Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) is leaning heavily on data to identify sales opportunities and track the status of existing accounts, both crucial activities as the textbook publisher’s business increasingly shifts from ink and paper to learning software.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt CTO Brook Colangelo.
HMH CTO Brook Colangelo says the company has bet on analytics software as part of a sweeping transformation at the 184-year-old publisher designed to give sales staff more easily accessible data about leads from any mobile device.
"The opportunity was to get data and change the way [IT was] interacting with salespeople and give them more actionable data," Colangelo tells CIO.com. "The usability is pretty phenomenal."
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CIOs and their marketing teams are struggling to separate quality signals from noise as they try to quantify the value of their business data. The good news is they're better equipped to do that thanks to the raft of cloud analytics tools, such as Tableau or Qlikview, which allow sales people to view results and trends in charts without turning to IT for help rendering data in a manageable form.
‘Platforms, not point solutions,’ are key
HMH, whose content is consumed by more than 50 million pre-K to 12th-grade students in more than 150 countries, took a different tack. It bet on Salesforce.com's Wave Analytics, a relatively unproven cloud business intelligence application CEO Marc Benioff unveiled at the company’s customer conference in late 2014.
Colangelo said it made sense to use Wave because HMH used Salesforce.com's CRM software since 2007 and he thought the products would work better together than if he selected an alternative. Relying on a product positioned as an extension of an existing platform makes Wave a more reliable data source. "Platforms beat individual products hands-down," Colangelo says. “We’re betting on platforms, not point solutions.”
Platforms that surface data with intuitive user interfaces also beat clunky spreadsheets and legacy sales tools. Beginning in 2010, HMH began using sales management software to supplement Salesforce dashboards and other analytic capabilities. However, as sales grew the tool failed to accurately report on product lines or view information about pipelines. It was also not real-time, limiting data access to a single daily refresh. Moreover, sales managers who wanted to compare metrics might extract data stored in Excel spreadsheets.
A year ago HMH's sales managers began using Wave to evaluate their staff's performance versus its forecasts; to locate new deal opportunities; and to analyze historical performance, including year-over-year comparisons and ranges. Through customizable dashboards and charts, managers identify top and subpar performers, and drill down into essential data. “It allows you to pull the most recent data,” Colangelo says. “It’s very dynamic and you can keep pulling data and modeling it differently and changing filters.”
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