Month: March 2014

What’s New in Scout: Software Enhancements for Route Sales

Route sales and DSD are perhaps the oldest “mobile computing” application in use since the 80’s. Way back when, DCT created its first “outside the four walls” system for Paris Brothers Distributing. It included a pocket PC made by Symbol and a custom-built cable that connected to a Sprint cell phone to enable order processing from the field. Over the years, this system has become more and more sophisticated and has expanded to include a robust route sales and DSD (direct store delivery) platform that we deploy to customers all over the country. While we aren’t in the business of custom-building cables any more, DCT has been working on redeveloping Scout from the ground up so that it is optimized to run on today’s technology—smart phones, tablets,
etc.—with very little operator intervention.

In the past, route sales transactions were completed on an “electronic clipboard” using a stylus. This was essentially the same amount of work as using a pen and paper, although it did save time in the back office.  Now, users are able to avoid that hassle
with a more managed workflow. According to Shane Langston, “We can walk our clients through the sales and service processes to ensure that we are delivering the service levels that our clients expect from us.” Some of the useful new features of Scout’s route sales platform are the ability to override prices, establish contract prices, accept payment, collect signatures, and maintain pricing data over time.

On the back end, DCT developers have added a very sophisticated management portal that utilizes a device’s GPS and cellular capabilities to track activity
in real time, automatically update statuses, send alerts, and measure real performance against key performance indicators. These enhancements give Scout value not only for the sales force out in the field, but also for the managers who are responsible for overseeing a roaming class of employee.

Can Microsoft Boost Sales of the Surface?

Although Microsoft has attempted to stay mum on sales figures of their tablet, the Surface, it is no secret that the numbers haven’t been strong. The IDC recentlyreleased datasuggesting that sales of the Surface didn’t even reach the one million mark in the first quarter of 2013. Microsoft had undoubtedly hoped that the Surface would help them gain a larger share of the Apple and Samsung-dominated tablet market, so these numbers are not promising. 

So what’s a software giant to do when a product they’ve invested tons of money, manpower, and hope in fails? Make it better and cheaper! Microsoft announced last week that new versions of the Surface will be faster and more connected thanks to chips manufactured by Qualcomm and based on the highly impressive Snapdragon processor. In addition, Microsoft is also slashing prices and offering even deeper discounts to students and education professionals. The Surface RT, normally priced at $499, will be offered to certain professionals in the education world for only $199. This discounted rate is far cheaper than any offer available on competitors’ tablets. 

The Microsoft Surface actually gets pretty good reviews as is, so the improvements and lower pricing could be the catalyst that Microsoft needs to break into a highly competitive market.