With a new system of managing consistent product data and using digital signatures along with online product configuration, price quoting and contract management, Equinix has slashed the overall time it takes to manage the sales process from initial order to signed contract.

Equinix Inc. is a company behind a hot international growth area, connecting its clients—including Amazon Web Services, Salesforce.com and industrial distributors Ingram Micro and Essendant—with its clients’ customers through Equinix cloud-based data centers and Internet data exchange technology. “Cloud technology is disrupting everything, and our strategy is to attract cloud service providers and the enterprises that want to connect with them,” global chief information officer Brian Lillie says.

The company, whose customers also include 1,000 telecom organizations including AT&T and Verizon, has some 6,500 customers in all and operates 105 data centers in 35 regional markets within 16 countries throughout the world, Lillie says.

And while revenue has been strong—it increased 13.5% last year to $2.44 billion, and 10.7% in its recently closed third quarter to $620.44 million—Equinix has struggled with efficiently getting contracts signed through a mixture of Internet, email, fax and manual processes, Lillie adds. And with many customers buying for globally distributed operations, its ability to do business with them was thwarted by its old system of presenting often inconsistent product information across international markets and managing contracts with a hodgepodge of electronic and manual methods, including email, fax and paper forms.

But a new system of managing consistent product data and using digital signatures along with online product configuration, price quoting and contract management has slashed the overall time it takes to manage the sales process from initial order to signed contract, says Ranjit Sandhu, senior business analyst at Equinix. “In the past, it would be a number of days, versus a few hours now,” he says.

Equinix recently completed its rollout across Europe of what Lillie calls a “massive global multi-year program” to globalize and standardize roughly 80 business processes involved in managing customer orders and contracts. The completion of the project across Europe followed Asia last fall and the Americas earlier this year, and now all customers can place orders with consistent product and billing information. “Some of our customers are in all 16 countries that we operate in, so we now give them the capability to look in one place to see their entire installed base and global billing records,” Lillie says.

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As internationally dispersed customers place orders on the Equinix customer portal for products like equipment for private clouds, or groups of Internet web servers dedicated to their own company’s use, they can specify components and power settings—such as power circuits and data transmission testing equipment—using common terms regardless of the international location for which they’re placing an order, Lillie says.

The customer portal, which Equinix built in-house, has some 80,000 registered users and handles about 19,000 transactions per month, the company says. The portal integrates with several applications:

Salesforce.com for managing customer accounts, with records on what customers have ordered and purchased, and when they maybe up for a new order;

Siebel software for offering customers configure-price-quote, or CPQ, capability, which lets them configure their data center options, get an automated price, and have the option to request a quote on a different price; Siebel is part of Oracle Corp., which also provides Equinix its financial management software;

Apttus for contract management and electronic exchange of documents;

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Adobe Document Cloud eSign, from Adobe Systems Inc., which integrates with Apttus contract management for collecting digital signatures from both sellers and buyers to complete contracts.

The eSign application, Sandhu says, enables Equinix to not only finalize signed contracts within hours instead of days, but it also ensures that no changes are made to contract documents. Under a prior system, he adds, when customers would typically print out a PDF document, sign it and send it back via postal mail or a combination of scan and email, there was no way to prevent some wording or figures in a document from getting altered in the process. “Now when we send something out of eSign, there’s no way anyone can change anything,” he says. “You can either sign or reject it. If you want changes, then you negotiate with attorneys.”

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