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Leading Music Distributor - Sales Force Automation Portal (SFA2)

Large players in the pre-recorded music distribution space found themselves in a challenging situation. Giant technological strides were responsible for the rapid increase in legal and illegal digital distribution of music. At the same time, however, this led to shrinking of the sales of pre-recorded music (CDs).

The Company, one of the largest players in this sector, felt the need for a high-impact application. The company wanted a solution that would help it meet these challenges in the fast maturing market.

The company sought CTE's help in designing an application to transform field employees from shelf stockers to revenue generators. With the help of the application, the field employees would provide accurate, comprehensive and real-time views into the supply chain to track product location and availability. In addition, the application would also help accomplish an accurate inventory count of their stores and capture rapidly changing local and season variations.


"This has been one of the most valuable workshops I have ever attended. I have learned a tremendous amount and the visionary thinking was exceptional…"

The application helps the Utility Company recalculating the invoices for any errors as well as doing variance checks. It has many useful tools like Rate Comparison, budget, savings etc. A messaging queue is in place for the analysts.

- Regional Team

A team of experts from the company attended three Workshops conducted by CTE spread over two years - from 2001 to 2003. During this period, CTE helped the company conceptualize, prototype and build three portals, while another powerful Application is being built and rolled out in phases.

In Q1 of 2002, the initial Field Employee Portal Application, that allows field employees to accurately manage inventory in individual stores in real-time, was developed. This solution was designed to empower the field employee with a hi-impact tool that would help record current inventory and access store-specific inventory/title recommendations. It would also help identify and react to suspicious sales patterns and quickly order for replenishment inventory beyond the automatic recommendation, or locate missing shipments.

The initial pilot was rolled out to a few users to gather user feedback and assess the state of wireless coverage. One of the key findings of the pilot was that the wireless coverage was inadequate and did not provide sufficient reliability or availability. Meanwhile, in order to retain and lead its position as an indispensable link in the supply-chain, the company has embarked on a variety of initiatives that allow it better to serve its customers.

Subsequent to the initial Field Employee Application portal project, the Vendor Portal and the Customer Portal were also developed. The Vendor Portal lets company customers better understand how their inventory performs on multiple levels, carefully manage inventory to minimize overstocked and out-of-stock items, and use music for cross-selling to generate additional store revenues. The Customer Portal is for store customers via online kiosks in stores, where they can pre-order music, thus improving customer satisfaction and generating additional shopping trips to the store.

Sales Force Automation Portal (SFA2)

Recently, the company felt the need to replace the field force tool supported by their current SFA Application Service Provider. However, any SFA implementation needs to incorporate the company's long-term vision for its sales force as well as the functionality gap in the current SFA Suite.

The company decided to go ahead with SFA2. The understanding gained while creating the three portals over two years of a matured relationship between CTE and the company formed the basis for the client to leverage our offshore capabilities in India to build the SFA2.

SFA2 will strengthen the company's field force's primary objective: to "merchandize," i.e., to see that the stores they service display the titles to sell. It will also make one of their secondary tasks - to scan the stores from time to time to report the correct inventory position to the company's systems - a lot easier to perform. With SFA2, the company hopes to have a more efficient inventory scan system in place to reduce the amount of time field reps spend on scanning.

The SFA2 will provide new capability and functionality in:

Visibility of how product or store is performing down the hierarchy to drive in-store productivity, Time and activity capture to improve schedule and utilize field rep's time better Alerts, such as suspicious sales, watchlist, PUMA. Manual alerts to create greater responsiveness among the field force and also as a call to action to adjust inventory at the individual title level.

Dock to stock action items:

Greater visibility on the last mile in the shipping process: Time taken to merchandise after product reaches store.

Replace a paper based reporting system related to compliance/audit of promotions, in-store displays conducted by the company on behalf of the stores.

The proposed Scan module under SFA2 will replace the existing inventory scanning system and process. The existing system is proprietary and uses outdated technology, leading to maintenance and support issues. SFA2 proposes to replace this existing proprietary system with scan guns attached to a handheld for greater ease of use for the field reps. Scanner-handheld system will offer enhanced capabilities in terms of speed, scan performance, and superior reporting capability as compared with the current system.

Also SFA2 will support standards based on open platform architecture (the handheld and laptop applications for SFA2 will be built using Microsoft .net framework and the server side functions using Oracle 9iAS portal's framework.)

In addition to the creation of the Scan functions, SFA2 will also create alerts, reports and surveying capabilities for the field rep's supervisors. SFA2 will also enable a medium to push alerts, tasks, and reports down to the field. The company hopes that the smarter capturing of scan data and reporting capability through the handheld device would allow reps to make better decisions on the field.

The SFA2 application will be built to cater not only to the music merchandize but also any future products that could be catered by the company for their customers.

"It's one of the biggest development projects for the Offshore Development Center (ODC). We are providing an end-to-end enterprise solution beyond the Web-based applications, a high-impact application involving multiple devices. We are integrating new technologies to provide a solution that solves a problem that was directly impacting the company's bottom line. We are leveraging the ODC to gain the benefits of developing the application offshore - through a combination of a highly-skilled team and SEI-CMM compliant process expertise, we are delivering a solution that has received great accolades from the client," says Ramesh Reddy, Vice President Operations of the ODC.


The SFA2 will replace the functionality of the current field sales full service provider with greater capability application. The functionalities are built on a new architecture to ensure current business processes can be executed, as opposed to the company's current Application Service Provider, which held an uncertain future.

The company estimates that the savings due to reduced return logistics alone would amount to $2.2 million annually from reduced return logistics, improved inventory management through expedited information flow, new cross-selling opportunities for mass merchant customers and improved distribution channel for additional products.

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