Physician Sales & Service Web-Enables Legacy ERP System: Revolutionary Solution Builds Stronger Customer Relationships

Physician Sales & Service, Inc. was founded in 1983 in Jacksonville, Florida with a vision of fulfilling the needs of office-based physicians through unique and innovative services. Today, PSS is the leading distributor of medical products and operates 61 service centers distributing to approximately 92,000 office sites in 50 states and Europe. PSS needed to deploy information at the point of commerce, usually at the business frontlines, such as the sales force and service force, as well as directly to customers, distributors and partners.

PSS put its vision into action when we contracted with Encore Development to develop a web-based Instant Customer Order Network (ICON Web), an eBusiness solution that extends the functionality of PSS’s J.D. Edwards ERP system, giving our salespeople, customer service representatives and customers, secure, web-based access to critical information that had previously been locked in the legacy ERP system.

The large, mobile user base and the complexity of our enterprise-scale relational databases made it difficult to distribute data to users who were intermittently connected. We faced the challenge of migrating complete subsets of data, across varying hardware and software platforms, while maintaining existing relationships. Thus, synchronization became a ‘must-have’ feature for the ICON Web system and PSS turned to Princeton Softech’s SyncPoint as the key enabling technology behind ICON Web.

As with all eBusiness applications, a high performance, high availability system is critical to a successful implementation. We had to ensure that the data on the remote user’s system is current and consistent with the corporate database. Princeton Softech’s SyncPoint makes it possible for ICON Web users to quickly and accurately access the data that they need on a daily basis, from the remote sales rep to the office manager in a doctor’s office.

Princeton Softech’s SyncPoint transforms existing and new corporate database information into eData, enabling PSS to manage distributed and disconnected data across and beyond the enterprise. ICON Web users now have immediate, web-based access and updates to corporate information that might otherwise be held captive in the data center. We can distribute customer information, plus provide remote order processing capabilities, to an entire mobile sales force, even when they are offline. The promise of thin clients finally becomes real with Princeton Softech’s SyncPoint because our remote users can truly operate in a disconnected mode.

In addition, customer service representatives and selected customers can remotely process their own orders. By providing access to the customer service representatives, ICON Web improves the speed and quality of our customer service. In addition, customer interaction via ICON Web produces more hard data about the customer than any other contact with the customer, so the system will help us learn more about our customers, including usage patterns.

ICON Web’s main features:

  • Salesperson can queue orders while disconnected from Web server
  • Direct on-line ordering by medical practices, salespeople, and customer service representatives (CSRs) via Intranet and Internet. 
  • Salespeople or CSRs can schedule customer appointments
  • Access to customer profile data (order history, A/R balances and history, appointments, etc.)
  • Access to PSS’s entire product inventory, including cost, price, product detail, quantities
  • Enables sophisticated pricing based on contracts

The system is designed for high scalability and high performance by using components and an n-tier architecture. Over 1,000 PSS employees, both mobile sales reps and customer service reps, use ICON Web. In addition, over 20,000 customers will potentially be using the system. In the future, the system will be augmented to include PSS’s service business. Remote service technicians can then access customer service tickets and review equipment maintenance history.

PSS chose Encore Development to custom design and develop the ICON Web solution because of Encore’s reputation as a leading provider of web-powered business solutions for the enterprise. Encore understood that incorporating performance and access were key issues for PSS. We needed a ubiquitous solution that minimized the time it took remote users to synchronize with the central database.

Encore evaluated several synchronization alternatives early in the project and in terms of the most critical requirements: accuracy, ease of integration, and performance over the Internet. It was also important to Encore that the synchronization vendor work closely with Encore’s development staff, because Encore needed to customize the synchronization engine for capabilities that were specific to the ICON Web solution.

"Since this is indeed an enterprise application, one of the requirements was that it scale very easily and very well," affirms Paul Miller, Practice Director for Web Applications at Encore Development. "Princeton Softech’s SyncPoint directly accessed Oracle, allowed ODBC utilization for client access to Interbase, and provided a high performing, scalable solution for large numbers of simultaneous users who accessed the system every day."

The ICON Web solution leverages PSS’s IT infrastructure by its seamless integration with our existing Oracle database and J.D. Edwards ERP system. We minimized the expense of system integration and mitigated the need to purchase new database software. Training costs associated with the purchase of new software were also eliminated by leveraging the existing infrastructure.

 

About the Author: David Ramsey is Chief Information Officer at Physician Sales & Service.