Last week’s big story of the Girl Scout Cookie Sale going online left out an important behind-the-scenes component which was the female-led tech team that made it possible. I sat down with Anna Murray of emedia LLC and Denise Mitchell of Little Brownie Bakers and spoke to them about their efforts to digitize the Girl Scout Cookie Sale. Murray is the CEO of emedia, LLC -- a women-owned software company and the developer of the Girl Scouts backend system. Mitchell is the senior director of Marketing and Innovation for Little Brownie Bakers and is responsible for brand strategy, the development of the national Girl Scout Cookie marketing campaign, new product innovation launch teams, digital marketing/IT operations and cookie sale operations software platforms.
CW: What is the IT story behind the online Girl Scout Cookie Sale?
DM: It’s a story of long preparation! Little Brownie started with a touch-tone system for cookie sales back in the 90’s. In 2003, we developed eBudde™, the SaaS back-end system that manages the Girl Scout Cookie sale end to end. Not everybody realizes the Girl Scout Cookie sale is the largest single fundraiser in the United States. In the heat of the season, our back-end system is working like Amazon.com at holiday time, processing thousands and thousands of data points a second. Our sale management system is making it possible for the Girl Scout Cookie Sale to go online.
CW: What makes the backend system unique?
DM: eBudde™ is the only sale management system that integrates with the new online cookie sale. Integration isn’t really a sexy word. Consumers are just excited that this year they can buy Girl Scout Cookies online. But from a technology perspective, integration is everything. Integration and the seamless flow of data are critical for the entire sale. Order data impacts all l the pieces of the sale: delivery, logistics and finances. It all needs to be tracked and managed and reported on to councils.
CW: Many tech companies have been criticized for not having enough women technologists. How does this project compare?
AM: I have never heard so many women on tech conference calls in my whole career! It’s fabulous. This project is really about women tech professionals developing a massive system that will enable girl-led online businesses.
CW: Does it make a difference to the project’s success? If so, how?
AM: Women have great emotional intelligence. What that means for a tech project is they’re more sensitive to people who aren’t speaking up. I hear Denise do it all the time. We say, “Hey, what are you thinking?” That unearths details and gotchas that are so important for the success of massive IT projects like this one.
CW: Is there Big Data here? How is it being leveraged?
DM: This story goes way beyond the cookie sale. It’s a case study about how technology gives businesses the data they need to make decisions. We have a great app in the market called the Cookie Locator, which also integrates with the back-end eBudde™ system. Consumers type in a zip code to find a booth sale. Well, guess what, we can now provide local Girl Scout councils with information about which zip code searches bring up no result. That’s a customer looking to buy who is not being served. The council can now make decisions on where to focus sales efforts.
CW: What are the bigger IT business lessons you both have learned through this project?
AM: It’s about preparation and vision and creating the future. Lots of times, we may feel technological innovation is something that springs up overnight. But, like all “overnight successes,” it’s been years in the making.
DM: Businesses that prepare really enjoy a key advantage. Once you are out in front technologically, it takes double the effort for others in the marketplace to catch up.
CW: How will this project impact the future of the Girl Scouts?
DM: Girl learning and the power of girl-led businesses -- that’s always been the heart of the cookie program, and it’s at the heart of the future that’s unfolding. Girls askedfor the digital cookie program because they live and breathe technology. The girls themselves are creating their own future of business literacy, entrepreneurship and digital mastery.
AM: Being a woman-owned-and-run technology company, I can really identify with the girls out there who are right now, as we speak, setting up their own digital cookie sale businesses! I like to imagine, years from now, reading about some woman entrepreneur, CEO or university president who says, “My first inspiration was the digital cookie program.”
Interview conducted by Charlene Weisler, Weisler Media LLC. She can be reached through herresearch blog www.WeislerMedia.blogspot.com or at WeislerMedia@yahoo.com. Full disclosure: Charlene hosts a street art blog on The Starry Eye blog community.
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