In Depth

Genentech's Cloud Cover


When Michael Roh, a sales representative for Genentech (DNA), calls on physicians, he's never really on his own. The cloud is shadowing him.

A doctor may have a question Roh can't answer—say, how Rituxan, one of the company's cancer drugs, will interact with another the physician is prescribing to a patient. Then Roh can use his smartphone to tap into Peeps, a Facebook-like directory of the Genentech staff. The application helps him find staffers with the expertise he needs. And if he can't speak to one of them or reach them by e-mail immediately, he can submit a question to Genentech's computing system for handling such queries. The system routes the query to the appropriate expert, who responds directly to the doctor.

These days, Roh doesn't bother to lug a laptop when he's on the road. He simply pockets his smartphone and he's off. The device provides all the computing power he needs to do his job. He can connect to cloud services, including Salesforce.com's sales management service and Google (GOOG) Apps, from his car or a physician's office to do anything from checking on the latest uses of the drug to strategizing with colleagues. Says Roh: "I can do things more real-time."

THE ITUNES MODEL

For Roh and 4,000 other Genentech employees who carry company-issued iPhones, dealing with their corporate computing systems is just like downloading songs from Apple's (AAPL) iTunes. That's because Genentech's tech staff built a Web site modeled on iTunes, where employees can select the applications they want and download them with one click. So far, the company has created 15 applications for the iPhone, including Peeps. "We're cutting down on the drag of technology so people can focus more of their intellectual energy and creativity on the important stuff," says Todd Pierce, vice-president for information technology.

Employees are supportive of the switch. Surveys show 85% are satisfied with their mobile-computing experience.

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