Startle Distribution was originally part of the Telstar Record Label. In 1999, following a management buy out, Startle became independent of the Telstar Group. Startle is a music and video distributor of physical and digital products. Physical product is defined as CD, DVD and VHS, whilst digital distribution is Liquid Audio and MP3 file streaming.
Startle Distribution services the middle of the supply chain from record label companies and film studio to independent retailers. Startle has very diverse clients with differing needs e.g. Independent Retail Chains requiring only good discounts and reliable service to small specialist record stores needing marketing and product management support.
Startle employs 160 staff over 3 locations: Chelsea, Enfield and Telford. Some of the staff, notably sales, work from home and “on the road”. They will call in to one of the offices monthly.
The Business Issue
Information sharing is required amongst key departments: marketing, sales, finance and procurement (buying) to maximise sales and improve management of clients.
The current situation
Clients are not receiving marketing offers and sales information relevant to their business from Startle. Startle’s competitors are presenting lower quality sales offers but winning the business from the Client.
Sales representatives, remote from the office, are visiting the clients regularly. When they arrive at the client’s office they have very little prior knowledge of the communication between other Startle departments and the client. In some cases they have even visited clients only to discover, from the client, that the client is on credit stop, making it impossible to achieve a sale and set the correct environment for potential negotiations.
Sales representatives are constantly being made aware, again by the clients, of the campaigns and support that Startle’s competitors are able to offer such as point of sale and returns allowances. The sales representatives are frustrated by not being able to support the clients desires to grow their market share e.g. into new formats such as DVD.
The marketing department has excellent relationships with, and understanding of, the record labels and film studios. Marketing is trying to grow client business with offers based around the record labels and film studios needs that are not necessarily the same as the client’s. Startle has produced some of the most innovative trade and consumer campaigns and these have been recognised with industry awards e.g. the Sisqoo, Thong Song E-Flier. The marketing department would like to know what the clients needs are and what feedback the clients are giving to the sales teams.
The buying department negotiates and sources product at very competitive prices. However, the buyers do not take advantage or communicate supplier value added services such as point of sale material, returns allowances and special limited edition versions as historically the business does not sell these very well and the clients take up rate is poor.
For Startle to maximise sales potential to clients, departments must share data and information. The shared data needs to be processed giving information output which enables each department to make informed decisions inline with each other.
The information sharing is both explicit and tacit as demonstrated below:
Marketing needs to be able to profile the clients and tailor sales activity to the clients needs.
- They need an up to date database on client’s stores, product ranges, customer profile, POS. requirements, and preferred communication methods. Exact details of the fields will be set following consultation between the Marketing department and selected clients.
- The marketing team and the sales team should be able to update this database. Clients need to be able to view and update their own records, however, sales and marketing staff need to be made aware of client changes, so if necessary client amended records can be challenged or discussed as to potential sales growth opportunities. If clients are to view the database they must only have access to their own records.
- There must be the ability of the marketing department to obtain reports to group the different clients by linking similarities in any of the client data fields or to sales history from the sales database. This will enable Marketing to create client relevant campaigns and specifically to target campaigns with the relevant product. Flexibility in specifying the required output is required. Each report is likely to be different from the last. One report could need to inform the marketing user of all clients that stock Disney films and require POS. another may require a report of all clients stocking CDs, require dance genre, have sales over £1m per annum and how they prefer to receive marketing information.
- The system needs to be able to data-mine sales records to prove a known correlation e.g. Manic Street Preachers album sales and retail stores located in Wales, through to finding the unknown correlation that can give Startle a competitive edge.
Sales Department Needs:
The sales representatives need to be able to review the following, ideally by the selected client, by client product ranges and by all clients:
- Which campaigns marketing has sent to which clients.
- What current value-added services are available from the buying department and relevant to the customer’s profile.
- Sales must have access to information retaining to the client’s current financial status, to include: trading terms/discounts, credit limits and payment details.
All of the sales representatives spend the majority of their time out of the office. The information must be available to access with laptop computers from within any of the company buildings using the high-speed network connections and by remote by slower telephone lines.
Buying Department Needs:
To aid in predicting demand for campaign products and value added services.
- The buying department needs decision support systems (DSS), using the information from both the customer profiles database and the sales database, to give a suggested order/buying quantity.
Sales and Marketing Manager:
The manager needs to be able to track
- Which campaigns are being presented to customers and what are the sales being recorded against them.
- Which clients the sales representatives are visiting.
