How Furniture Retailer, Aaron's, Inc., Built a Point of Sale for 1900 Stores Using Evernote (Business Series)

Tips & Stories

How Furniture Retailer, Aaron’s, Inc., Built a Point of Sale for 1900 Stores Using Evernote (Business Series)

Posted by Cory Voglesonger on 06 Oct 2011

Posted by Cory Voglesonger on 06 Oct 2011

Comment
Name: Cory Voglesonger
Profession: Director, Store Software
Company: Aaron’s, Inc. (NYSE: AAN)(1,150 company-owned and
664 franchised stores across the United States and Canada)
Location: Atlanta, GA
Website: Aaron’s, Inc.

 

Bio:

Cory Voglesonger runs a product development team at Aaron’s, Inc. (NYSE: AAN), a furniture, electronics, appliances and computer sales and leasing company with 1,150 company-owned and 664 franchised stores across the United States and Canada. Evernote is his team’s core collaboration, organization and communication tool.

Evernote, everywhere:

At the office, employees primarily use Windows machines, but at home and on the go, they can log into their accounts from any device. When employees are on the road, they can log into their account from any number of computers and mobile devices.

Using Evernote for a Huge Project: Company-Wide Point of Sale

My team is working on building a new point of sale for the company, a massive project with many moving parts, stakeholders, and points of entry.

I needed a tool that would help my team quickly and easily capture the incredible amount of information that we were dealing with, and be able to access it from any device.

Here’s why we chose Evernote, and how it helps us run a smooth operation:

  • We needed a tool that would be ubiquitous
    My development team is distributed and is constantly sharing tons of information. People are on the road, in different locations, using different devices when they’re on the go. With Evernote, we can start a project at the office and pick up our workflow from any device whether we’re on the road, at home, or on a plane. Things are always moving forward.

  • We needed a tool that would allow us to capture information in any format
    Before we started using Evernote as a team, we didn’t have a flexible and easy-to-use place to house information like meeting notes, whiteboard drawings and quick handwritten sketches and memos. There was no one-size-fits all solution. With Evernote, we can capture virtually any idea, concept, or note –even if it’s written on a napkin during a lunch meeting!  Everything that comes up over the life cycle of the project is saved into a shared Evernote folder, accessible by anyone in the company. [Learn how to attach files to your notes]
  • We needed a tool that would make it easy to find information
    Evernote has become a central knowledge base for the Aaron’s national call center and our business users, so having the ability to search through a lot of information and quickly find what anyone might be looking for is vital. Evernote’s search feature allows both members of the call center and business users to quickly search for answers to questions as they come up, instead of sifting through buried folders in a rigid system. Not to mention, Evernote helps my team and I organize our own incoming correspondences, attend to different projects throughout the day. With other programs, the information you’re looking for might be there, but it’s buried in a folder structure.
  • We needed a tool that didn’t have a pre-determined structure
    With Evernote, we can easily drop information into shared notebooks, without having to spend time figuring out a folder structure. For Aaron’s employees, Evernote is about getting information down and being able to share it across development teams, without having to immediately organize it.

  • We needed a tool that would allow us to share information
    My team is constantly sharing information. In Evernote, updates can be made quickly, so we always have access to the latest information. In the past, we’ve struggled to seamlessly share information with many different team members across the organization—particularly our national call center. [Learn how to start sharing]

Getting Everyone on Board

When we chose to use Evernote as a team, I created a Sponsored Group, giving every member of my team a Premium account. I didn’t have to worry about convincing people to convert to using new devices because it was ‘Mac-only.’ Evernote is available for virtually any device, so anyone on my team could use it. I pay for everyone’s account (discounted for groups) on one single bill. When new members join the team, I simply add them to the group, and they’re immediately able to access all team discussions, brainstorms, documents, snapshots and sketches. [Learn more about Sponsored Groups and how to get started.]

Making business decisions with the help of Evernote

Having a place to store all kinds of information—from snapshots of whiteboard discussions to files and voice memos—gives team members an easy way to save and share information that would otherwise have to be saved to different programs, files and computers. The ability to have any type of content saved in one place gives my team a holistic view of major projects and collaborations, and often helps build clarity around specific implementations.

We’ll often come up with solutions and make decisions by pulling up any number of notes associated with a specific date or aspect of a project.

Premium

Evernote Premium

Upgrade for features to help you live and work smarter.

Go Premium
View more stories in 'Tips & Stories'

21 Comments RSS

  • Dana Hyatt

    I’ve been using EverNote from the beginning and EverNote is the most flexible software I’ve ever used.

  • darnelltmia

    I just started doing business with Aarons ; it is a pleasure knowing that the conduct business outside the box in more ways than one.

  • Jonathan

    A question on this. Considering the fast pace of changing information, how to you ensure that when people are searching for important information that they find the most recent and accurate information. (I can see the possibility of having duplicate and conflicting notes about things.) Thanks!

    • John Trainor

      I work with Cory, so I figured I could answer this. Because we are an Agile shop, we highly value communication over tools. So, as information changes a great deal, much of that is communicated face to face.

      Of course, you still want things to get back to the shared folders. It’s really everyone’s responsibility to make that happen. Often times, conversations will end with, “Ok, so are you going to update that?”

      We really treat the Evernote Shared folders almost like a wiki, so everyone shares in the responsibility. It’s just a wiki on steroids that is available everywhere.

      In the end, though, no tool can compensate for a human doing what is right. But, Evernote makes it easier because it’s accessible and ubiquitous.

  • Marcos

    I do enjoy reading these real stories of people and companies using Evernote; they help me improve my own usage of this amazing service.

    • Marc

      Totally agree! Please keep up the use cases!

      • Kasey Fleisher Hickey

        Will do!

