Published on 28-May-2013
"We believe that selecting IBM Connections represents a very secure investment for our business: it is helping us to work smarter and speed our time-to-market, so that we can stay one step ahead of the competition." - Stephen Coombs, IT Manager, Frontier Medical Products
Frontier Medical Group
Enabling Business Flexibility, Social Business for Knowledge Sharing and Innovation, Social Business for Sales, Social Business
IBM Business Partner:
Frontier Medical Group (Frontier) is a leading manufacturer and supplier of medical products to healthcare providers in the UK, Europe and internationally. A large part of the group’s business is focused on providing devices for the safe exchange and disposal of sharps objects, such as needles and syringes.
Frontier wanted to improve efficiencies and collaboration between its development and sales divisions, in an effort to shorten time-to-market for new products.
Frontier is working with IBM® Business Partner Codel Software to build a more collaborative business using IBM Connections – social software that supports smarter information sharing and integration.
Improves project information visibility and team member efficiency, slashing product development cycles and driving greater innovation, which helps the company to stay one step ahead of competition.
Frontier is a leading manufacturer and supplier of medical products to healthcare providers in the UK, Europe and internationally. A large part of the group’s business is focused on providing devices for the safe exchange and disposal of sharps objects, such as needles and syringes.
Tackling development challenges
As a medical device manufacturer, Frontier operates against a backdrop of strict regulatory guidelines and increasing cost sensitivity, as healthcare budgets continue to shrink. The company must work harder than ever to ensure that its products are manufactured to exacting standards, meet customer requirements and offer optimum cost-effectiveness.
Faced with these pressures, Frontier looked for a way to boost efficiencies and strengthen collaboration between its product development and sales teams. If the company could streamline development cycles, it would be able to get new products to market more quickly and cheaply, potentially securing a valuable edge over the competition.
Dan Taylor, Product Designer at Frontier Medical Products, elaborates: “In the past, product development could be held up because people often weren’t clear about where they were in a given project. We were looking for a way to bring team members together, so they could have centralised view of the latest project status, as well as a way to collaborate and share information more effectively.”
Choosing IBM Connections
In its search for a solution, Frontier reviewed collaboration software from a range of vendors, but found that none of the products fully matched what the business was looking for. When the company finally had the opportunity to evaluate IBM Connections, it immediately recognised that the solution was a perfect fit for Frontier’s needs.
Stephen Coombs, IT Manager at Frontier Medical Products, explains: “For us, IBM Connections offered the total package: it had the right look-and-feel, offered all the functionality we wanted, and had the added advantage of being web-based, so we could access it from mobile devices. This was a big plus as our sales teams spend a lot of time out in the field, and don’t always have access to a desktop computer.”
Rolling out the solution
Frontier started by purchasing a small number of IBM Connections licenses for a pilot phase, testing the solution and seeing how it aligned with users’ ways of working. This pilot proved highly successful, and the company moved ahead with a wider roll-out, first extending the solution to users in the product development department and then to other divisions, such as sales and marketing.
“We felt that the best way to start bringing users on board with Connections was to immerse them in the solution as much as possible,” states Stephen Coombs. “We developed communities for specific projects, and added people to each community so they could get to grips with using the software and start participating and sharing information. As more and more users become familiar with the solution, and see first-hand the benefits that it can deliver, we expect Connections to really take off across the entire business.”
Technical assistance from IBM Business Partner Codel Software helped to guarantee a smooth implementation. “We have been working with Codel Software for a long time, and have built up a solid partnership with their team over the years. Codel worked closely with us on the pilot deployment, and were always there to help put things right when we hit any bumps during the wider implementation.”
Fostering greater collaboration
IBM Connections allows Frontier to build better networks between project teams, and offers an integrated, secure platform for sharing information, discussing ideas, planning project tasks and working more collaboratively.
“With IBM Connections it’s much easier to bring people together and develop ideas,” says Dan Taylor. “For each project, we can create an online community, and set up features like blogs with the latest project status and forums for discussing new ideas and concepts. The image gallery is also really useful as it helps us to have a good visualisation of product designs.
“All files get uploaded to a central location, so we no longer have multiple copies of documents spread across different computers. This is helping to cut down on storage space on our server, and there’s also no more hunting through emails or system folders to find the information we need, which is a big time-saver.”
Accelerating development timelines
Frontier expects IBM Connections to deliver a considerable boost to its product development processes by facilitating more efficient communication between development and sales teams.
“When it comes to developing new products, we rely a lot on input from our sales teams: at the end of the day, they are the ones who are interacting with customers and working to sell our products, so it’s crucial that we get their feedback on new designs,” explains Dan Taylor.
“In the past, it often happened that the sales team would only see products near the end of the development cycle. If they had suggestions about changing certain elements of a design, it meant that the development team would have to take a few steps back to make the modifications, which ended up lengthening our development cycles and time-to-market. With IBM Connections, sales staff are actively involved at every stage during the design process, and can give us constant feedback. This allows us to keep projects on track, and get better products out to market faster.”
Secure information exchange
In addition to bringing together the company’s internal departments, IBM Connections is helping Frontier to support more secure collaboration with international partners.
“We have a distribution partner based in Belgium, and work with them a lot on developing various products for the European market,” notes Dan Taylor. “IBM Connections has delivered a real boost to our interaction with this team, giving everyone better visibility over projects and speeding up the design process.
“Importantly, Connections helps us to keep information exchange highly secure by giving us complete control over which users can view different types of information. We can restrict different teams’ access to just the groups that they need, so there’s no risk of unauthorised users gaining access to sensitive data.”
Meeting regulatory requirements
The solution’s rich document management capabilities also provide Frontier with a solid audit trail for various regulatory bodies. The company undergoes regular external audits, aimed at ensuring that stringent guidelines are followed during the product design process. With full documentation of all stages of a project centrally available in IBM Connections, Frontier can easily prove that it is complying with regulations.
Keeping an edge on market competition
In the near future, Frontier is planning to build on these project successes by extending the mobile capabilities of the solution and issuing sales teams with iPads. These will be used to provide on-the-go access to Connections, so that sales teams can share new product concepts with customers on site. This will help the company to get valuable feedback from target users and better gauge consumer interest.
Stephen Coombs concludes: “We are very pleased to see the momentum that IBM is building around mobile collaboration, and feel confident that its solutions will continue to be enhanced so that we can get great value out of them for many years to come. We believe that selecting IBM Connections represents a very secure investment for our business: it is helping us to work smarter and speed our time-to-market, so that we can stay one step ahead of the competition.”
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
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