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With iPad CRM app, distributor modernizes inventory tracking system

Long cycle times and inventory tracking woes led an industrial distributor to renovate its iPad CRM system.

Repairs and renovations are the crux of business operations for industrial distributor HD Supply, but in recent years, its archaic inventory management system made tracking difficult. Using paper, pens and spreadsheets to log supplies and orders resulted in   long cycle times on quotes and inventory quantities falling short, two things that slowed down gains in market share. A search for a mobile application that lets sales representatives access stock from the field was a necessity, said HD Supply's Director of Customer Experience Ayesha Basheer.

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Rehabbing dated processes

Historically, HD Supply's sales representatives walked properties to determine the breadth and depth of a renovation armed with merely a notepad and pen. Upon returning to the office, they'd fire up their laptop and input data in an Excel spreadsheet before making a round of phone calls to determine product pricing and availability.

This paper-based process led to mistakes about inventory availability. Far too often a representative assumed an item was in stock, only to find out too late someone else already claimed it. "Even though we had enough product at the beginning of the project, we might not [have] as we went along because the product wasn't segregated," said Kaye Stambaugh, vice president of services and customer care.

Along with Basheer and Stambaugh, IT Director Brent Glover devised a list of features they were looking for in a tool that would extend its iPad CRM application, which included:

  • Compatibility with Salesforce
  • Easy usability for non-tech-savvy employees
  • Integration of spreadsheet data with inventory
mobile CRM screenshot

In terms of architecture, the decision to continue with Salesforce was a "no-brainer," especially after evaluating other options, according to Glover. Single source solutions were considered, but they would be another touch-point for sales representatives in the field and would increase costs. The staff used Salesforce on iPads already, so sticking with both eased the transition to the new process, Glover said.

Finding the right support partner was challenging, Stambaugh said. For example, the first partner chosen was good about asking a lot of questions and making suggestions on how to meet their needs, but never accomplished anything. The HD Supply team asked Salesforce to recommend a partner that moved faster. A referral to Appirio to extend its iPad CRM led to some small pilot projects and the company lived up to Salesforce's recommendation, Glover said.

Upgrade success

While the team is happy with its final application, there are a number of lessons learned from the decision-making and implementation process of the iPad CRM. Stambaugh noted how with the first vendor, she got caught up in all the various offerings instead of pinpointing exactly what she needed. "If I had gotten my user requirements down early on it would have been easier," she said.

More iPad CRM success stories

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General Mills eats up iPad CRM success

To increase implementation efficiency, Glover said it's important to have a clear integration approach set. The team established a course of action after trying different approaches to integrating with Salesforce. Time would have been saved if those standards and best practices were in place beforehand.

Having a solid relationship with a vendor is important, as sometimes a project can change directions, Basheer noted. "The synergy that comes from the openness and the learning is really going to create a product or a solution that [is] going to be second to none," she said.

Maxine Giza is the associate site editor for SearchSOA and can be reached at mgiza@techtarget.com.

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