A mobile sales assistant solution puts customer information in the hands of salespeople at Danish manufacturer, KiMs
Microsoft has revealed details of a pilot project it is conducting with KiMs A/S, a Danish snack and chips manufacturer that has been exploring the benefits of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology in combination with Microsoft since 2003.
The pilot project is said to draw on the capabilities of mobile technology and the innovations of a full lineup of Microsoft products to grant KiMs' 70-person sales force access to critical customer information regardless of their physical location. The pilot project and the solution, which adds the flexibility of mobile technology to the benefits of bar-code and RFID innovations KiMs was already experiencing, is called mobile sales assistant and reflects the Microsoft Dynamics strategy to deliver role-based technologies and services that accommodate the way people in midsize companies work. Mobile sales assistant was successfully rolled out to the KiMs sales team in August and September, and the team is already seeing the benefits.
At the heart of the mobile sales assistant pilot project is the need to leverage KiMs' existing IT investment, consisting of the Microsoft Windows platform and the Microsoft Business Solutions Axapta business management suite, now part of Microsoft Dynamics. With a clear focus on role-based needs, Microsoft is extending KiMs' existing investment with powerful mobile technology to help ensure a successful end-to-end sales process. The new solution combines key supply chain and customer relationship management features in Microsoft Axapta with the flexibility of a mobile solution.
For the sales team at KiMs, the benefits are said to be considerable; the pilot solution gives the mobile sales force access to data within Microsoft Axapta, such as current inventory levels and historical information about the individual customers' purchasing habits. The salesperson can also use the customer's most recent point-of-sale data on the device, which gives a full picture of that customer's profile, provides insight into which promotional campaigns are best suited to that store, and enables the salesperson to advise the customer on how to maximize sales accordingly.
The mobile sales assistant also lets the sales team reduce the number of devices required to serve customers. Previously, a salesperson needed a personal digital assistant (PDA), a mobile phone, a laptop computer and a pager to complete orders. As a result of the pilot project, salespeople can now use a single mobile device that includes a phone, a calendar, contacts and programs such as Microsoft Office Outlook, Microsoft Office Word, Microsoft Office Excel and Microsoft Office PowerPoint. The mobile sales assistant also lets the sales team connect remotely via GPRS, hot spots or other wireless means to immediately send data, such as customer orders, and receive updates, such as inventory levels and customer-specific campaign information, directly from Microsoft Axapta.
The pilot project has been met with enthusiasm at KiMs. "Our business depends on our ability to offer consistently superior customer service," said Jesper Toubol, technology manager with KiMs. "We needed a truly innovative solution to give our sales force better access to customer information so that they could in turn provide better customer service, drive better sales thanks to greater visibility of inventory levels, and reduce the amount of time they needed to complete administrative tasks. We now have a solution that addresses our unique needs, and we are very pleased with the results."
KiMs is projecting that the solution will have a very positive impact on the company's bottom line. The anticipated savings start with a 75 percent reduction in inventory losses. Beyond better inventory control, the solution eliminates the need to re-key inaccurate or lost orders into the ERP system, which Toubol expects to boost productivity in back-office administration by 20 percent. By eliminating the need for drivers to make multiple trips to a customer to deliver orders placed through phone, fax and automated channels, KiMs expects to reduce delivery costs at least 15 percent.
"The mobile sales assistant pilot is a prime example of how Microsoft is working closely with its customers and partners to develop solutions that help businesses amplify the impact of their employees," said Satya Nadella, corporate vice president, Microsoft Dynamics. "It also demonstrates our commitment to delivering on the promise of the Microsoft Dynamics road map to deliver role-based solutions that are easy to use and integrated with familiar Microsoft solutions. This integration enabled the development and deployment teams to leverage the benefits of several Microsoft technologies with the end result of delivering a solution that helps maximize KiMs' existing investments."
With the successful launch of the pilot project at KiMs, Microsoft is looking ahead to further enhancements to the solution. "Our goal is to leverage this successful customized KiMs pilot to identify which elements of the solution can be standardized to provide a foundational mobile sales force solution, helping to reduce costs and development times for our partners to customize for their specific customers' requirements," Nadella said. "We anticipate that the final product will include the most highly requested features, as well as some additional functionality we are considering such as location-aware capabilities and integration with Microsoft MapPoint."
Built with Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 and based on the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 and Microsoft SQL Server 2005, the project is also said to demonstrate the significant role that Microsoft's partners play in delivering innovative solutions to their joint customers. Mobile sales assistant was developed in close collaboration with HandStep, Knudsen Consulting Aps, Symbol Technologies Inc., TDC Mobil and Tectura Corp.