Rentokil Initial is considering giving its worldwide sales staff remote access to enterprise resource planning systems from wireless laptops after a UK pilot showed the technology could cut the time taken to process orders from 15 days to three.
The hygiene services company, which employs 70,000 people, plans to replace its paper-based sales process, which requires numerous contacts with the customer, with a system based on wireless-enabled Dell laptops.
"The biggest savings are in time. We have taken the processing and completion of orders from between 15 and 20 days down to five days typically and three days ideally," said John Canning, director of IT services at Rentokil Initial.
The project uses laptops with embedded 3G cards and broadband connections to enable the salesforce to access data on its Oracle hosted ERP system over the internet.
About 500 sales staff are taking part in the pilot at the company's washroom service and pest control businesses. It has reduced the time needed to give quotes and place orders and has freed up salespeople to spend more time selling.
The previous system was time-consuming and did not provide the information staff needed when out of the office, said Canning. Salespeople visited customers, took notes on a paper, returned to the office, put together a quote, sent it out, and eventually took an order, he said.
Sales teams are now able to sell more on customer visits, with more time and information at their disposal. "The salespeople have more opportunities and can do more business and get more sales," said Canning.
Rentokil has secured access to its ERP system through a Remote Authentication Dial In User Service (Radius) server. The company uses security certificates on the PCs and requires staff to log on with a user name and password.
The IT department faced challenges to get users to adapt to the new ways of working. "Some of the difficulties are with people that have never used laptops before, who seem to think it is the same as using a computer in the office. But they have to realise that they cannot always connect," said Canning.
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