Some Background About
the Program


Hierarchical Decision Processes. We all experience a considerable amount of hierarchical decision making in our lives. For example, we have Federal, State and Local governments all trying to make decisions in concert with each other. It is hoped that at the Federal level they will not overly specify, so as to overly restrict decision making at lower levels. This is not always the case.

In the case of Zygar Pharmaceuticals the firm, and particularly Alan Machin, someone in the firm makes some over arching decisions about which physicians are important to visit. For example, salespeople aren't supposed to visit physicians too frequently. The salespeople are told they should use meetings as a way to bring several physicians together for a variety of purposes. They are supposed to make sure and visit new physicians in order to meet them and learn more about their prescription patterns. At a slightly more detailed level the salespeople are taught that they should give higher priority to scheduling difficult to see physicians that often prescribe Zygar's pharmaceuticals. But outside of these overall guidelines, the salespeople are expected to put together their own schedules. At its root this is the purpose of this Sales Trainer.

In this vein, it is important for a salesperson to not get too caught up in all of the details of a daily schedule when trying to decide what locations to visit on what days at a weekly level. Thus these training exercises are set up so that the salesperson will first schedule each day of the week with some particular location. This gives rise to the Week Exercises. After these locations have been assigned the salesperson can get more involved in actually setting up times for particular interactions. This process is also hierarchical in nature.

The Program. The program has been developed in Visual Basic to run in the Windows environment common to many computers. Developing in this framework allows the program to work largely in the point and click user environment that is so prevalent today.

There is an underlying database that contains all of the physician information. One of the most important tables in the database contains a record for each physician with information about the physician. Each attribute of the physician is called a field. While a database contains many tables, each table contains records and fields. The records correspond to rows and the fields correspond to columns in the table. While these are not the exact names for the fields in the Physicians table, the following should help you understand their basic content.



Physician Type of Practice

Physician Type Abbreviation

Overall Accessibility and Sales Potential Rating

Best Location for Visit

Best Visit Type

Best Days

Best Times

Prescription Patterns

Date of Last Visit


While there is other information in other tables, this table is the most important for working the scheduling exercises. This information is used to help the salesperson/detailer develop their sales call schedule.

This information can be used in a variety of ways. Queries are the one of the most typical ways for a detailer to interact with a database. Queries allow the detailer to cull and organize the information in the database to determine things such as physician availability on a particular day or how many physicians at a location haven't been seen in the last month.

The Week Exercises. Now we return to our overall solution approach of hierarchical planning. The week exercises are dependent on the detailer having at least some information screens to help them make their decisions. The following diagram represents the screens/forms that are available to the detailer.

Because each screen or form can easily become overloaded with information certain abbreviations are used. Because of this, the detailer needs some reference screens, Sales Potential and Physician Codes, to help him/her learn the meanings of these abbreviations.

There is also a necessity to have very detailed information in the form of the Appointment Notes.

Finally, the detailer needs to be able to search the database about the physicians and generate computer summaries of this information in order to determine overall physician availability for each location on each day. This is done with Queries.

There are also some forms/screens to assist the detailer in actually making the assignments. These are intended to be user friendly.


Finally, the detailer needs to be able to compare their assignment decisions to those that are considered optimal and read discussions of the why these assignments are considered optimal.

The Day Exercises. After the locations to visit on each day have been determined it is necessary for the detailer to schedule the actual appointments for each day. This is done within the Day Scheduling Exercises portion of the computer program. The screens involved

in this portion of the program are very similar to those that are contained in the week portion. The actual scheduling is considerably more complicated due to the necessity of filling individual time slots based on past computer database recorded experience with the physicians.

The discussion and comparison to the optimal schedules must also be more involved. The developers of this program have worked in conjunction with senior sales management to develop situations that reflect a variety of issues that the senior sales management would like to emphasize.

Hopefully, the screens/forms make these programs user friendly. They have been designed with the intention of mimicking Zygar's actual scheduling software.

Part of this Windows based approach uses command buttons for navigation between forms and the actual scheduling uses a sort of copy and paste approach.