I Want System: User Reactions

This chapter has described an application which automates one aspect of the selling process: the generation of a sales presentation. We have demonstrated this prototype to hundreds of managers in the consumer packaged goods industry and have received more positive comments than we received on any other application. We have come to believe that these favorable responses flow from an awareness that sales representatives should spend their time selling and not analyzing. In a sense, the purpose of sales force automation is to let sales people be sales people.

Overall the Gamma project was one of the most successful prototypes developed in the Marketing Workbench Laboratory. It was received well and it bore further fruit. The ideas were developed and refined in other prototype systems. The project showed a way of working that allowed for the rapid prototyping of business solutions. The project used end-user tools and small compact systems running on standard PC's to develop systems that were distributive in nature, that did not rely on any one component to do everything. It showed that the knowledge-based approach could be transported successfully from esoteric AI software to more workable software packages like spreadsheets. More importantly, it illustrated ways to enhance the process of getting work done in a world in which the scanner data explosion was becoming a daily reality to the marketing and sales groups of the manufacturers of packaged goods.

System professionals have been impressed with the architectural idea of building upon the existing MMIS, in this case the Metaphor system. They seem to recognize that this approach allows the users to have considerable freedom of choice. They could use the Metaphor system to prepare their own presentation. Or, they could rely totally on the insight generation system. Another choice lies somewhere in between these two extremes; they could use the insight generator to produce an initial document that they could then edit or modify in their PC using different tools. This freedom of choice seems to be important to senior sales managers because they do not want their people to beome totally dependent on "canned systems."

These same system professionals have been surprised when told that the analyzers were written in a spreadsheet, and not in an expert system shell. They want to know why, and wonder if spreadsheets offer the appropriate programming environment for building corporate systems. At the same time, marketing research professionals are very intriqued about the use of spreadsheets for writing analyzers because they recognize that this approach opens the system development process to business professionals such as marketing researchers, sales analysts, and even computer-oriented managers. The next chapter is devoted to explaining the concepts and intricacies involved in building analyzers in spreadsheets.