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Leveraging Partners To Get Things Done

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Donagh Herlihy | CIO | Avon

One important initiative that we wanted to get off the ground this year is Avon Leadership Manager. It is an initiative aimed at sales leaders. In the Avon business model, a sales leader is an independent representative who also hires and trains other representatives. Traditionally, to help support the sales leaders in terms of managing their down line, we've produced reporting in terms of the activity of the people in their down line. Whether it’s their sales activity, their status in terms of payment due to Avon, or the status they have in terms of the training they've taken and so forth, we produce reporting at the end of each campaign. It's available on our Web sites for those sales leaders. But the weakness with that approach has been that the campaign has ended. Every two or three weeks, we would produce this reporting, and it was backward looking. "Your down line performed like this. For each individual, here were their KPIs; here are things you may want to look into as a sales leader to keep them active and keep them productive." The idea was that we wanted to be able to intercept and drive activity in the field organization during the campaign. In the normal course of events, our organization, just like most organizations, will start to think about, "How can I buy some technologies, bundle them together, configure them, and develop them? How can I even just write technology and develop technology internally that will solve that problem?" One of the things we did and we do, just as a matter of course, here now is we say, "We'll also look at the buy option. We’ll look at the build option, but we’ll also look at the partner option." In that instance, it was to go into software as a service model with a vendor. We brought them in and put them into the mix right at the beginning as well. We said, "Look, here's what we're looking for. How can you play your big player in this kind of CRM area?" The hypothesis was that they would have some tools we could leverage. What we were delighted to find is that we were quickly able to work with that vendor, leveraging their technology to build a proof of concept, a real production proof of concept. It took three weeks. In December of last year, we were to go into an executive committee meeting, because this would be a significant investment first. We showed them a live working proof of concept and prototype. Andrea Jung, our Chairman and CEO, said at the end of the demonstration that what she had just seen was a game changer for Avon, because we were able to develop something quickly by leveraging someone else's existing technology and infrastructure. Then we were able to put in front of that group of people functionality that met our need. Now we've been able to go through a process where we've gone live in our first country. The lesson for me is, I think we're all guilty of under-leveraging our partners. There's an ecosystem out there, especially in terms of information technology, that's huge. It is complex to navigate it, but I think it is beholden on us to not assume we have all the answers and all the solutions and all the resources within our companies. Certainly in this case we've been very pleased about the speed of implementation because we've basically gone out and leveraged existing platforms and in an existing organization to help us get the work done.

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