By Straight Talk Editors

Tectonic shifts in the technology landscape are nothing new to CIOs. If you’re not ready for familiar strategic landmarks to disappear every few years — if you’re uncomfortable with the maps used to plot your IT strategy becoming irrelevant — you’re in the wrong business.

Take the emergence of mobile computing. The confluence of laptops, smartphones, tablets, cloud services, and high-speed broadband 3G and 4G networks over the past decade is changing the very nature of business. Outside the organization, mobile computing is transforming how companies interact with customers and prospects. Within the organization, it is allowing companies to work smarter and faster — while raising security risks and weakening the CIO’s control of a company’s technology framework.

For example, the so-called consumerization of IT and the BYOD phenomenon — you “bring your own device” to use at work, and with it heightened expectations for computing convenience and capabilities — represent a massive cultural reshaping of a company’s technological environment. CIOs who spent their careers overseeing a monopoly in corporate IT now face competition from end users who have already experienced the benefits of state-of-the-art mobile consumer devices. In fact, enterprise mobility initiatives are often driven by senior executives with iPads who are insisting on the same dexterity with their corporate data that they have with their personal data.

The magnitude of the changes wrought by mobile computing is evident in analysts’ estimates, predictions, and assessments:

•             Mobile devices now outnumber human beings, with an estimated 7.3 billion mobile devices in the world in 2012 and just under 7 billion people, according to Forrester Research.

•             Mobility is converging with social, cloud, and big data forces into a “nexus that is driving disruptive changes to IT, businesses, and society overall,” according to Gartner.

•             The global enterprise mobility market will reach $140 billion by 2020, growing at an annual rate of 15%, according to HCL Technologies.

•             The number of smartphones in use is about to surpass the number of PCs in use, according to technology analyst Benedict Evans.

•             In 2013, 56% of companies created organization-wide mobile strategies and 47% increased investments in mobile and wireless capabilities, according to IDC.

But being aware of and comfortable with the seismic transformations brought on by mobile computing isn’t the same as staying ahead of them. For all the hype surrounding mobility these days, most companies’ initiatives are in the nascent stage, and the CIO’s role in them isn’t always clear. Dan Bieler, an analyst with Forrester Research, has written, “CIOs will be responsible for introducing technology solutions that help break down silos, boost cross-team collaboration, drive the end-to-end customer experience, and engage more deeply with customers. In order to succeed, CIOs must go beyond technology enablement and support organizational and cultural transformation.”

Given that the devil is in the details, CIO Straight Talk reached out to a cross-section of organizations that are in the midst of enterprise mobility management efforts. Their stories offer examples of mobility initiatives that are already resulting in significant improvements in companies’ internal processes and productivity, as well as in their relationships with external customers.

Dr Pepper Snapple: A Mobility Slingshot to Battle the Giants

When your chief rivals are Coke and Pepsi, you need all the competitive weapons you can get.

For Tom Farrah, CIO of Dr Pepper Snapple Group, one such weapon is enterprise mobility and its effective management. In the beverage and consumer packaged goods industry, visibility and shelf space are crucial to success. DPSG’s decision to provide its 2,400 account managers with iPads — equipped with real-time account information, promotional material, and critical sales data for every customer — is transforming how the company competes with rivals and is already helping to increase sales.

In just over a year, mobile technology at Dr Pepper Snapple has shifted much of the complexity of doing business from the customer-facing front end to the technology-enabling back end. Gone are the outdated print-laden binders that an account manager had to lug into every retail outlet he visited, replaced by sleek new iPads loaded with custom-made apps for solidifying the crucial relationship with store managers.

In a brand-based marketplace, Dr Pepper has long been a major force. The beverage, created in 1885 by a Waco, Texas pharmacist, is the oldest soft drink in the United States. Part of the Cadbury Schweppes empire from 1995 until 2008, the Dr Pepper Snapple beverage group was spun off into a stand-alone, publicly traded company. The $6 billion business, which owns more than 50 iconic trademarks, including Dr Pepper, Snapple, Mott’s, Schweppes, and 7 Up, is sold through retailers around the world, from Walmart to mom-and-pop convenience stores.

