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Joan Davidson of The Sheridan Group on using technology to meet the demands of an evolving marketplace

Published on April 20, 2010

Cary Sherburne:  Hi, I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com and I'm here with Joan Davidson who is president at the Sheraton Group and Joan I know you guys have been really leading edge in a lot of ways and you’re a big company.  What are some of the things you’re doing there technology oriented you know in fact in terms of bringing new technology into your company to adapt to this crazy market that we’re evolving into?

Joan Davidson:  Definitely is a crazy changing, evolving market, so I would say we attack it from two different ways.  One is what do our customers need from us in terms of technology and we have a good group of people and we’ve added even more resources this year to be able to go out to customers to understand what they need and then come back and develop it, so that is using technology to develop new services and products for our customers or prospects.  Sometimes they know what they want and other times they don’t.

Cary Sherburne:  And when they don’t do you find that your people are in a position to explain some of the possibilities and that that really helps sparks a new conversation?

Joan Davidson:  Exactly, they understand the whole workflow, come back and say, “You know the customer didn’t ask for this, but what if we put these three pieces together and created this and took it back to them?”  And that is what we do.  We come up with ideas and then we use customer focus groups and then ask them what they think about it and then we come back and start implementing and so that is one great way and the way everything is evolving from technology you have to these days because otherwise other folks will come in and not only will they get that part of the service, but you’ll lose another part of how to be connected to the customer.  So that is one part of externally in making sure your customer is happy, which is very important.  The second part is just more internally and that is using EFI.  That is using other systems and our IT resources and programming to make ourselves just more efficient.  Automate everything possible.  Remove any of the how many times to you have to touch piece of paper or an order or whatever, so we’re really looking to automate as much as we can internally.

Cary Sherburne:  And then you have metrics in place, so you measure that on an ongoing basis.

Joan Davidson:  Absolutely.  Wherever we know that there is manual touch points we would call them and then we make sure that whatever technology we’re putting in will eliminate them or at least reduce what we’re doing today and then that enables us to see how much more efficient.  At the Sheraton Group we measure everything, every company, every plant, everything from you know not only just your schedules, your on time, but you know how things turn in everyone of our departments, so we’ve got good MIS systems that tell us all of this.

Cary Sherburne:  And so then you have a pretty good handle.  You don’t have to wait a month or six weeks to figure out where you are with a month.  You know.

Joan Davidson:  No, we’re more instantaneous.  Day by day we can know exactly where we’re at not only on what revenue we’ve billed, but how efficient all the pieces in the plant have been. 

Cary Sherburne:  And how profitable different customers and jobs are.

Joan Davidson:  Exactly, absolutely, real time information.

Cary Sherburne:  Yeah, I don’t know how companies manage without it.

Joan Davidson:  I don’t either.  I don’t either.

Cary Sherburne:  Well thank you.

Joan Davidson:  You’re very welcome.

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