At Repsly, we want to provide you with the latest industry-specific news and advice on managing field teams, so we’ve put together a series of repsclusive interviews with experts in the field. We hope that through the series you will gain valuable insight!
Marko Kovac, Repsly
Who better to hear from than the well-versed expert of business software himself? Marko Kovac is our beloved co-founder and CEO. Today, we sit down with Marko to talk about the evolution of business management, with a focus on field activity management (FAM), and where it’s headed today as well as what to expect from Repsly in the future.
Q: How has the nature of FAM evolved in the past decade or so? What trends have you recognized that have shaped current standards and expectations for FAM software?
Marko: We’ve seen four stages or trends in the past decade that have shaped business software usage. The first was a change in the way software was delivered to its users: from being installed on the premises of customers to utilizing ‘the cloud.’ The company that jumpstarted this revolution was Salesforce.com. But they did not change the experience of everyday users. They didn’t change the nature of the software itself, only its location so to speak. The second stage was the mobile boom with smartphones. The moment smartphones became mainstream, things started to change at an even faster pace. In essence, everyone now had a computer in his or her pocket. In the meantime, social media was changing the way we communicate. Basic IT literacy became ubiquitous: for the first time in history computers seized to be something that only engineers understand; every kid was using them.
Those were the first three trends, and now there are actually a few things that are going on. The most important movement from our perspective is the consumerization of business software. And by this I mean changing the way business software is being presented to its end users. Traditionally, software has been complex and built based on usage by management, with user experience as a secondary thought. Software vendors build their own standards, and nobody knows how to use the solutions they have created without extensive training. Successful implementation of such solutions requires organizations to go though five steps: planning, customization, deployment, training and adoption. This process can take months or sometimes years depending on how big the organization is. Even Salesforce CRM, with its gigantic market share, struggles with adoption. Today, most employees –especially younger ones –are literate in utilizing smartphones and apps. They already know how to use calendars, social media, messengers, contact lists, etc. When they install a new app on their phone, it doesn’t take long for them to figure out how to use it, and they rarely need to be trained. If we build business solutions with the same principles and features in the same way with this smooth user experience, then we don't have to teach them anything. We just have to present them with the solution, and they can start using it. It might not cover 100% of business processes in the beginning, but it allows people to use something immediately. If the solution is adaptable enough and can be easily customized by users themselves, then in an iterative way, the solution, even after a few weeks could cover 95% of business processes while delivering value immediately. So just compare this with the yearlong implementation and the opportunity costs tied to it; it feels like comparing a rocket ship with a horse and buggy.
In addition to consumerization, we’re focusing on trends like big data and predictive analytics that help managers and field reps with decision making. As a result, users gain insight into something bigger, allowing them to identify trends and patterns. For example, in field activity management, managers are able to recognize patterns of behavior of the most successful and efficient employees and are then able to coach the rest of the team, raising the average performance level of the company. Reps receive appropriate suggestions on their mobile devices at the time and place that they need them. All of that has amazing potential.
Q: Backtracking a little, you mentioned social media in the third stage of trends. Could you explain further the relationship between social media and field activity management?
Marko: The main thing with social media is how it has impacted the nature of communication. Most social media sites have integrated messengers, simplifying communication and making it instantaneous. Communication through a messenger is much simpler and quicker than communication standards on social media were 10 years ago. The same spirit is being applied to the best and most modern business solutions, and we are trying to bring that to field activity management. Before, messaging was just one of the features; Today, it’s the foundation we build solutions on.
Q: How is Repsly meeting or exceeding field teams’ current expectations and needs? What does Repsly's solution provide that other similar FAM software do not?
Marko: Repsly is trying to bring all of the concepts I explained in the previous questions to life. We are in regular contact with our users, and we often ask them what they think about Repsly– how their experience has been with our solution. Almost always, the first word we hear from them is ‘simplicity.’ They understand what Repsly is and how to use it very quickly. They can immediately use it to increase their company’s productivity, and this immediate understanding of the software and its functionalities is what is most important to us.
But along side with this, I have to say that Repsly itself, under the hood, is very complex. It offers a variety of features and in-depth capabilities that are allowing businesses to improve their bottom line. The way that we are communicating these complexities though is very simple.
Q: What concrete, measurable improvements have you seen in companies that have decided to adopt Repsly’s software?
Marko: The easiest thing to measure is quantity of activities such as the number of store visits. Some customers have reported a 20% increase in quantity of tasks being completed in the field after adopting Repsly’s software. Sometimes this directly relates with earnings from things such as increased sales. Another thing that most of our customers report is increased visibility. I often hear the expression, “I was blind, and now I see!” When managers use the ‘representatives’ tab it’s like they are sitting in the passenger seat of their representative’s car. When they are on the home screen it’s like watching a control panel at an airport; you can see everything going on.
We can also compare it to social media. For example, if you are a Facebook or Twitter user, you can immediately see when your friends and people you follow post new statuses and tweets –and that’s exactly what Repsly emulates, in both design and functionality. Managers or team leaders can see how work is getting done in the field, and he or she can easily switch from this real time monitoring view to an analytical reporting view, which points out bottlenecks in productivity or some things that may need more attention.
Q: Have you talked to customers who use Repsly about how the software has changed the nature of relationships between managers and representatives?
Marko: Yes. What we’ve seen is that when we introduce Repsly to companies, some highly productive employees are very happy to use it while others who are already aware that their performance is potentially subpar are reluctant to use it. This tool reveals the truth. If you have something to hide, you probably wouldn’t like it because everything becomes visible. Repsly by nature makes every user more accountable. Everything becomes more open. Again, it’s like social media. Whatever I post is visible to all of my friends. In this case, whatever work I do and report is visible to the whole team. And this encourages more productivity.
I bet that incentives a lot of reps in the field to perform stronger.
Marko: It sure does, and some companies are basing incentive programs based on activities reported on Repsly.
Q: Great! Any closing comments you would like to add?
Marko: Some people say that technology has come so far and we are at the end of an era with not much more to create. But when we take a closer look, this whole moment is just the dawn of a new era. Why? For the first time in history, each person has a computer in his or her pocket, and we are capturing more information than ever. Since generally speaking, people are now literate enough to use basic technologies and features, we are able to support and improve every part of human life in an easy way. But still, current market leaders have not progressed from traditional, antiquated software. So startups and young companies are responding to this new situation. We will start to see some profound changes in the very near future and we are really excited to be apart of it.
Aya Tsuruta is a Content Marketing Journalist at Repsly where she covers sales and marketing content through a creative lens. In addition to writing for Repsly, she is a frequent contributor to the music blog, Indie Music Filter, and BC magazine, the Gavel.