Pfizer uses Alphablox Web-based platform to create Sales Analysis Decision Support application


In the competitive pharmaceutical marketplace, timely access to key information can be a powerful advantage. When Pfizer, Inc., a research-based, global company that produces such well-know products as Zyrtec®, Zoloft®, and Viagra®, set out to build a flexible technology framework that would support a range of business-critical analysis requirements, the company turned to Alphablox.

The Challenge

Lawrence Bell, Senior Manager of the US Pharmaceuticals Information Architecture Team, began by focusing on the analysis needs of Pfizer's sales organization, where more accurate and timely decisions could provide immediate competitive advantage. Pfizer was gathering a wide variety of information, including data from the company's sales force automation system, historical transaction data, and external market and competitor information from third-party data providers. The problem was that there was no way of providing end users with easy access to the specific information they needed. Instead, a small number of "power users" were burdened with creating custom reports and distributing them as hard copy printouts or Excel spreadsheets.

"We tried several different business intelligence tools, but they didn't address our needs," says Bell. "They couldn't be customized, and they forced us to use their proprietary infrastructure. The learning curve was high, yet the tools lacked important features and functions. We wanted to build applications customized to our users, not force our users to customize themselves to some packaged tool."

The Solution

Alphablox gave Bell the power and flexibility he needed. Alphablox is the industry's first 100% Web-based platform for the rapid assembly and broad deployment of an analytical infrastructure and applications targeted at specific business problems and personalized to individual users. With Alphablox, Bell was able to quickly deploy a sales analysis application that allows sales managers to get personalized views of information stored in the sales force automation system. Users can access and analyze information regarding sales efforts and samples distributed, and leverage their findings to identify sales trends and monitor customer response.

Like all Alphablox solutions, the Pfizer sales and distribution analysis application appears as a series of interactive Web pages, and was easily customized to match the look and feel of Pfizer's other corporate systems. Because Alphablox is based entirely on open Web standards, it was easily integrated into Pfizer's existing Web infrastructure.

With Alphablox, Bell's organization was able to shorten the timeframe between application prototype and actual deployment. "The technology worked right out of the box. Just drag and drop onto the templates, and you're up and running. And once the sales organization saw the prototypes, they got excited about what we were doing." Pfizer currently has 2-3 dozen users of the sales application, and is preparing for broader deployment - potentially to thousands of people throughout the organization.

Response to the application has been overwhelmingly positive. Users are asking for additional data and capabilities, and the finance and marketing departments have approached Bell's team about developing additional applications to meet their information needs. Bell is confident that Alphablox can support Pfizer's growing demand for analytical applications. "The beauty of Alphablox is that you don't have to hire a bunch of expensive consultants for months just to implement it. Anyone with knowledge of HTML and JavaScript get can started building applications right away."

Bell has made extensive use of Alphablox's ability to customize applications for different users. "We chose Alphablox because it gave us total control over the application look and feel, as well as the ability to easily integrate with other sources of information. All we have to do is set one attribute, and we can completely personalize the interface. Alphablox is like Baskin Robbins® - you can pick all the flavors you want, and there are still more to choose from."

"It's not about the database or the schema - it's about information delivery," Bell concludes. "If people can't access information and transform it into knowledge, then the technology is meaningless. Alphablox makes it easy to rapidly assemble powerful, easy-to-use analytical applications that address the full gamut of requirements."

According to Glen H. Ulmer, Senior Manager, Information and Business Technology at Pfizer, "Alphablox is making it possible for us to rapidly deliver custom analytical applications that will enable us to extract valuable information from our corporate data."

About Alphablox

Founded in 1996, Alphablox Corporation ( develops infrastructure software and solutions that enable Global 2000 companies to improve the predictability of their businesses and optimize profitability by integrating analytics with core processes and transactional applications across their enterprise. Alphablox InLine Analytic solutions ensure the broadest deployment and in-line delivery of critical information to operational decision makers so they can identify their most profitable opportunities and act on them in real time. The 100 percent component-based architecture ensures highly scalable and open-standards-based integration with operational and transactional infrastructure and legacy systems. Alphablox is headquartered in Mountain View, CA, and has offices throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, and in Australia.

Questions for Analysis and Discussion

  1. Do you agree that "more accurate and timely decisions could provide immediate competitive advantage" for Pfizer? How? If not, why not?
  2. How much knowledge do you think it takes to develop an Alphablox application? Is it "hype" to say "Anyone with knowledge of HTML and JavaScript get can started building applications right away."
  3. How important is rapid delivery of a decision support application like Sales Info online?
  4. Do you agree with Bell when he concludes. "If people can't access information and transform it into knowledge, then the technology is meaningless"? If so, what does this conclusion mean for building data-driven DSS?
  5. Examine the screen shot. What is the function of the pull-down menus on the left side of the screen? What is your assessment of the overall screen layout and design?
  6. What are the claimed benefits of this system? What is the most significant benefit? Why?
  7. Do you anticipate any problems with the system? If so, explain them. If not, why not?

Meredith Hampson, email, Alphablox Account Executive, Blanc & Otus Public Relations (415-856-5144) gave permission to use this case study at DSSResources.COM on Monday, October 22, 2001. A version of this case was originally posted at the Alphablox web site. For more information check Pfizer had around 36 users deployed since the year 2000 and was preparing for broader deployment—potentially to thousands of people throughout the organization. Larry Bell is no longer with Pfizer. Posted October 27, 2001.

Please cite as:

Alphablox Staff, "Pfizer uses Alphablox Web-based platform to create Sales Analysis Decision Support application", Alphablox, Inc., 2001, URL DSSResources.COM.