AT&T's Public Relations department needed to apply the latest technology to a myriad of business challenges. Since 1994, MIS has acted as their outsourced IT teamhelping them save money and improve the way they run their business. Smart and easy security practices allowed the department to maintian productivity while adhering to AT&T's strict security standards.
AT&T's Public Relations department is responsible for media relations, analyst relations and community relations for one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world. It's a huge job, requiring a large staff, and considerable computer and information systems. So huge, this department often acts more like a mid-sized company.
In the mid 1990's, the AT&T PR team's information needs were growing. Stand-alone applications were being created on an as-needed basis, making it hard for their small IT team to manage. For example, a Microsoft Access database was being used for contact management, and key financial data was kept in spreadsheets on various desktops. At the same time, AT&T's corporate intranet was growingcreating new possibilities for web-based interaction.
"We wanted to take advantage of communications via the Web," recalls Rob Merchant, Manager of IT Public Relations. "But our needs weren't large enough to warrant help from AT&T's corporate IT department. We needed a responsive group that could work by our side to find ways to improve our processes, and help us run our business better."
AT&T placed a call to MIS.
MIS has been a valued resource to the AT&T PR team. Providing a series of innovative solutions that are helping them work faster, smarter, and save money. Here are some examples.
AT&T Story iPad App:
Providing an effective communications demo and distributing it to thousands of outside sales people while reducing cost was the genesis for the AT&T Story iPad app. Multiple product lines with many products and options resulted in hundreds of brochures tailored to different products. It was impossible for the sales people to be experts in each product and the desire to get the right product in the hands of the customer was a big priority. With the iPad app guiding the sales associate, they ask questions of potential clients and enter the response. Resulting product lines are narrowed as more questions are answered as the app guides the sales associate to the correct product solution based on the customer’s needs. The iPad app accesses the database of all brochures, charts, video, audio, and other links for the recommended product solution. If a customer wants additional info, the sales person simply selects the brochure and adds notes and comments directly on the brochure which is sent via email to the customer. “The feedback we got from the sales associates showed that the potential clients love the tool and they find the process is quick, clean, and complete. They also really like the brochures they receive with notes and comments from their meeting” says Chris Smith, CTO of MIS. In addition to the iPad app, a backend admin system allows new materials to be added at any time. Whole products and brochures can be deleted. Once this occurs all iPad’s are immediately up to date since the app talks directly to the database. Finally, security is in place for encrypting all info that is passed to/from the iPad app to the database server.
Grant Request System:
When AT&T employees wanted to submit a grant request from the AT&T Foundation, they had to go through an inefficient paper-based process. Now, with a new web-based application developed by MIS, AT&T managers can simply log on to the PR team's intranet, and complete the request form online. With automated workflows, including reminders and electronic funds transfer, the grant review and approval process is now much faster and more efficient, and the PR team is also able to maintain a history on grantees and donation levels. What's more, they're now saving a tremendous amount of timeby their estimate, 4 man years, or $240,000 each year.
Purchase Order Application:
managing budgets is an important job for AT&T's PR team. However, the budget intelligence they were getting from their corporate accounting department was slow (often lagging two months behind), and included limited information on PO numbers and payment dates. Managers needed a real-time understanding of what invoices were in the pipeline in order to manageand defendtheir budgets. With a new web-based application, MIS helped the PR team streamline their purchase order processincluding an online approve/decline mechanism. Now each budget holder can get up-to-date intelligence on invoices paid, dollars committed, and budgets remaining. Helping them stay on budgetand defend and protect their budgets with corporate.
MIS understands the business need. And delivers tremendous value for the money.
Over a close to twenty year relationship, MIS has been like the PR department's in-house IT team. Conversant in the PR business, and responsive to their changing technology needs.
In addition to sophisticated apps and web applications like the AT&T Story iPad App, Grant Request System and Purchase Order Application, MIS has also helped develop and implement applications for HR functions like timesheets, PR University (training and education), and even a calendaring program that automates the process of scheduling conference rooms.
"MIS brings a strong understanding of the PR function, as well as the business issues at handand does a great job of managing costs and charges," notes Merchant. "They have an extremely fair billing rate1/3 the cost of internal AT&T chargeswhich makes them a tremendous value for the money."
"We think very highly of all their people. They keep abreast of all the current technology and research, and are always availableI can always get someone on the phone quickly and get a timely response to a problem."