4-page Case Study
Posted: 5/7/2012
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Australian Reef Pilots Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online helps marine pilot company keep its team safe

“We chose Microsoft partly because of its approach to cloud computing. We’ve found Dynamics CRM Online to be flexible and easy to customise, and it’s transformed our booking process.”

Simon Meyjes, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Reef Pilots

Australian Reef Pilots provides marine pilotage services to help ships safely navigate the declared mandatory pilotage areas of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait, which lies between Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG). The company has around 80 employees, half of whom are marine pilots. Headquartered in Brisbane, Australian Reef Pilots also has operational bases in Bowen, Cairns, Mackay, Thursday Island and York Island, as well as in the Conflict Islands in PNG.

Australian Reef Pilots needed business management software to improve its processes, including its customer booking system. The company receives requests from customers needing pilots to guide around 160 ships per month, and pilot safety is paramount. To ensure it complies with strict safety regulations, the company collects and analyses data including pilots’ histories and schedules, shipping information, environmental data and information from regulatory bodies.

From October to December 2011, Australian Reef Pilots implemented Ports and Pilots for Business – a marine-industry solution built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, created by Microsoft Partner Network Member, Ports and Pilots. This system has automated Australian Reef Pilots’ booking process, significantly reducing data entry errors and giving the company richer, more reliable data. The company is using this data to generate reports on issues such as pilots’ fatigue patterns. Dynamics CRM Online has also helped the business streamline processes such as invoicing, and enhance communication to its geographically dispersed employees, which has improved staff engagement.

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* To ensure the safety of our pilots and our customers’ ships and crews, we believe it’s necessary to invest in state-of-the-art technology.” *

Simon Meyjes
Chief Executive Officer,
Australian Reef Pilots

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Business Needs

Australian Reef Pilots has provided marine pilotage services for Queensland’s shipping channels for more than a century. In 1996, the company became the first sea-pilotage service in the world to be certified as Quality Assured under ISO 9002.

“We are the ultimate backstop in protecting the world’s largest living organism,” says Simon Meyjes, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Reef Pilots. “We are proud of our role in maintaining the economic viability of one of the world’s most valuable shipping channels.”

The company provides pilots for around 160 ships per month. For every booking, staff must select the most appropriate pilot and ensure the pilot is working within his or her fatigue management guidelines. Australian Reef Pilots require up-to-date data on the pilots’ rest histories and licence status as well as data about the ship, including its estimated time of arrival, depth in the water, speed, the experience of the crew and on-board navigational equipment.

According to Meyjes, safety is the company’s top priority. “To ensure the safety of our pilots and our customers’ ships and crews, we believe it’s necessary to invest in state-of-the-art technology,” he says.

Previously, the data the business needed came from a variety of sources including internal Excel spreadsheets, information stored in Outlook, customers, and Federal Government and state government regulatory bodies.

To manage bookings, the company used Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and Microsoft Outlook. Manual data entry resulted in a high error rate and unreliable data. Australian Reef Pilots needed a more efficient and accurate way to manage the entire booking process, including managing customer requests, resolving customer issues and generating invoices. The company also needed better reporting capabilities.

“We were publishing our data, both internally and externally, as screen shots of Excel spreadsheets,” says Meyjes.

Another objective was to create a sense of community among the company’s distributed workforce. Meyjes says they wanted to improve communication with pilots and give them access to the most up-to-date shipping and roster information.

“We were previously sending daily emails to pilots about ship movements and pilot schedules, which meant shortly after we sent the email, the information was out of date. In the pilot houses, we provided these details on magnetic strip boards. We wanted to communicate real-time information in a more engaging way.”

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* We’ve achieved nearly all our objectives for the new system in a very short timeframe and at a surprisingly low cost. *

Simon Meyjes
Chief Executive Officer,
Australian Reef Pilots

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Solution

In August 2011, Australian Reef Pilots began assessing software and in October selected Ports and Pilots for Business – a marine-industry solution built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

Developed by Microsoft Partner Network Member, Ports and Pilots, this software is the world’s first Dynamics CRM solution for the marine industry. It is designed to help pilotage organisations manage business processes to improve safety and communication.

“An ERP system wasn’t the right choice for us because of the high cost and management time involved,” says Meyjes. “Due to the size of our business, we couldn’t afford a long and complex implementation.”

Dynamics CRM Online is powerful CRM software delivered as a cloud service from Microsoft, providing instant access from virtually anywhere, predictable pay-as-you-go pricing and a 99.9 percent uptime service level agreement.

Australian Reef Pilots worked with Ports and Pilots to implement the new system – which the company branded ‘Ulysses’ – in just six weeks. It went live on 1 December 2011.

“As a licensed pilot who had worked for Australian Reef Pilots in the past, I understood that the company needed stronger business process management and an automated way of handling customer requests,” says Warren Wood, Managing Director, Ports and Pilots.

Within the new system, all business data is stored in Dynamics CRM Online, a public cloud service managed by Microsoft in their world-class data centres. The Dynamics CRM Online service connects to Ports and Pilots’ live database, which contains details of around 55,000 trading ships around the world.

Ulysses also includes cloud-based Microsoft SharePoint Online – part of the Office 365 suite of productivity tools – for document management and staff collaboration. Staff access the system via the familiar Microsoft Outlook interface.

