by Martha Heller

The Business Didn’t Ask for It

Jan 21, 20159 mins
CIOIT JobsIT Leadership

How the IT team at Dr. Pepper Snapple Group got buy-in for a game-changing mobile app

tomfarrahheadshot Dr Pepper Snapple Group

Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (DPS) is a $6B producer and distributor of beverage products. They sell much of their product through direct store delivery, which means that ever day, the sales force visits thousands of stores to take replenishment orders and pitch new products.

DPS also has account teams who work at a national level with retailers to develop programs and promotions for in-store events.  Those programs have materials, collateral, displays, and pricing information, all of which need to be communicated to everyone involved in the program.  If the Walmart account team at DPS creates a Dr. Pepper football promotion for Walmart nationally, the reps need to get the right merchandise, products and displays into all of the Walmart stores.

All of this means that before the sales reps start their day, they need a list of the stores included in that day’s route, order information on every account, collateral for promotions that have already been sold into the retail chain, and information about new promotions on offer.

The Challenge

For years, sales reps used printed materials to keep track of their routes and a hand-held that only allowed them to take orders.  “The reps carried product collateral around with them in binders,” says Tom Farrah, who has been CIO of DPS since 2011.  “The pages would be torn and out of date, and that’s what they’d present to the customer. With just a few minutes to spend with the store manager, the rep could barely get a replenishment order filled, let alone execute on marketing promotions or sell new products.”

Without an efficient way to access all of that information, sales reps struggled.  “There was a lot of finger pointing,” says Farrah.  “’I didn’t know about the promotion. I didn’t have the materials, and the information that I did have was not relevant.’  These are problems that we’ve been discussing for years.’”  

With the declining market for soda industry-wide, these issues were about more than finger pointing and morale. They had a direct impact on revenue.

“The reps had technology for order-entry, and that was it,” says Farrah. “We have hundreds of retail chains as customers. When our reps visit them, we want them to do more than take orders. We want them to sell.”


So, Farrah and his IT team came up with a solution. “We developed MyDPS, an integrated suite of tools that we deliver over iPads,” says Farrah. “What is unique about MyDPS, is that in addition to giving our reps mobile apps, we’ve built a huge back-end repository with a rules engine. A lot of companies give mobile apps to their reps, but nobody is really doing the big back-end back piece with rules and content intelligence to make the information relevant to each sales person.  That is what is makes MyDPS so successful.”

With MyDPS, sales reps receive only the information about their own routes, accounts, and promotions. “If you are a sales rep for a branch that doesn’t carry 7-UP, you won’t see any promotional information on 7-Up,” says Farrah. “If you don’t service Kroger stores, you won’t see information about Kroger activity. “

How They Did It

For Farrah and his team, delivering MyDPS was anything but an order-taking activity. “Nobody in our business asked for MyDPS,” says Farrah.  “We developed the concept in IT and then got buy-in.  IT drove the whole thing. As CIO, I know that part of IT’s job is to fulfill requests, but our real job is to understand the business and come up with innovative ideas.”

Now, every morning, sales reps click on a “My Day” button on their iPads, which connects to the back-end and downloads everything they need for the day, including their routes, order information and selling materials.  When they open their browser, their home page is DPS’s corporate intranet, which gives them only the corporate information relevant to their business role.

How They Sold It

Farrah and a small team of IT people created drawings and mockups and concepts until they got to a point where they could walk someone through a real model.  “We went to a number of sales meetings and delivered a ‘day in the life of a sales rep” presentation,’” says Farrah. “We started the presentation with pictures of a rep walking into a store with a binder and a hand-held.  Then we walked them through a series ‘what-ifs’. What if the rep had an iPad? Great, he can do his email. But what if he could take his orders on that device? What if he had a list of all of the promotions and prioritized activities that we want him to sell in to the account? What if he could click a button and bring up promotional materials that explain the benefits of the program, the pricing and the profit margin? What if that information came to him every morning so that he can focus his time on selling?”

Farrah and his team visited DPS’s five major businesses and presented the MyDPS concept. “We showed them what could be and we planted the seeds,” he says. “The key was in talking about what the sales reps do now, and what they could be doing to maximize our incremental sales, which is our business objective.  Their first priority is to take replenishment orders but we want them to have an ‘ask’ to get the incremental sale.”

Farrah’s next step was to create a mini-pilot and give iPads to a small group of account reps. “We rigged up a temporary mechanism that downloaded materials from SharePoint.  We faked it so that the reps could have the experience of the app.” Farrah let the reps use the fake My DPS for a month and then asked that business’s president to meet with the reps who had been using the pilot.  “The president and I had a round table discussion with the reps,” says Farrah.  “We let them talk about how the app was working, and then we went with them to a customer, where they demoed how they were using it. The reps told us some great stories about how having those materials helped them with an incremental sell.”

Once that president was sold on MyDPS, Farrah was able to get buy-in from a number of additional general managers and sales leaders, all of whom are now seeing real results. “We are in a direct store delivery business, which is all about selling,” says Farrah. “We need to stock the stores, provide merchandizing, and sell to them as efficiently as possible. Now, our sales reps can sell better because they have the right story and the facts. That’s a huge advantage.”


Use a phased approach: Not wanting to overload the reps, the IT team initially built the app as a one-to-one replacement of the order entry process, which they had doing on a hand-held.  “Once they were used to doing order-entry piece on the iPad, we added promotions and route information,” Farrah says.

Be ready to deliver:  Farrah’s major concern about the program was adoption. Would sales reps who had been working for DPS for more than 30 years change their ways?  “Once we started the pilot and deployed the first app, the push from the business accelerated beyond our capability to deliver,” says Farrah. “We had people calling every day asking ‘When are we getting it?’  We purposely went slowly because this was a risk for us; the business didn’t ask for the solution. But adoption went much more quickly than we anticipated.”

One size will not fit all:  Once Farrah deployed MyDPS to the direct store delivery sales force, he asked that business’s president to meet with DPS’s CEO and the franchise business president discuss the results of MyDPS and plans for deploying the solution to the franchise business. “You can’t create something new and expect it to be a one size fits all solution,” says Farrah. “We wanted to give the franchise business the same system, but now that we’ve built MyDPS for them, we can see that it’s a very different app than for direct store delivery.  Our franchise business doesn’t take orders, they manage execution through third party bottlers, so they need a different solution.”

Take the risk: When the IT team pushes forward with a system that no one in the business requested, they are sticking their necks out. “If you are willing to take risks and think about problems you can solve for your business, then you just have to have the guts to go do it,” says Farrah.  “You have to believe in it and sell it.  Selling it is not just showing ROI; it is showing your business a real problem and how to solve it.”


About Tom Farrah

Tom Farrah is Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, a position he’s held since 2011. He joined the firm in 2006 as the VP of IT, Supply Chain and Architecture/Information Management. Previously, Tom was with Pfizer, Inc., and most recently, General Motors. He received a BCS in Computer Science and Mathematics from the University of Windsor.


About Dr. Pepper Snapple Group

Dr. Pepper Snapple Group is one of the leading producers of flavored beverages in North America and the Caribbean. In addition to the flagship Dr. Pepper and Snapple brands, the DPS portfolio includes Sunkist soda, 7UP, A&W, Canada Dry, Crush, Mott’s, Squirt, Hawaiian Punch, Peñafiel, Clamato, Schweppes, Venom Energy, Rose’s as well as Mr & Mrs T mixers. They are headquartered in Plano, TX.