BACKGROUND: Hewlett-Packard, a leading global provider of computing solutions and services for business and home, is capitalizing on the opportunities of the Internet and the proliferation of electronic services to better serve its customers.

PLATFORMS: The ShortCycles service is completely Web-based and can run using any browser. No software sits on site.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Four years ago, HP's sales and marketing managers set out to provide the company's sales force, channel partners and key customers with the most current information to help these groups do their jobs. HP viewed information exchange as a strategic vehicle to increase sales productivity and felt that providing a shared conduit to key data would allow the company to simultaneously build closer relationships with channel partners and customers. First, the HP team evaluated the possibility of improving its existing internal Electronic Sales Partner Web site, ESP. It was designed to share company and product information across departmental and business unit lines, so that salespeople could gain access to information that could influence a customer's business decisions in favor of HP. Departments soon created other customized intranet sites to serve their teams' specific information needs. Soon HP had dozens of intranets and no logical way to control the timeliness or accuracy of information distribution.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: With ShortCycles, sales personnel no longer have to know that a document exists in order to find information that may influence a sale. Based on intuitive search parameters, the ShortCycles e- service organizes and supplies all related information. Therefore, less time is spent searching for information, and more time is spent actually selling.

STRENGTHS: Since the application distributes HP's corporate sales and marketing information quickly and easily, the marketing department no longer has to field calls from representatives who cannot find needed information, giving marketing more time to do what they do best. ShortCycles puts all the information a person needs to do their job in one place. Each user has a personal news page that gathers third-party research, industry news and information. That content is combined with links to customer reference databases and content-specific corporate reports, documents and e-mails. Additionally, sales teams can establish a virtual meeting place to share personal documents and route and review information on competitors and industry conditions that affect the sales environment. Daily reports help HP's marketing staff see how often documents are viewed. HP sales representatives also provide real-world feedback that shapes content for future materials.

WEAKNESSES: ShortCycles has been very open to working with us on the following service enhancements: It would be useful for the system to notify a user via e-mail or a personalized Web page when new content meeting a user- specified set of criteria is added. HP would also like the ability for a user to detach or download a set of files in a personal or virtual team folder directly to their laptop, enabling users to quickly and easily carry a core set of reference documents with them to a customer site. Finally, HP would like to be able to create customized interest pages, similar to the company interest pages that already exist in the system, that might focus on a particular product line, marketing program or regional information needs. The system should have a profile of every user. Based on that profile, various focused interest pages would be made available to them.

DELIVERABLES: Both the sales and marketing departments are more efficient than ever. Representatives are now able to devote an additional two to five hours a week to pursuing sales, instead of information or documentation. It is estimated that this gain alone amounts to more than $25 million in annual savings. The sales force views ShortCycles as a vital link in the sales cycle. Representatives tell us it's like a cell phone. They just can't imagine working effectively without it.

VENDOR SUPPORT: HP has worked closely with ShortCycles in tailoring the service to HP's specific needs and will continue down this two-way street.

DOCUMENTATION: ShortCycles' Web-based services eliminate the need for an internal IS department to spend hours servicing software and hardware, and the user interface is highly intuitive.

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