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Posted: 6/15/2014
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Many Rivers Microfinance Limited Microenterprise and Microfinance Organisation Centralises Data and Streamlines Workflows to Impact More Lives

“The automatic pre-population of loan application and supporting documentation with data from Microsoft Dynamics CRM has successfully cut the loan application process from two hours to two minutes. This translates to significant time savings of 30 percent per Field Officer.”
-- Mr John Burn, Chief Executive Officer, Many Rivers Microfinance Limited

To support its growth plans and effectively measure the socio-economic impact of its work, Many Rivers needed a centralised client data repository that incorporates a specific economic and social evaluation model in its daily operations. Microsoft Dynamics CRM has helped Many Rivers successfully centralise client data and streamline workflows to improve productivity and collaboration. With increased management visibility and new capabilities to better measure outcomes, Many Rivers is empowered to impact more lives, as it gears up to expand from 16 to 40 Field Officers in three years.

True to its name, Many Rivers Microfinance Limited (Many Rivers) is a not-for-profit organisation focused on creating many rivers of opportunities for the disadvantaged and marginalised in Australia. Supporting aspiring business owners with microenterprise development support and microfinancing services, Many Rivers envisions an Australia where all people have access to support and finance for commercial activities.

Established in 2007 and headquartered in Sydney, Australia, Many Rivers operates in 14 regions with 26 staff, of whom 16 are Field Officers stationed across Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. As of March 2014, Many Rivers has supported 485 businesses with microfinance loans valuing US$ 2.8 million. Of the 564 business owners, 54 percent are indigenous and 44 percent are female. With 512 loans dispersed, loan repayment stands at 90 percent with 69.7 percent of the businesses still in operation.

Many Rivers’ Field Officers engage with clients from initial meetings, business planning to loan assessment and loan dispersal, building an ongoing relationship as they grow their business. Based on its partnership with Westpac, Many Rivers originates and approves the provision of Westpac microfinance loans to individual business borrowers. However, Many Rivers retains sole responsibility for loan decisions based on their assessment of each client’s capital need, character and repayment capacity. Currently, Many Rivers is meeting and conducting business planning with 289 clients, while managing 286 active loans.

According to Mr John Burn, Chief Executive Officer, Many Rivers Microfinance Limited, “To be effective in our work, we need to go beyond having conversations with potential clients and rendering practical help to those with good ideas to start small businesses and generate income.” To better measure the impact of its work, Many Rivers commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to design an economic and social evaluation framework. Wanting to incorporate this framework into its operations, in addition to expansion plans to grow from 16 to 40 Field Officers within three years, Many Rivers needed a secure, centralised customer data repository to standardise, manage and scale client data.

With Accenture’s help with business requirements analysis, solution design and recommendation, Many Rivers chose Microsoft Dynamics CRM for these reasons. “The familiar user interface of Microsoft Dynamics CRM assures us of easy adoption, while its flexibility ensures the effective integration of the evaluation framework. Its offline capabilities enhance data accessibility for our geographically distributed operations, while data centralisation and workflow standardisation will improve operational efficiencies,” said Mr Burn.

Many Rivers appointed Avanade, a subsidiary of Accenture and a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner for Microsoft Dynamics, to design, build, test and deploy the solution. “We are pleased with Avanade’s expertise and dedication to the project. Using agile methodology, their solution architects enabled quick customisation of specific workflows to meet our unique needs,” commended Mr Burn. After a six-month implementation including training, the new system went ‘live’ in August 2013.

Close collaboration between the teams also saw Accenture providing Project Governance, Project Management and Change Management during implementation. Mr Burn said, “Accenture impressed us with their excellent methodology and project delivery capabilities. Based on past experiences in handling similar projects, Accenture’s team stood out as one of the best project managers I have ever worked with.”

With data centralisation and streamlined workflows, Many Rivers saw improved collaboration, cut Loan Application documentation processes from two hours to two minutes, enhanced Field Officers’ productivity and most importantly, gained capabilities to better measure the outcomes of its work.

Centralised Client Data Improved Productivity and Collaboration
With Microsoft Dynamics, Many Rivers established a centralised repository of clients, their businesses and associated loan information. This improved the quality, consistency and reliability of client data across geographically dispersed Field Officer bases, ensuring that all client engagements are based on the latest information. Via the familiar Microsoft Outlook CRM Client, Field Officers now enjoy offline access to CRM records anytime, anywhere, which has enhanced productivity.

Streamlined and Standardised Workflows Enhance Operational Efficiencies
Documentation stored centrally in Microsoft SharePoint is seamlessly integrated with CRM client records. This allows Many Rivers’ Credit Committee, made up of two Field Officers and one Manager to collaborate effectively on documents with the same format. Communication and collaboration are further enhanced with standardised workflows for approval and escalation for Loan Assessment, Application and Loan Repayment variations.

“Data centralisation with clever integration between Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft SharePoint is the biggest benefit we have gained so far. Thanks to the easy customisability of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, we have been able to design, streamline and standardise workflows to further enhance overall operational efficiencies,” said Mr Burn.

Gained 30 Percent Time Savings with Loan Application Document Automation
Handling up to 50 loan applications per quarter, Field Officers used to take up to two hours to complete all the documentation for one loan application. “With Microsoft Dynamics CRM, the automatic pre-population of loan application and supporting documentation using data from the centralised database has successfully cut the loan application process from two hours to two minutes. This translates to significant time savings of 30 percent per Field Officer,” beamed Mr Burn.

By freeing Field Officers from manual documentation and time spent managing client data, they can now dedicate more time in the field working with community leaders to raise awareness and expand the number of small businesses supported.

Increased Capabilities to Measure Outcomes Enhances Reporting and Management Reporting
To Many Rivers, the ability to measure the socio-economic impact of its work is vital. “Without spending more to collect data, we have built into our workflow six-monthly surveys to dynamically measure changes in our clients’ circumstances − using the same data we use every day. By tracking each client’s progress by parameters such as home ownership, we can now evaluate the impact of our work more meaningfully. This is a unique and strategic value we have gained,” said Mr Burn.

Besides tracking trends at a portfolio level, Many Rivers’ management can now slice-and-dice client data using Microsoft Dynamics’ easy drill-down capabilities. Preparing quarterly reports to funders is now a breeze, with information extracted directly from the new system without having to contact Field Officers for the latest figures. Mr Burn said, “Newfound visibility has empowered more meaningful conversations with our Field Officers. Instead of asking the “what” questions, we can start asking the “why” questions and work towards helping more in the community.”

Looking Ahead
Indeed, to Many Rivers, growth means the ability to reach out and touch more lives. “We have grown quickly from two to 14 regions from 2010 to 2014. Without Microsoft Dynamics CRM, we would have lost control of our ability to grow and the ability to report the impact of our work. Growth has driven us to a technology solution − which in turn empowers us to deliver an economic and social solution to the disadvantaged and marginalised in Australia,” said Mr Burn.

Solution Overview

Organization Size: 26 employees

Organization Profile
Setup in 2007, Many Rivers is a not-for-profit organisation focused on supporting aspiring business owners with microenterprise development support and microfinancing services. It employs 26 staff in 14 regions across Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • Windows Server

Vertical Industries
Other - Unsegmented


Business Need
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Customer Service Management

IT Issue
  • CRM
  • Customer Relationship Management