Sun Life Financial finds measurable benefits from iPad deployment

Sun Life Financial U.S. made up its mind in 2010 that it needed a better way to empower its 250 sales reps so that they would be more productive. Specifically, they wanted to figure out a way to for these reps to spend less time in the office and more time in front of brokers.

The answer they decided on, for a number of reasons, was tablets. But figuring out the best one to address their needs required testing.

Major insurance player Sun Life Financial U.S. sells employee benefits from life insurance to long-term disability. It sells these benefits through benefits brokers to employers.

Last year the company decided to conduct a formal pilot, said Will Kirkpatrick, director, distribution business architecture for Sun Life Financial U.S.

“We came at it with an open mind,” he said. It selected four devices—the Motorola Xoom, the iPad 2, the RIM Playbook and the Galaxy Tab.

Sun Life Financial U.S. tested the tablets in two phases. The first was an internal phase “to see if the tablets had compatibility with our internal apps and the to see how they [measured up] in security,” said Kirkpatrick.

The second phase called for the company to get the four devices out into the field. Eight salespeople tested each of the four models. It took some logistics to get all four back and forth among all the salesmen, he said.

How did they decide who were the right salespeople to enlist for the experiment?

“We wanted a mix of salespeople who were tech savvy and excited and people who would feel [it was a challenge]. In any user community, you’re going to have a spectrum,” he explained.

By the end of 2011, Sun Life Financial U.S. had made up its mind.

“We found, from the field test and from internal testing, that the iPad was the overwhelming choice,” Kirkpatrick said. “The main driver was its usability and the availability of internal and third-party apps.”

That doesn’t mean the choice didn’t come with limitations. Sun Life didn’t have any internal apps that worked seamlessly on a tablet, so it started incrementally. The first step in the program was to get its sales team up and running, which it did during it national sales meeting in February, 2012.

The sales team’s tablets offered initial capacities that were fairly basic—email, calendar, the ability to access Excel reports and PowerPoint presentations. “Quite frankly, on a Blackberry screen, they would be difficult to consume,” said Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick said they kitted everybody concurrently at the get together. “It was almost like being at an Apple store during our meeting,” he joked.

Picking a mobile device management solution

The company selected Good Technology as its MDM solution.

“We had a whole separate analysis to pick a good solution,” he said. “It’s a pretty immature space and based on what we saw, out there, we felt it was the best solution based on good security. It also has strong usability.”

As 2012 progressed, the mobility program evolved. It added interactive reporting and the ability to access their sales pipeline. It then rolled out in own CRM platform based on Verivo Software’s enterprise mobility platform for iPad software in September, which allows reps an in-depth portrait of their customers.

The results are in

Sun Life Financial U.S couldn’t be more pleased with the results thus far. Survey results from the field show almost 100% are using their tablets for email and calendar. About 85% said they could access their information faster.

And a key take away, according to Kirkpatrick, is that 68% responded that they are working more efficiently. That is, they are spending less time at the office and more in front of their customers.”

There are no plans to expand its tablet program at the moment. “What’s next is that we plan to continue to assess the technology as it evolves. We also will continue to invest in CRM to provide more info to our salespeople to get them mobile.”

Asked if he planned to test any new tablets, he said, “I don’t have formal plans to evaluate the Microsoft Surface, but I think we will.”

Steven Lang is the managing editor of TabTimes. His Tablet Leaders feature appears every Monday.

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