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Flowing information to the field

Recent acquisitions forced Aspen Technology to re-examine its sales force automation and homegrown intranet technology. The very products intended to help its 120-person global sales force become more efficient were actually impeding productivity.

“Rapidly, there were a lot more people involved in the sales process coming from different organizations,” explains Steve Ruzicka, director of sales operations for Aspen Technology. “Communication became a growing challenge.”

A maker of integration solutions for process manufacturing companies, Aspen Technology operates in more than 20 countries and has 1,500 employees. Its existing sales force automation (SFA) tool wasn’t working as well as expected. The software was designed to escalate information from the sales force to management, rather than to serve the information needs of Aspen’s direct reps. In fact, the burden was on the reps to enter account information into the SFA, which added to their workload.

Also to expedite the flow of information to the field, the company had implemented a sales intranet. However, due to fast growth, standards were lacking and the intranet soon became overloaded with out-of-date files. The sales force found the intranet too cumbersome to navigate so people didn’t use it.

Says Ruzicka, “We faced a choice, whether to fix the sales force automation system or to fix the intranet. Our experience showed that very large software implementations are unlikely to succeed unless needs are well defined and you follow a strict process of implementing business changes, including a pilot project. That meant that truly fixing the SFA was a process that would take years. So instead we decided to rethink our intranet approach.”

Aspen Technology decided to implement the changes to the sales intranet externally because, according to Ruzicka, the company’s “limited programming resources were better used helping our customers ... driving revenues.” Also the company was uncertain if it had enough internal resources to fix the problem.

Before long, the company narrowed its choices down to the Field.First sales and marketing portal from ConjoinConjoin. The software was rolled out in just two months, and the feedback from the sales force has been positive, Ruzicka says, because the system is easy to access and information is easy to find.

The solution has delivered two major applications for Aspen Technology’s sales force. “The first,” says Ruzicka, “is a more systematic approach to creating and managing structured documents, like sales literature and other marketing materials. For the first time, sales reps have ready access to all of these documents.”

The second application was more unexpected. Aspen Technology tries to manage two kinds of information with Field.First--static information, like sales literature, and dynamic information, like account status records. The company decided to use Field.First to create and manage a repository of information on sales opportunities, as they go through the sales cycle. It was looking for a way to make it easy for sales reps to exchange information about accounts, and when closing a deal, to communicate with other departments like service and customer support, which need to deploy the implementation after the sale. Field.First's Briefing Rooms offers a means for Aspen Technology to manage that information.

"Field.First lets us edit files in real time," Ruzicka says, "with access limited to individuals with permission. This capability--on top of managing published marketing and sales information--really doubles the value of the system from our viewpoint."

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