Sales Force Automation covers a number of topics, but the two most
important are: contact management, and providing access to centralized data
for salespersons in the field.
Enterprise sales force automation is a hotly contested area with many companies vying for the business with a number of different approaches. Many of these systems provide access to the company data servers, proposal support features, and keep management informed of what the field staff is doing.
For small businesses Sales Automation often boils down to a Contact Manager (Maximizer, Gold Mine, or Act! for Windows; Omnifile for OS/2). Act! is by far the most popular, but its single user heritage has worked against its use on networks. Gold Mine, Maximizer and Omnifile were fully network integrated much earlier. Gold Mine is particularly oriented to "data mining", and Maximizer strong point is integration with other office software.
Field staff access to home office data for the small business generally means a remote control program allowing the salesperson to take over a desktop computer at the office from a notebook computer in the field. Connection is generally by modem on dial-up phone lines. Larger firms will have a RAS (Remote Access Server) and a modem bank for this task. Our Remote Access article has details on both of these, and some other approaches.
For permanent field offices, companies are installing VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) allowing the Internet to carry the remote control traffic, but the long term trend is to reconstruct everything around the Internet using a Web browser as the client. Both Gold Mine and Maximizer are working on Java based versions to allow efficient Internet operation. In the mean time, some companies are using "Web enabling" solutions like Tarantella.
©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access
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