Thomson Reuters merges sales teams using Salesforce.com

Thomson Reuters has created a unified sales team by implementing Salesforce.com following the 2008 merger of the two companies, Thomson and Reuters.

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Thomson Reuters has created a unified sales team by implementing Salesforce.com following the 2008 merger of the two companies, Thomson and Reuters.

Salesforce.com's Sales Cloud was rolled out to 3,000 users within six months, as part of a project known internally as TRUST – Thomson Reuters Unified Sales Tool. The company started the rollout to over 100 countries in July 2008, and completed it by the end of December 2008.

“We had to bring the two sales forces together. We decided to invest in Salesforce.com and present that as a unified sales tool,” John Spillane, head of business process, global business operations, at Thomson Reuters.

 “The Thomson side had just started using it and we decided to roll it out to everybody.”

While the front end of the merged company’s sales systems is unified through the Sales Cloud, the back end system, which includes order processing, is Siebel.

Reuters, which had the larger (70 percent) of the two sales teams, had used Siebel for both the front and back end prior to the Sales Cloud rollout. Thomson had been using an in-house order management process.

“Siebel is very good, but has some challenges in user friendliness and rate of change,” said Spillane, who said that the merger gave Reuters the opportunity to review its systems.

“Salesforce is much more like the consumer web.”

A number of Salesforce features appealed to Thomson Reuters, such as its mobile capabilities. “People had always wanted mobile, and we switched it on for Blackberry and last year Apple. We recently switched it on for the iPad,” Spillane explained.

Salesforce allowed the company to build account plans, which provide information such as strategies and relevant people relating to each account, directly into the sales workflow. This means that any updates made in Salesforce are automatically applied to account plans by the system. Spillane said that there are around 8,000 account plans currently being updated and used.

To monitor the success of the Salesforce rollout, Thomson Reuters set itself an adoption target. The aim was to get 80 percent of the global sales team logging into the system every day.

“We tracked adoption each month, and we got there [to 80 percent] after 12 months, and now we have two regions using it every day,” said Spillane.

In terms of the benefits of having Salesforce, Spillane said: “For us, it’s having one version of the truth. Second, having a system that was available fast. And it’s web-enabled, which means that it’s available everywhere you demand and with whatever device you’re using.”

However, Thomson Reuters did face some challenges when merging the sales teams, particularly around the integration of data and the back end systems.

 “We worked out how to get a single sales process into the system, but at the back end it was still separate, ex-Thomson or ex-Reuters processes. Also, we had to load two sets of customers, accounts and contacts data into the system. There was deduplication, and cleaning that was challenging – and we’re still doing that,” said Spillane.

Thomson Reuters now plans to further automate its deal pipeline. For example, the company is working with a partner from the cloud computing marketplace AppExchange to build in sales proposal management, so that Salesforce.com generates deal proposals and forecast reports automatically.

“At the moment, they export information from Salesforce and it goes into spreadsheets. In November, we will automate the process of forecasting sales proposals, generating forecast reports automatically to understand why forecasts change,” said Spillane.

Furthermore, Thomson Reuters will be installing a global address validation tool into the system to help users complete addresses.

Spillane is also interested in adopting Salesforce.com’s latest social and collaboration products, Chatter and Chatter Mobile, for networking within the company. However, the company would “ideally” like to expand on the Chatter capabilities, by integrating it with other applications so that they automatically send Chatter feeds.

“So when working a sales opportunity, an application could let you know when a customer has passed a credit check, for example, or that an invoice has been produced. Before, you would have to go find it,” Spillane said.

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