Deployment Project Speeds Info Flow For Pharmaceutical Maker in Britian - InformationWeek

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12/17/2003
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Deployment Project Speeds Info Flow For Pharmaceutical Maker in Britian

Using offline software from Backweb Technologies, Boehringer can let salespeople use even the slowest connection speeds to replicate the company's Plumtree portal for later reference.

One of the challenges in extracting value from corporate portals is in making them accessible to mobile workers. Often, field sales forces--among the most obvious potential beneficiaries of portal access--can't depend on connectivity and thus are left out of the real-time information loop.

Such was the situation confronting the British sales force of pharmaceutical firm Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, which until recently was receiving everything from marketing materials and news releases to the latest sales information as unwieldy E-mail attachments or via CDs and hard copies that arrived in the mail. Even when they could get online to view the portal, the 56-Kbyte speeds salespeople frequently encountered in hotel rooms and on wireless networks made performance too frustrating for the portal to be useful. "Using the portal was a time-consuming and costly process," says Leigh Evans, group leader of PC and Web applications for Boehringer's U.K. operation.

In September, the company went live with the first stage of an offline access deployment that's turned the portal into a much more valuable resource for the sales force. Using offline software from BackWeb Technologies Ltd., Boehringer can let salespeople use even the slowest connection speeds to replicate the company's Plumtree Software Inc. portal for later reference. While offline access may not be exactly real time, it's still much more current than aging E-mails and postal packages.

Having quick access to portal information can be crucial when salespeople may have as little as five minutes to make a sale to a doctor or hospital purchasing agent. Evans has been experimenting with offline portal access from Tablet PCs and PDAs to speed the process even more, because those devices get up and running more quickly than a typical laptop PC.

Half of the company's 300 U.K. sales force now has access to the offline portal, and Evans says he hopes to provide access to the remaining salespeople next month. Later in January, his team will roll out offline integration with the company's sales database, making it possible to generate reports while offline. Eventually, Evans would like to enable offline users to contribute portal content.

Evans says that in addition to the improved access to information, further efficiencies are being gained by letting salespeople personalize their portal view so that they're only getting the information they need, thus preventing the network from supporting an unnecessary flow of information to people who don't need it

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