The Olsen Group: PDF Development Services Case Study

PDF Form Enables Sales Team Collaboration

A screen-shot of the OSSThe Olsen Group in Portland, OR, trains sales teams for medium-sized and larger corporations in a wide variety of industries.  Olsen’s model emphasizes a systematic approach to collecting, structuring and managing all the significant information that can help a sales team get prospects to a close. The Opportunity Strategy Sheet (OSS) is the vehicle Olsen uses to define their approach in the field.

Based on the simple proposition that the more one knows the better, Olsen’s OSS is capable of managing the sales process for individuals or teams, and for complex as well as simple sales. The system can handle multiple players, decision makers, success factors and objections. Properly implemented, it converts every sales interaction into a process which fosters effective information collection and dissemination.

“Ten years ago, we designed this system using Excel, with paper versions of the form for training purposes.” says Scott Olsen. “Today, we still use paper to introduce people to the system, but the everyday Opportunity Strategy Sheet is a JavaScript-powered PDF.”

While including form-fields, Olsen’s PDF isn’t really a “form” as most people understand the term. In reality, it’s a color and flag-coded process and data management system leveraging PDF and Acrobat JavaScript to organize and focus the efforts of the entire sales team. With the OSS and Olsen’s training, each individual can easily manage their information and themselves onto the same exact page when it comes to dealing with a potential client.

The Problem

A screen-shot of the OSSFor team sales, the value of the OSS is most dramatic when each update to the OSS is easily shared. A paper-based approach, while useful in training, was never going to work for distributed sales teams.

The obvious solution was a savable electronic document of some sort, but the OSS is fairly sophisticated. Originally developed in Excel, the first electronic OSS didn’t work the same way in different versions of Excel and didn’t work at all on most Macs. Even more inconvenient, Excel wasn’t (and still isn’t) free. Olsen didn’t want his sales people to need it.

A web-based solution was considered and rejected because of the connectivity requirement. Olsen didn’t want to force users to be online; being able to work on OSS sheets while airborne, for example, was critical.

Beyond functional considerations, a web-based approach implied development costs other than those directly associated with developing the OSS itself. “The beauty of this PDF is that every dollar I spent went into the form,” he says.  “No servers, no software expense, no ongoing support unless it’s to add a a feature – and the sales-person can use the form offline, print it, sketch on it, whatever – it’s fantastic!” Olsen said.

Who needs apps? We’ve got a PDF for that!

“The development process was really easy,” Olsen says. He emailed his Excel file along with a list of items that needed to be changed, and a description of the functionality he had in mind.

“Your project manager, Jeanne, got what I was looking for really quickly,” said Olsen. “When we talked about it on the phone, it was clear that she’d done this sort of thing many times before.”

Appligent Document Solutions started with Olsen’s original spreadsheet, then modified the design to provide a standardized template, ensuring easy customization for each client. The PDF version of the OSS was then developed with PDF form fields, annotations and Acrobat JavaScript, so users require only the free Adobe Reader to use them.

It only took them a week or so to produce the first functional draft. That sort of turn-around was really helpful to me” says Olsen.

Why a PDF-based solution?

A screen-shot of the OSSWhy not Flash, or some other interactive technology? When he decided to move away from Excel, Olsen already knew that it either had to be PDF or share the core PDF capability – retaining the integrity of the printed page.

“While it’s an electronic document, the OSS has to work on paper as well,” remarked Olsen. “Cross-platform support was critical, and we needed something that would work on or offline and also fit easily into anyone’s document management system,” he said. “Because of the free Adobe Reader, anyone can use these PDF files without spending a dime, even Mac users.” Olsen says.

To enable users with Reader to save their PDF forms offline, Olsen asked Appligent to enable his forms for Reader Save with Adobe Acrobat Professional. If a given PDF form has less than 500 named users with Adobe Reader, the glossary-readerextensionseula Acrobat End User License Agreement permits the use of Reader Extensions.

“We customize the OSS for each client. So far, none of our client’s sales teams come close to 500 people, so it’s not an issue.” Olsen says.

The Future

Olsen is planning a new round of development on the OSS to add more capability and flexibility. In addition to improvements in the form and enhanced onboard logic, he plans to use the very same PDF as an interface to, then back-end repository for so many of his sales-team clients.

“When this form is talking back and forth with a back-end database, we’ll really be cooking with gas,” Olsen said. “We look forward to using Appligent Document Solutions for both the client-side form development and server scripting necessary to communicate with the API.”

Why Appligent Document Solutions?

Olsen had used his Excel-based form for ten years before turning to Appligent Document Solutions for a PDF-based replacement.

“We needed the PDF version quickly due to a commitment to a customer,” says Olsen. He started, as many do, with Google, where he searched for “creating fillable PDF”.

“Appligent Document Solutions was accessible, confident and credible,” says Olsen. “I really enjoyed the experience of working with them from the first interaction. I’d recommend them to anyone who’s thinking of PDF as a way to address a business need. PDF is pretty amazing in terms of what it can do, and these guys really know the technology cold.”


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