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8/23/2002
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Analyzing Sales Processes Simplifies Business

IT plays a role in defining business processes even when the procedures aren't computerized.

Aspect Medical Systems Inc. makes a device that lets anesthesiologists assess how deeply unconscious patients are when undergoing surgery, so the physicians can regulate the amount of anesthesia to administer. To market the three-pound, palm-size Bispectral Index Monitor, the 6-year-old manufacturer lets anesthesiologists and hospitals evaluate the device without charge for up to three months.

Managers created an eight-stage sales process that the company incorporated into its Siebel Systems Inc. customer-relationship management system. That lets it track the marketing relationship with its customers, some 2,000 doctors and hospitals, from initial contact through final sale, including product evaluation. To analyze the data generated in the Siebel system, Aspect uses a business-intelligence tool from Cognos Inc.

When VP of sales Alan Milinazzo was analyzing those reports earlier this summer, he noticed potential customers that evaluated the device for three months weren't buying the Bispectral Index Monitor, which costs more than $5,000, at higher rates than those purchasing the device without evaluating it. Aspect spends more than $1 million a year on the evaluation program, and tying up that much money troubled executives at the company, which had $36 million in sales last year.

Without such tools, it might have been months before Aspect concluded that the three-month evaluation wasn't churning the expected revenue, says Jeff Barrett, VP of corporate operations. The company hasn't changed its sales policies yet, but it's likely that few would-be customers will get as long a tryout period. "Based on that information," Barrett says, "we're gaining more control over our sales process."

Cognos CEO Ron Zambonini says more companies are looking for better control over their businesses. Some companies use business intelligence or other business-process management tools to create electronic dashboards or scorecards that offer red-yellow-green reporting on whether a key performance indicator suggests a problem in a business process. The judgment managers need to make is how many indicators they can effectively monitor and react to, and which indicators tell the right story. Says Zambonini, "They want to measure things that are important and focus on those."

Return to main story, "Focus On The Processes."

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