless device.

    Those changes prompted Evergreen this summer to give salespeople BlackBerry handsets, using software from Pyxis called mWholesaler built to provide a BlackBerry-to-CRM connection for financial-services salespeople. The handsets also work as mobile phones.

    "We started out looking at replacing their laptops; we ended up just replacing their phones," says John Clinton, Evergreen VP, sales reporting manager.

    Wendy Irwin, VP of sales technology at Evergreen, says the Pyxis implementation took three months from the time the contract was signed, and has been live since July. She declined to reveal the cost. Pyxis, of Waltham, Mass., faces plenty of competition, including from companies' in-house development and from CRM vendors themselves. For example, SAP earlier this year partnered with the maker of BlackBerry, Research In Motion, to offer mobile access to mySAP CRM applications.

    Evergreen has a customer-contact database from Onyx Software Corp. of Bellevue, Wash., but salespeople generally loaded information and meeting notes into the database on Fridays, when they were back at their desks after a week on the road trying to sell brokers and financial advisors Evergreen investment products. With their wireless connections, Clinton says salespeople are much more likely to enter meeting notes the same day, giving inside sales staff a jump on following leads.

    Evergreen is part of Wachovia Corp., and Irwin says her colleagues have taken notice. Giving salespeople access to E-mail by itself wasn't a compelling enough argument to justify equipping them all with new devices. Putting another valuable application on top of E-mail, though, can push the initiative over the ROI hump. "Since this has rolled out, I've gotten a lot of interest and will be meeting with a lot of other groups in the bank," Irwin says. Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in ... View Full Bio

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