Green Mountain Gets the [Share]Point
Coffee maker deploys Web-based portal to solve data-sharing problems.
When Jim Travis arrived at his new job as director of sales and marketing at
Vermont-based Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. (GMCR), it didn't take him
long to realize he had a big job ahead of him. In fact, the scope of the challenge
became crystal clear almost the instant he noticed a tall stack of FedEx mailers
near his secretary's office at Green Mountain Coffee's offices in South Burlington,
"I asked, 'What are these?' and she said, 'That's our field sales mailing,'"
recalls Travis. "I said, 'You've got to be kidding me.'"
She wasn't. Every Friday, Green Mountain Coffee would overnight to about 70
field sales reps an updated stack of printed material, to be inserted into the
company's thick Marketing Resource Guidebook. It was a clumsy, manual and error-prone
process that led to a lot of waste and a lot of lost sales, says Travis.
"This has to stop. Every time you hire a person you have to take them
page by page through this five-inch [thick], three-ring binder. It's not appropriate,"
Travis recalls thinking.
Travis knew from his experience at Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., where sales
reps accessed product and sales information over the Web, that it was high time
to digitize the marketing and sales material at Green Mountain Coffee. He just
didn't know how to do it.
That's where local consulting outfit Competitive Computing Inc. -- also known
as C2 -- came in.
Jim Travis, director
of sales and marketing, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., says the
impact the initial SharePoint deployment is having on his sales and marketing
teams has caused "a deeper appreciation of the metrics behind the
"Once Jim made his case to the management committee there and got the
approval to go ahead and spend some money on [the problem], we got contacted
by Rob Ely, the director of the [management information systems] department
at GMCR. He was the person managing the project from [its] end," says Chris
Wasserman, technical lead at C2. "[GMCR] didn't come with a solution set
in hand -- [the company] came and said, 'Here's the problem and what we want
to do about it.'"
Given the distributed sales force, a Web-based portal solution made immediate
sense. And the folks at C2 knew Green Mountain Coffee well enough -- both firms
were founded by Digital Equipment Corp. employees -- to know the company was
heavily invested in Microsoft solutions. That made SharePoint Server 2003 an
One thing C2 didn't do was pretend to know GMCR's business. Led by Wasserman
and Business Lead Jeff Pratt, the team sat down with Travis, Ely and the rest
of the Green Mountain Coffee group to build a view of the challenge.
Pratt says the two groups talked through a high-level view of the design, covering
issues like process flow and storage of assets. "Having these groups get
into a room and talk about these topics with an eye toward automating them,
getting them to think about the process ... independent of automating all these
things-this process has been hugely beneficial to the company," Pratt says.
The discussion quickly moved to planning, including discussions of metadata
handling and access, as well as design-level issues within the SharePoint environment.
"The stuff they were trying to do -- if you step back from it -- was pretty
straightforward," Wasserman says. "Tap into the back-end database
and present documents through the Web interface."
Don't Fly Blind
Rather than trying to come up with a solution to its information
sharing problem on its own, Vermont-based Green Mountain Coffee
Roasters Inc.'s Director of Sales and Marketing Jim Travis
and Director of Management Information Systems Rob Ely turned
to knowledgeable consulting firm Competitive Computing Inc.
(C2) to help them target a solution platform.
2. Take an Incremental Approach
The initial rollout was limited strictly to the sales and
marketing organization, and focused on areas of business collateral
and document retrieval, sales data access and light contact
management. Additional phases are already underway or planned.
3. Stand and Configure
If Travis could do one thing, it would be to extend the SharePoint
Web interface to the company's wholesalers and independent
retailers. In retrospect, it might have been worth extending
the project to get that functionality online from the beginning.
4. Path of Least Resistance
Replacing the inefficient and costly paper-based
process with a digital Web portal was not only important,
it was easy. In fact, once the heavy lifting of transferring
and cataloging the collateral was finished, the marketing
group was free to work on more strategic issues that could
help improve the business.
5. Hold On
Rather than dismiss the C2 deployment team after the system
was installed, Technical Lead Chris Wasserman stayed on board
for several months in a support and maintenance role. That
decision allowed Green Mountain Coffee to tune the new environment,
even as it dedicated resources to the ongoing customer relationship
management project. -M.D.
Straightforward, yes. But matters were complicated by an unrelated PeopleSoft-based
customer relationship management (CRM) deployment that consumed resources and
spurred GMCR to outsource the SharePoint project. Part of the problem: The deployment
team found that PeopleSoft and SharePoint couldn't coexist with SQL Server.
"We had to change some low-level [collation] settings on SQL Server that
were incompatible with PeopleSoft," recalls Wasserman. "The plan was
for database clusters to serve SharePoint and PeopleSoft both, but they were
That reversal forced the team to go with separate database servers for SharePoint
and PeopleSoft. To expedite the SharePoint deployment, the database was housed
initially on the same server as the Web front-end. Later, a new database server
was deployed and SharePoint migrated to a three-tier structure.
"For the load they were getting and the number of users, it was acceptable,"
Crawl, Walk, Run
Rather than charge into a fully interactive environment, Green Mountain Coffee
deployed its portal functionality in three granular stages. The first stage
simply took the massive Excel spreadsheets that had been e-mailed to field reps
in the past and hosted them on the SharePoint Web portal.
"We adopted a crawl, walk, run approach to the data," C2's Wasserman
Next, C2 added Web views of the Excel spreadsheets. This eliminated bulk file
downloads and made access to specific data much easier and quicker for field
personnel. In the third stage, C2 deployed SharePoint-based analytics, cubes
and SQL Server reporting services on top of the portal. It was at this stage,
says Wasserman, when things really started to click.
"Now they've got a whole set of reports that are available on their portal,
from personalized reports for a sales person and what their numbers are, to
numbers on the whole company and what [its] sales are," he continues. "To
see where [the salespeople] are now, with the set of reports and tools they
had available, and where they were, e-mailing 100MB spreadsheets around the
country, is absolutely phenomenal."
Among those resources are a completely retooled set of marketing and presentation
materials, which replace the bulky Marketing Resource Guidebook. Web-enabling
these resources was more than simply a matter of slapping them online. The glossy
color pages were redesigned for online presentation, as well as for effective
output on the inkjet printers used by field staff.
With the CRM deployment project still boiling, Green Mountain Coffee decided
to keep C2's Wasserman on board to help with the transition and manage configuration
issues. "This guy worked tirelessly over four or five months," Travis
For all the early successes, Travis says he wishes he could have done more
up front. "We still need to do a lot of work on our pricing models. I probably
would've pushed a little harder on our scorecard for the dashboard," he
explains. "I think that's because I was pulled off on other things. I should've
stayed with it."
Travis says he won't make that mistake again. A host of follow-up efforts are
in the offing, including a self-service portal serving Green Mountain Coffee's
growing network of wholesale customers. The new resource will do everything
from providing ordering and costing services to presenting best practices and
roasting recipes for coffee shops. An enterprise-wide portal is also planned,
and should help drive efficiencies beyond the marketing and sales organization.
Still, Travis can't say enough about the impact this initial SharePoint deployment
is having on his sales and marketing teams. "There's a deeper appreciation
of the metrics behind the business," Travis says. "The nomenclature
is changing. People are beginning to talk a bit more professionally about their
brand and their metrics. You don't get that from training."
Ultimately, Wasserman credits the success to his client's readiness to commit
to the solution.
"I'm a firm believer that most IT projects are personality-related and
not technology-related," says Wasserman. "GMCR was really ready and
willing to take this stuff on. It was a very good fit, it really was."
Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.