- The effect on stock levels.
The purpose of the Requirements Definition is to specify from the end-users perspective what functionality they expect and would like from the application in order to use it to do their respective jobs and achieve the business goals.
- Parameter driven queries across the Customer Profile, Sales and Stock and the Finance databases, e.g.
- Daily reports on changes to the customer database.
- Data mining reports looking for correlations which give high sales.
- Decision Support (DSS) for the buying staff identifying value added products/services to clients requiring these and suggesting an order quantity from sales history.
- Automated reporting to a sales representative of any information sent to his/her clients.
- A one-form lookup of any client detailing credit status, last campaigns sent out and last update to the client database.
- A post-campaign report, giving details of stock purchases/sales, clients targeted, staff involved and monetary sales/margins recorded.
Sources of Data
- Minimal, if any, duplication of manual data entry is allowed. The required system will be able to access available data from the existing information systems with electronic application interfaces (API):
CODA in finance for credit and trading terms.
CSD provided ERP for the product and sales databases.
- The data collected for customer profiling will form a new database within a new or existing IS system. Again this must have the same access (API) and information-sharing capabilities as the other databases being used. The client data also requires a input from the sales success of previous targeted campaigns, as such the client data will be cyclical i.e. any previous marketing activity will directly influence any future marketing activity.
Scaleable user interfaces.
- Manual inputs will be required from sales staff, marketing staff and the clients. The levels of IT understanding from staff internal to the business are high. All staff are trained in using any of the companies information systems. However the levels of understanding from the clients are likely to be varied, therefore the input needs to be via Graphic User Interface for customers and a fast, less graphical, access for staff
- Inputs access from PC’s in each of the offices connected to the LAN, from remote laptop PCs (staff) via standard telephone lines and via the Internet for customers access to the client database.
- For high-level users, selected output formats is required: visual on screen, paper-based for manual review and CSV files (comma-separated text files) for manipulation into spreadsheets, presentations etc.
- For low-level users paper reports and visual reports are required.
- Field-based staff require visual reports that can easily be viewed on a laptop PC screen, as they do not have easy access to printers.
- All IT and IS systems linked internally or externally must sit behind the current firewall software provided by Cisco Systems.
- The system will be able to assign each user with unique level of access i.e. tailor the input, process and output functions on an individual basis. The exact level of access will be requested by the staff and approved by Department Head and IT Manager.
- To ensure the integrity of the sales/stock and accounts databases the system will only be able to view and copy data from these areas. No write, delete or amend function will be possible from this system to these databases which are critical to the business. The company policy is to have access for writing, amending or deleting critical information to be strictly limited to within the company buildings. This system is linked to the outside by the Internet and telephone connections and is therefore deemed to be at high risk to infiltration.
- All users will be assigned usernames and passwords for entry to the system. This may be the same as existing passwords for the sales and accounts systems.
- Clients will only have access to view or amend there own data fields within the customer data profile. The exact list of which fields to show the marketing manager will supply.
- No client will have access to data or information from the sales or accounts databases.
- Any information on individuals may only be stored a contact name for the client. No personal details are to be stored. The company is not registered with Data Protection Registrar to use data in this manner. The company requires all systems to comply with the 1998 Data Protection Act.
Training and documentation.
- Full documentation on using the system is to be provided as part of the requirements. This information will be supported with interactive training modes built into the system.
- Startle IT staff will be kept informed and consulted will training requirements.
Cost and Benefits
Based on experience from previous IS projects, the cost for system development will be £5,000. This is based on the current CSD daily rates. This cost only includes the development of software any additional hardware is not included, although it is unlikely that additional hardware will be required.
The benefits will be to save the costs involved in producing and sending marketing information to clients who do not need or want it. To create sales campaigns tailored to the client’s needs and therefore increase sales. Startle are already seeing clients buying patterns switching to other distributors, the risk of not addressing these issues is financially greater than the cost of developing the system.
This project would be represented in a prioritization exercise as: urgent but without a deadline. However, just because there is no deadline within the business does mean the project should fall behind others with a more logical deadline. The business is aware it is loosing clients and failure to tackle this will have a significant effect on sales and profitability. A 3% drop in sales equates to a 17% loss in margin if costs remain constant.
This system will enable the sales and marketing departments to reduce costs whilst target more relevant campaigns to the clients. It will give support to the buyers in their purchasing decisions and it will allow managers to monitor the sales and purchasing.
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