Australian Reef Pilots currently uses the Dynamics CRM Online system to manage its booking process, which involves receiving a customer request, allocating a pilot to the ship, generating an invoice and closing off the job. Staff also use the system to manage pilot scheduling and record the latest information on ships, pilots and regulatory requirements.

When Australian Reef Pilots staff enter a new booking into Ulysses, certain fields are automatically populated with data from the Ports and Pilots global shipping database. Staff can also view pilot observations and ship histories on Ports and Pilots’ social networking site for the professional marine pilot community.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online has a built-in reporting wizard that allows Australian Reef Pilots to easily create customised reports. It also includes useful out-of-the-box reports.

Benefits

Since Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online went live in December 2011, Australian Reef Pilots has booked around 600 ships through the new system.

“We’ve achieved nearly all our objectives for the new system in a very short timeframe and at a surprisingly low cost,” says Meyjes.

Transformed booking process

Australian Reef Pilots uses Ulysses to manage its entire booking process. As a result of the more automated booking system, Meyjes says the company has reduced its data entry error rate substantially.

The ability to automatically track all customer communications through Dynamics CRM Online is helping Australian Reef Pilots provide a better service to customers and resolve issues more effectively.

Streamlined business processes

Australian Reef Pilots’ streamlined booking system has also improved the company’s other critical business processes, including customer management, safety performance audits, invoicing and financial reporting.

“This project was a catalyst for strengthening and even redesigning some of our key business processes,” says Meyjes.

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* We can very easily segment and present our data in different ways. For example, we generate reports on our pilots’ movements to analyse fatigue patterns and reports that help us monitor and maintain compliance with safety regulations. *

Simon Meyjes
Chief Executive Officer,
Australian Reef Pilots

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Will help keep pilots safe and protect shipping channels

By upgrading to the latest Microsoft technology, Australian Reef Pilots has put in place a robust safety management system. The company now has access to almost real-time information on pilot schedules, histories and qualifications; customer ships; environmental factors; and regulatory requirements. The system automatically alerts staff to any aspects of a booking that may breach the company’s strict safety requirements.

Access to up-to-date data through Dynamics CRM Online has also helped Australian Reef Pilots improve communication with its pilots. New high-definition screens in pilot houses are automatically updated with the latest shipping information and pilot schedules.

“This is helping motivate our marine pilots and engage the whole Australian Reef Pilots community,” says Meyjes.

That community includes the company’s support staff, who have also been enthusiastic about the new system. “Employees are coming to us with positive feedback and suggestions for making Ulysses even better and more helpful to their jobs,” says Meyjes.

Provided powerful new reporting capabilities

Using the built-in reporting capabilities of Dynamics CRM Online, Australian Reef Pilots can easily segment and present its data in different ways.

“We generate reports on our pilots’ movements to analyse fatigue patterns, and other reports that help us monitor and maintain compliance with safety regulations,” says Meyjes. “The new system also gives us a very robust audit trail.”

Established a strong IT foundation

According to Wood, Dynamics CRM Online has given Australian Reef Pilots a strong, flexible business management and IT foundation on which it can easily build.

“Since the system went live just a few months ago, Australian Reef Pilots has already seen the potential of Dynamics CRM Online to benefit other areas of its business, such as sales and marketing” says Wood. “The business can now react faster to changing circumstances or embark on new opportunities.”

In addition, access to Microsoft’s cloud services – including SharePoint Online through Office 365 – has helped Australian Reef Pilots streamline its entire IT environment.

“The company experiences less down time and fewer IT issues,” says Wood.

“We chose Microsoft partly because of its reputation for reliable, cutting-edge technologies, and its approach to cloud computing,” Meyjes adds. “Our investment in Microsoft technology reflects our commitment to managing our information efficiently and ensuring a safe experience for our customers and our marine pilots.”

Microsoft Product that was featured

Microsoft Dynamics® CRM Online is the cloud version of Microsoft Dynamics® CRM 2011 – a simple-to-learn and easy-to-use customer relationship management solution that works with your existing technology and scales as you grow to give you long-term value.

By using software and online services that work the way people work, organisations are better able to make informed decisions and adapt to rapid change.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 helps generate productivity gains for organisations of all sizes through familiar, intelligent and connected experiences.


For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services call a Microsoft Dynamics Sales Consultant on 1800 197 960 Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm AEST. To find a partner or solution, visithttp://www.microsoft.com/en-au/dynamics/


Solution Overview



Organization Size: 80 employees

Organization Profile
Australian Reef Pilots provides marine pilotage services to help ships safely navigate areas of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait. The company has around 80 employees, half of whom are marine pilots. Headquartered in Brisbane, Australian Reef Pilots also has six operational bases in Queensland and Papua New Guinea.


Business Situation
Australian Reef Pilots sought new business management software to improve its processes, including its customer booking system. It also wanted new reporting capabilities to help ensure compliance with strict safety standards.


Solution
From October to December 2011, Australian Reef Pilots implemented Ports and Pilots for Business – a marine-industry solution built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, created by Microsoft Partner Network Member, Ports and Pilots. The system also included SharePoint Online, part of Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365 subscription service.


Benefits
  •  Transformed booking process
  •  Streamlined business processes
  •  Will help keep pilots safe and protect shipping channels
  •  Provided powerful new reporting capabilities 
  •  Established a strong IT foundation


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online
  • SharePoint Online

Vertical Industries
Logistics

Country/Region
Australia

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Ports and Pilots

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