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Inside an Enterprise Salesforce Chatter Rollout

By Kristin Burnham, CIO
February 02, 2011 02:09 PM ET

CIO - In 2009, Den-Mat, dental equipment manufacturing company based in California, ran on severely outdated IT. Employees relied on a 30 year-old legacy AS400 ERP green screen system with antiquated applications. Communication between departments was nearly nonexistent and processes were paper-heavy, says Jonathan Green, VP of IT. On top of that, the business faced a 48 percent turnover rate for new employees, which was directly related to its old platform.

Green, who joined Den-Mat that year, knew something needed to change in order for the company to compete in the changing economy. "We needed communicate better, be better organized, be able to market our products well and needed some sort of CRM to track these campaigns and new opportunities," he says. "It was pretty clear we needed a big change."

A typical day for a salesperson at Den-Mat, Green says, consisted of a morning fax or phone call from a manager denoting the accounts that he needed to call. These sales calls would be tracked via an Excel spreadsheet or a handwritten list. If salespeople ran into problems during the day, Green says, they'd call the home office and read credit card numbers over the phone if accounts needed to be rectified.

"As you could imagine, there were tons of compliance and visibility issues," Green says.

On top of that, Green faced a company culture masked in frustration, stuck in its outdated ways and resistant to change.

"We had a lot of third-parties that were hired to do spreadsheet management," he says. "It was good in that it worked, but it required a lot of manpower and understanding in how to interpret results. On my first day on the job, for example, I was handed a stack of paper--no excel file, nothing. People were always arguing about what orders went where and which ones had been compensated. There was a lot of confusion, too," he says.

Goodbye Paper, Hello Cloud

In June 2009, Green got the OK to investigate options to bring Den-Mat up to speed. They looked at a few solutions from Deloitte, SAP and Oracle, but Salesforce won in the RFP process. Salesforce, he says, gave Den-Mat the opportunity to try a cloud technology, which was essential for reasons including the fact that their headquarters is located in a suburb where it's difficult to recruit an IT staff.

"The Salesforce option gave us more flexibility--we could bite off the pieces that we wanted," he says. Green went to Dreamforce, Salesforce's conference, that year when Chatter, Salesforce's microblogging and collaboration feature for the enterprise, was announced and he lobbied to be included in its beta testing group. Rolling out Chatter, he says, was more valuable later on than he could have imagined.

Green and his IT department began staggered rollouts of Salesforce and Chatter, 30 days apart, to the marketing department, then customer service and sales. The rollout was completed in less time and under budget, he says.

"I told managers to expect a 10 percent to 20 percent drop in productivity," Green says. "It's natural with anything new you're rolling out. What we actually saw was a 10 percent increase in productivity. No one expected that."

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