Before it became a global leader and a niche player in the international rum market with its Angostura aromatic bitters, Angostura Limited rose to fame in the early 1900s among the royals of Prussia, Spain, and England. Its flagship bitters product, which is a secret recipe, was first perfected in 1824 by the company founder, Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, and has remained unchanged ever since.
In addition to its impressive reach into 170 global markets to date, the company continues to maintain the local distribution in Trinidad with a team of 16 sales representatives out in the field taking orders throughout Trinidad and Tobago. In 2012, Angostura decided this critical part of the business was in need of a modern transformation. The manual, paper-based process for this local sales team was tedious, time-consuming, and didn’t always guarantee the most accurate orders.
It was time to bring these sales representatives into the 21st century with a mobile application that would allow them instant access to up-to-date inventory data at their fingertips and give them the ability to digitally input and send orders as well as showcase products in a way that’s more visually pleasing to their customers.
“The previous process for the local sales team was not very efficient,” says Aleem Baksh, Senior Manager of Information Technology at Angostura Limited. The 16 employees out in the field would need to copy the orders on paper and then return to the office to hand off the order forms to the customer service representative, who would then manually input the information into Angostura’s back-end SAP ERP system.
“This process was performed on a daily basis,” he says. Because the orders were handwritten and then had to be deciphered, there was a risk of having information accidentally entered incorrectly, which could result in the wrong goods being sent to a customer, possibly creating a returned order, and then leading to more paperwork. This pen-to-paper process was also used for the reporting and tracking of invoices and accounts receivable information, which could create additional delays and inaccuracies.
The sales representatives were also working with static numbers in terms of product availability, so it was difficult to tell if an order could be conceivably fulfilled while they were away from the office. They would have to call in to the warehouse to find out if an order was possible, and this could mean 16 salespeople calling in with requests to one warehouse employee.
“The previous process in place simply wasn’t feasible, and we wanted a more productive one,” Baksh explains.
Angostura spent over a year evaluating solutions from five mobile solution vendors against their requirements. Baksh explains that they wanted a mobile solution that could operate offline, meaning that even if there was no connectivity when the sales representative captured the order, it could still be keyed into the application on the mobile device and then sent through to their SAP ERP system once online. They also wanted the application to automatically update the availability of purchased products from the company’s overall inventory.
Ultimately, the business decided to go with the mobile solution provider that could develop the application — called the Angostura Mobile Sales App — to the company’s specifications and fit within its budget. “The custom application was built from the ground up,” says Baksh. “We did a scoping exercise to identify all of the requirements, told our provider exactly what we needed, and then they worked to incorporate those requirements into the design.”
During the project’s development phase, another third-party partner from Germany was called in around mid-January 2013 to help build the solution. On the Angostura side, a small resource team was led by Je’nille Maraj, the IT Project Coordinator. This resource team consisted of members of the customer service department, the trade team, and two salespeople — one with more knowledge in advanced technologies and one who was not familiar with technology platforms on a regular basis.
“We wanted to get both points of view and to use those dual perspectives when we performed our testing,” explains Baksh. “That strategy worked out well because, in the end, the mobile app was very user friendly.”
The pilot application was ready for testing that June, and Angostura went live with the full application in January 2014 by issuing 16 mobile devices with a complete suite of applications to its local sales team to be used on the road.
“Our goal is to put together a collection of apps that make the salespeople more productive, and this app is just one aspect of it,” says Baksh. The representatives are also encouraged to use other general mobile applications to make the sales process more efficient and modern. These applications include email, navigation support to help avoid traffic on the road, and a video and PDF document uploader to more professionally display the Angostura portfolio of products.
All of the salespeople also use a mobile device management cloud product that pushes out new marketing and sales materials, such as a new brochure that needs to be uploaded, to all 16 devices at once. “That also helps us to control security,” adds Baksh. “If a device is lost, we can still retrieve all the information stored within the mobile device management product.” This management solution also allows the sales team to install the mobile app themselves, thus allowing greater flexibility.
In addition to these mobile applications, the sales team has the capability of accessing a dashboard reporting tool that integrates with SAP ERP. This application allows the company to pull reporting information from SAP ERP to put together sales reports on a specific customer right on the tablet.
With the Angostura Mobile Sales App, an order can be created in less than 30 seconds, depending on the size of the order. And the user adoption is very good too. It’s very simple and intuitive.
— Aleem Baksh, Senior Manager of Information Technology, Angostura Limited
Time Saved Is a Penny Earned
The new custom mobile sales application connects with Angostura’s SAP ERP system and interacts with all the customer master data and customer accounts receivable information within the sales and distribution modules of the system. This capability provides the sales team up-to-date information on the availability of products in the warehouse — taking into account both stock on hand as well as outbound deliveries and incoming purchase orders.
“The shopping-cart-like interface is easy to use,” says Baksh. Customers in any country can sign for orders directly on the mobile device — which provides better accountability — and the order is automatically sent to SAP ERP as soon as Internet access pushes the orders through.” The application is also linked to customer-specific pricing and base pricing information within SAP ERP as well to more accurately generate pricing and customers’ specific discount structures in the field.
Since distributing the mobile devices to the local salespeople, productivity among the sales and customer service teams has increased, according to Baksh, because they now have the ability to send orders through as they place them, rather than waiting until they return to the office.
The lead time of the order-to-cash process has been reduced from two or three days to just one day. The considerable amount of time customer service representatives would typically spend on data entry has been reduced by 75%, he adds, and this time is now spent on more useful tasks.
Recording customer complaints is also more efficient, as these can now be sent in real time via email on the mobile device directly to the customer sales representatives. “You see the customer and where the complaint or inquiry is being generated from, and then, at that point, the customer service representative is also able to respond accordingly,” says Baksh. “And because it comes from an email, there is a visible trail, and the whole process is managed a bit better.”
These results were realized almost immediately thanks to the user-friendly interface of the application and the low learning curve, he adds. “It’s similar to online purchasing and as simple as selecting a customer, selecting the brand codes, and adding the new materials to the shopping cart. Then you click ‘okay,’ sign, and that’s it. An order can be created in less than 30 seconds, depending on the size of the order,” he says. “User adoption is very good, too. When new salespeople join our company, we only spend about 30 minutes going through the app itself, and after that they are fine. It’s very simple and intuitive.”
More Mobility in the Future
At this point, not all the application’s features have been fully realized by the sales team, such as the ability to capture the receipts and print them for the customer. “They want to be able to enter the receipts for payments on the customer side, and we will be using mobile printers to print out the receipts and give them to the customer,” says Baksh. “This will eliminate the need for writing receipts, and again, that will improve the whole process of the reconciliations and the application of payments for the customer accounts.”
This functionality is currently in the testing phase to ensure the integration of the back-end processes work. Additionally, Angostura is looking at other solutions to add to its mobile strategy that will further streamline and update its business processes, for instance, the online release of purchase requisitions, which are currently approved by managers on their computers.