The company is heavily dependent on a very mobile sales force that is responsible for direct store delivery. Account managers spend their days visiting individual customers to take replenishment orders and sell incremental activities such as promotions, displays, and other sales-generating offerings. Given the real-time, data-intensive nature of the business, these account managers have long been prime candidates for mobile technology. And until 2013, they (and the delivery drivers) did indeed carry rugged Motorola handheld devices. These devices, still used by delivery companies like Fedex and UPS, work well enough for replenishment order taking: An order, input at the retail location, triggers a delivery over the next 24 to 48 hours.

But Farrah, a Cadbury veteran, had more ambitious plans. Providing retailers with information about incremental promotional activities turns out to be a complex task.  Typically, the account manager carried around printed material with information on all promotions, ads, and sales activities for the month. Given that DPSG has 150 sales regions around the U.S. (each of which includes dozens if not hundreds of retailers) and that the company comprises more than 50 individual brands (each with its own pricing changes, special promotions, and point-of-sale materials), the task of keeping updated binders with accurate information readily available for each account manager had become a black hole.

“You have account teams selling to Walmart or Target or Kroger,” Farrah says. “You have mom-and-pop stores all over  the  place.  Every brand has its own marketing activity, and every retail customer has its own account team creating different promotions and activities. When you take all the factors into account for our company — all the brands and how we license with our bottlers — there are over 12 million possible combinations of brand, bottler, and customer that need to be communicated to and executed at the store level.”

Farrah saw that the sales binders — with their dirty, torn pages and often out-of-date information — had to go. “We decided to rebuild that application on an iPad,” Farrah says. “We started by moving the order entry application from the rugged handheld device to the iPad. Just by redesigning that application, we learned how to take advantage of the iPad interface, and we focused on the user experience  down to the nth detail.” The application, built internally in IT, synchronizes all new data automatically to the mobile device. Any new customers, products, pricing changes, or other information is available in less than a minute with a touch of the screen before salespeople set out on their routes in the morning.

The pilot program, launched in the first quarter of 2013, was an immediate hit; salespeople reported that it cut their order-replenishment time in half.

Phase two of the pilot was to get all the additional promotional material on the iPad. Now, when an account manager checks his route for the day, he sees a list of that day’s customers. When he clicks on a particular customer, the system instantly brings up customer-specific promotional activity, including pricing, packaging, point-of-sales materials, and the promotion timeline.

“These guys usually have about two or three minutes of a store manager’s time,” Farrah says. “The last thing they want to do is say, ‘Let me walk you through this promotion,’ then hit a button and stand there waiting for it to download. When they synchronize their device in the morning, it is all downloaded then and there, so even if they are in a location without cellular service, it doesn’t matter.”

The most daunting task for IT, Farrah notes, was building the back-end engine that could gather and distribute all that material. Using the company’s internal portal, Splashnet, Farrah’s team created MySplashnet, an intelligent personal portal for each individual in the organization. When an account manager opens MySplashnet, it knows who and where he is and provides all his daily operational metrics.

Having rolled all this out far more quickly than anticipated, Farrah wasn’t done. Each account manager also has mobile BI (business intelligence) that is personalized to his account. He can click on My Route and see, through a mapping device, each store he will visit that day. Each store’s icon is accompanied by a balloon that opens to a box showing every brand and package that DPSG sells to that retailer, along with current sales, month-to-date, year-to-date, and what the average is and ought to be. If a salesperson is behind for the month, it tells him how many cases he needs to sell. It also ranks the salespeople in that region so he knows where he stands.

Though sales force mobility capabilities are becoming standard operating procedure in the industry, Farrah believes that DPSG, in providing tailored data to individual account managers, is ahead of rivals such as Coke and Pepsi.

His objective for 2013 was to increase sales for the business, and although he can’t attribute specific sales increases to the mobility rollout, given the variety of factors involved, the anecdotal evidence has been gratifying. For example, the president of Farrah’s business unit told him, “I’m not worried about calculating the value that’s come out of this, because I see what’s going on in my business — and there’s no question it is helping us to grow sales.”

That’s feedback from the business side that any CIO would welcome.

[Read Part 2]

Originally published in CIO Straight Talk, No. 5 (September 2014)