Importance of Capturing Un-structured / ad-hoc Data Using SFA

September 13, 2022

When you are planning to roll-out a Sales Force Automation solution to monitor retail execution of your brand(s), you are more or less sure about the activities of the sales team that you want to automate. In all likelihood, you have also thought about a mobile app workflow and try to evaluate the vendors basis that. Many of the features are already available in every run-of-the-mill SFA solution available in the market. For example, if you want to automate end-to-end secondary order placement process for your sales team, you would need following features: Order Capture, Suggested Order Quantity, Distributor Stock Visibility, Order Fulfilment, Sales Return & Payment Collection. Well, this is more or less a standard workflow and you will get almost all of them in 80% of the SFA products.

Things get a bit tricky when you have some additional data to be captured that doesn’t fit in the standard workflow. Let’s say when your sales team visits a retail outlet, you also want them to fill-up a Dealer Health Card consisting of different parameters such as signage status, product visibility, POSM deployment etc. Or may be, you want sales supervisors (TLs, ASMs, RSMs etc.) also to perform certain activities in the SFA app when they are doing market visit. Your vendor is probably happy to do all these for you, but since these are not part of their standard workflow, invariably these additional requirements will be termed as ‘customization’ and you need to pay for it. Things get even worse when after 3-4 months, based on the feedback received from different stakeholders, you need to modify these activities further. Another set of ‘customizations’ and a set of new invoices for you to pay.

What about having a dream scenario where your SFA solution has got a backend framework where any ad-hoc or un-structured data can be captured using available configuration options and not even a slightest of additional development? Well, that is what the way forward is for any SFA solution if they want to cater to dynamic and ever changing needs of today’s successful businesses. So, when you are looking to roll-out SFA for your organization, you must keep the long-term perspective and go for a solution that has a framework which can cater to your requirement of capturing un-structured and ad-hoc data in quick time. Question is, what does that framework must contain which you can evaluate without getting into much technical details? Here is some of our recommendations based on our experience of serving multiple clients with a similar philosophy:

Questionnaire format to capture data: The ideal approach to capture ad-hoc and non-standardized data based on customized client requirement is to have an ability to create questionnaire at the backend. This will ensure that as and when client asks for some new data points to be captured through SFA, all they need to do is to create a questionnaire. The questionnaire must have an option to link questions with Category and Sub-Category which will come handy when different data points are to be treated differently in the reports.

Ability to capture different types of data: To ensure a smooth end-user experience, the app must be as much guided as possible. Which means the solution must have ability to capture different types of data such as Radio Button, Checkbox, Plain Text, Date, Time, Matrix Format, Image Capture etc. It will help in creating a questionnaire as per requirement of the specific data point and for the app user also it becomes evident what action they are supposed to take for each of the data points. There should also be an option to create dependent questions to implement branching logic if required.

Creating Market Working Activity: There must be a provision to create activities which will be linked with a questionnaire. The activities must be role based and time-bound so that you have flexibility to collect different data points by different types of users and also for a time period as per your choice. It will be also nice to have an option to link activities against specific outlets so that if you ever need to capture some survey data from some specific stores (let’s say Modern Trade outlets), you can do so without much of a hassle.

Dynamic mobile app workflow: Mobile app workflow of the SFA solution must be dynamic enough to cater to flexible questionnaire framework available in the backend. It should be dynamic enough to cater to any workflow basis the questionnaire created without any development at the mobile app side. It will not only eliminate the additional development cost, but for app users also it will not be required to download a new version of the app from Play Store or App Store.

Ability to create customized reports: While the above four points will ensure that any non-standard data can be captured using mobile app, still a question remains regarding how to visualize the data in the desired format without any additional development. This can be handled only if there is a robust data analytics platform available in the backend which can be used to develop customized reports using any data points. Since developing such a platform is very complex, the best approach is to integrate the SFA solution with a powerful data visualization software (such as Qlik Sense or Tableau) which can be used to create any report or dashboard using the data already captured through the robust framework mentioned above.

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