Power In Hand

Your customers crave mobile commerce. Can you deliver the goods like this guy?

Theres nothing like serendipity. So thought Clarity Systems principal Bill MacMullin when he came across Collective Communications Corp. at a conference last August.

MacMullin, a professional-services consultant, had been working with client ICU Medical Inc. since October 1999, upgrading and improving the companys mobile communications system.

ICUs 35 U.S. salespeople used the system to download customer information from GoldMine database servers to their laptops. Next, they synchronized the updated data via a dial-up connection to the corporate system.

As you might expect, the process was both tedious and>> time-consuming. Like many frustrated mobile customers, ICU knew there had to be a better way to do business.

Enter Clarity Systems MacMullin. He took a look at ICUs existing system and then recommended a new mobile platform based on Palm. "[ICU] had been using a CRM product called Maximizer 3.0," says MacMullin. The initial project went as planned, but "then we ran into some problems with their laptops. The laptops were basically inadequate. They were old, they didnt have enough horsepower."

Also, says Bruce Herron, ICUs CIO, the salespeople werent exactly conscientious about using their laptops.

"Salesmen!" says Herron with some exasperation. "They arent centered on technology. Its not a priority in their day to make sure the data on their laptops is current. When they needed the current data they wouldnt have it, or they would assume that what they did have was current, when in fact it wasnt."

Whats more, ICU turns inventory 88 times a year, according to MacMullin. "If the information from the field isnt up to date, you end up with information that is old and loses value very quickly. If Ive called on a distributor and also called on a hospital, the two arent tracking well together."

Part of the problem was the Maximizer CRM software the salespeople were using.

"It was too complex for them, with too complicated an interface," Herron says. "They would have difficulties and questions, and theyd have to continually call me or other support people."

Moreover, there was no uniformity among the laptops the sales staff had. "Each guy would have a different set of applications," says Herron, "and there was no way to truly support them on their end."

Several salespeople had Palm Pilot VII PDAs. So in May 2000, ICU gave them MaxLink, the PDA interface to the Maximizer Enterprise 5.5 server.

But according to Herron, MaxLink was extremely limited, so much so that it would be worthless in ICUs environment. "It didnt have any enterprise features whatsoever. If a user created a contact, it was available to all users. That means that every user is going to get the full database, and thats way too much data."

It was also way too little privacy. ICU is one of three separate corporate entities. And, on occasion, all three are competing for business in the same place, making compartmentalization of information essential.