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Providing Effective GroupWise PIM Sync: A Pharmaceutical Case Study

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Posted: 19 Feb 2003
 

The Challenge

The IT team for a major pharmaceutical company found itself facing a challenge common to many technology support groups-namely, extending the capabilities of an existing system to accommodate newly-defined requirements. The IT team's mission was to extend the reach of the enterprise PIM (Personal Informational Management) and email data stored in their existing GroupWise system to sales representatives and their handheld personal digital assistants.

The move to extend the GroupWise system to mobile devices was being driven by business imperatives. By providing sales representatives bi-directional sync capabilities between GroupWise and mobile devices (both Pocket PC and Palm OS-based), the organization hoped to make sales and marketing information available to its sales associates in a real-time manner, and in so doing improve their productivity and levels of sales coverage.

Any workable solution to the GroupWise synchronization challenge would have to involve a proven vendor capable of supporting as many GroupWise client versions as possible. Many of the sales reps requiring this PIM sync capability worked in far-flung regional or home-based offices, and often ran GroupWise client versions that were behind the corporate standard due to latency in applying upgrades. Furthermore, the solution would have to be enterprise-friendly, and support centralized administration without straining the resources of the company's IT organization.

The Solution

Choosing a Vendor
Early in the search process one company appeared as a likely candidate for solving the sync challenge facing this pharmaceutical company and its mobile sales force. As a leading manufacturer of enterprise synchronization software for nearly a decade, Pumatech had solutions that had been successfully employed across virtually every industry vertical, with clients that included over 50% of the Fortune 1000. Based on this pedigree, the organization opted to rollout a trial version of Pumatech's Enterprise Intellisync and the optional Administrator's Console to a test group of sales representatives.

Defining User/Role Configurations
Pharmaceutical sales representatives are among the most demanding users of PIM information. They are responsible for meeting regularly with physicians, health care professionals, and administrators both to gather their feedback on drug treatments and to provide new information on the benefits of their products via "detailing" sessions. Coordinating these activities in a way that best serves the needs of patients and the medical professionals that serve them is a daunting task.

To meet the synchronization needs of all of the sales team's users-field representatives, territory managers, drug specialists, and so on- IT found itself needing to predefine role-based configuration templates both to ensure consistent handling of PIM data for the large number of users and user types, as well as to improve the ability of IT to support them.

Factors to be considered included:

  • Types of PIM data needed for each user role (email, task lists, calendar entries, etc.)


  • Rules for resolving conflicts caused by inconsistency in the data stored in the desktop application or handheld device


  • Field mapping standards between the data flowing between handheld and PC-based applications


  • Desirable data filters-for instance, excluding data beyond a certain date range, within a certain folder, of a certain type, etc.

Brief surveys were distributed by email to sales reps and their managers to learn what kinds of information would be needed most frequently for both reference or for update. By learning what types of information were most important to different types of users, IT was able to create role-driven configurations using the Enterprise Intellisync Administrator's Console that excluded seldom-used data in favor of faster sync performance and lower device memory utilization. In order to prevent end-user "tweaking" of their configurations, IT also enforced password protection to ensure that the reps were synchronizing only that data most closely associated with their role within the organization, reducing the level of support requests resulting from user experimentation.

Installing the Application

Desktop Clients
Once configuration templates were created, IT rolled out the Enterprise Intellisync application to their trial user group using their existing enterprise management application, Novell ZENworks. Users were for the most part able to install the application with minimal fuss. Distribution of configuration files, which provided the role-based definitions detailed in the previous section, was also performed using the enterprise management tool. Also included in this process were user license files, needed to unlock the desktop application. By riding atop existing deployment tools and processes rather than circumventing them, IT hoped to minimize the time and training required to distribute and install the client application and related configuration files. And since Enterprise Intellisync utilized existing HotSync or ActiveSync conduits, setup problems were minimal.

Administrator's Console
Once installed, IT managed local and remote users via the Enterprise Intellisync Administrator's Console. Predictably, there were inevitable issues to resolve based on user connectivity issues, questions regarding synchronization histories, and so on. Management of these day-to-day issues proved to be fairly unobtrusive thanks to centralized access to all user log files (which provide synchronization history and related error messages), detailed usage reports, as well as information on device hardware status, OS platform information, and data inventories.

Helpdesk Plug-in
The optional "Helpdesk plug-in" allowed IT to make many of the Administrator's Console's features available to internal support representatives via their browser. The plug-in utilized an existing IIS server, and allowed Administrator's Console troubleshooting functionality to be made available to a wide array of support users spread across different sites, improving the turnaround time for support-related requests, and ensuring that user sync problems would be short-lived. Refining the Process

Any large-scale implementation necessarily involves a process of refinement. In the case of this pharmaceutical company, refinement largely took the form of:

  1. Refining user and role configurations: Despite the effort made to poll users and their managers for their feedback on desirable role configurations, oversights are inevitable. For this reason, the IT organization found it useful to poll these same users two weeks after the start of the trial to get their opinions on ways in which their configuration parameters could be improved-either in terms of sync performance, scope of available information, field mapping, etc. In providing users with the opportunity to provide experience-based feedback both before and after rollout, IT was able to improve the functionality of the system as well as the level of user "buy in".


  2. Adjusting for device constraints: While mobile devices have made tremendous strides in terms of speed, storage, and memory in recent years, many models are still underpowered when faced with users wishing to sync hundreds or even thousands of email messages, calendar entries, contacts, and the like. By understanding more intimately the real-world constraints of these devices and the volumes of information with which they interact, IT was able to publish a set of "best practices" aimed at allowing users to understand the need to avoid unnecessary clutter on their resource-limited handheld devices.


  3. Ensuring that end-users receive adequate training: When working with a solution that has a good deal of back-end intelligence and minimal UI clutter, it's easy to underestimate the value of user training. After handling a number of support-related contacts regarding simple but understandable end-user questions ("What is field mapping?" or "What happens when this type of conflict is resolved-will I lose my data?"), IT found that a 15- or 20-minute web-based training session delivered to the entire team often paid significant dividends in terms of reducing future support-related contacts.


  4. Planning ahead for eventual updates/upgrades: As with any piece of enterprise software, the synchronization infrastructure provided by Enterprise Intellisync is not a static one. To ensure that users have access to the latest features, functionality, and product updates, IT must create a process for periodically applying desirable updates and upgrades. By creating such a policy, the members of this pharmaceutical company's IT group were able to ensure that Enterprise Intellisync would adapt to meet their changing business needs and GroupWise infrastructure.

Once the 30-day trial was successfully completed, sales reps confirmed that the advantages of extending their GroupWise PIM and email data to mobile devices were significant. Instead of manually transcribing changes to their schedules, printing out relevant email messages prior to a physician visit, or making sure that new task entries were entered after returning from a medical site, reps instead found that changes could be made quickly and easily to either the mobile device or the desktop, with an easy-to-use synchronization process ensuring that both data repositories were always kept up to date. The time spent administering their hectic schedules dropped dramatically, making it possible for reps to visit more physicians more often, improving service levels and ultimately drug sales. Once the trial period had ended, the pharmaceutical company opted to rollout Enterprise Intellisync to the majority of their sales teams with positive and lasting results.

To learn more about how Pumatech's line of proven sync solutions can help you or your organization to extend the power of GroupWise, we invite you to visit our Novell visitor's area at http://www.pumatech.com/novell/


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