  • D.J. Baker

    I really like the idea…it’s basically a team Wiki. However, can it / how can it be secured to only allow team members to access? Shared notebooks? If so, how time-consuming was user management for the shared notebooks?

    Btw, I’m in Atlanta, too, and am a massive Evernote fan (on all my devices, t-shirt, stickers, you name it). :)

    • John Trainor

      It can be secured just by making sure you share the Notebook out to the right team members. We haven’t had a problem with that, at all.

      User management for Cory hasn’t been a huge issue (we don’t have a ton of turnover, so that helps).

  • Jim

    No doubt that flexibility is one of Evernote’s strong points.

    But how do you deal with project management team issues like:

    (1) Notification of SELECTIVE new notes for a given topic?
    (2) Notification when “approved” SOPs have changed?
    (3) Linking the collaboration/discussion about issues?
    (4) Identifying the approved/agreed-upon position, approach, procedure, business rule, etc?
    (5) With such a large project and so many team members, there must be many notes about a particular topic, but each person may use different terms. How do you find the ONE note out many that you should use?

    • John Trainor

      Much of 1-4 is covered through good old fashion communication. The team’s daily stand-up and open work area facilitates making sure everyone is on the same page.

      For #5, you hit on something interesting. Terms are key to our projects and to our teamwork. We have a standard dictionary of what we call things and we are ruthless if someone is using the wrong terms. We have to do that so that everyone is on the same page. Without it, it would be chaos.

      That helps a bit with making it so the search terms are easier. And, tags are really, really helpful.

      In my role, I’m less of a contributor and more of a viewer. Also, I’m not 100% engaged with this team. But, that being said, I haven’t had any problems finding what I need to find when I need to. There might be a couple of relevant items, but the UI of Evernote makes it so that I can flip through the 2 or 3 notes quickly enough that it hasn’t been an issue.

  • wernerh

    I love to hear how other companies use Evernote. However, I would love to hear how companies who use Evernote handle an employee leaving. If the account is sponsored by the company, I guess they keep control over it, even if the employee also has personal information in it. What happens, if a new employee already uses Evernote and wants to keep his account, so he puts company data into his accounts? The company can loose control over important data. This situation exists, because only one account can be accessed from mobile devices (in my case Android) and switching accounts on a PC can be cumbersome and I believe is discouraged by Evernote. I would love to hear from companies or Evernote how to handle such a situation.

    • Andrew Sinkov

      Evernote accounts are owned by the user, not by the sponsoring company. When a company creates a sponsored group, they do not take ownership over the account, they’re simply covering the cost of Premium for the user.

      There is no currently available capability that would allow a company to create accounts for its employees and then take them away when the employee leaves. One option some companies have chosen has been to place corporate information into shared notebooks that can be unlinked from employee accounts.

      • Lloyd Chan

        I am also concerned about the confidential issues. Is it possible to add up some features for company user in the nearly future:

        1. Sponsoring company pays for the accounts and freely assign or reassign or take back the accounts to different users (staff)
        2. It is optional for the sponsor to lock Evernote for different users. It means the user can synchronize Evernote anywhere, but can’t copy or move any information out of Evernote to local device.
        3. When the staff leaves, a click operation by the sponsor can easily cut off the user link to shared notebook, meanwhile automatically delete all notes in the devices without authorization.
        4. For shared notebook, there is different levels of user with different authorization to access to different information or comment.

        In considerations of the above points, it will seem more meaningful for a real company workflow. Some are going to love it.

        Anyway Evernote is already doing well but I don’t think it perfect for company workflow for the moment.

    • John Trainor

      It hasn’t been an issue for us and we have had people roll off the project. It’s really less managed by the sponsored account and more by the shared notebook. We revoke access based on that.

      And, just like any good data loss prevention protocol, there may be things that we choose not to share in the team-wide Evernote shared folder for the reasons that are mentioned.

      We don’t view Evernote as the end-all-be-all for this. It’s not the only tool that can be used. But, it certainly is useful for 90% of the business of the team and 100% useful for business that always needs to be shared.

    • Kalpesh Rathod

      You are bang on target Wernerh. Point to Point!
      I am planning to include CRM type flow with Evernote. Anyway same thinking here. May be Evernote presently is focused for individuals, and will come out with company accounts like google Apps.

      But as an individual I really like the way Evernote team has constantly given good features.

  • K

    We were looking at using EVERNOTE to basically manage orders and invoices for a business.

    How do you guys possibly do that when evernote has a 100,000 note limit? Did you even factor this fact in???

    100,000 may be plenty for a single person but for a business this is tiny considering you have to keep 7 years of paper work…

  • K

    After playing around with it for a couple hours, and entering data/creating ntoes, the EverNote search seems to be WEAK or LACKING?

    Example

    EverNote has indexed ARMANI9567

    1. doing a search for 9567 will turn up nothing

    2. doing a search for rmani9567 turns up nothing as well.

    Search seems to be ONLY good if you can remember the first part of whatever EverNote has indexed. Could you imagine if GOOGLE search was like this :p

    Complaints without suggestions is just whining, so here are some suggestions.

    REGEXP, or more robust search capabilities

    1,000,000 notes.

    It’d be nice if EverNote could add this in the premium tier at the same pricing. But if they need to create a small/medium business tier than so be it, just make the offering compelling enough.

    • Andrew Sinkov

      You’re right. Evernote search is designed to work from the start of a work, not from the middle or the end. Imagine searching for the name “Ed” and getting every single past tense word in your entire account in the results page. Thanks for your suggestion about ways we could improve our search.

  • S

    I appreciate the capability of having a note templates.

  • Gabe

    I’m all for Evernote. Using it, it is great