“Now we have roughly half the infrastructure and it’s about half as complex. That means maintaining our billing system requires about a quarter of the effort.”
Shane Dwyer, Digital Systems Development Manager, Telstra Media Classifieds
Staff at Telstra Media Classifieds wanted to improve the invoicing system at their online listings business, Trading Post. In particular they wanted to eliminate some legacy systems and manual data transfer processes, and reduce the costly double-checking of customer invoices.
In late 2010, Telstra Media Classifieds deployed a new billing system based on Microsoft Dynamics® AX with the help of Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner, Tectura. Using Microsoft® SQL Server®, the new system integrates with the company’s Oracle data warehouse. This provides staff with excellent business performance visibility and generates reliable invoices in a fraction of the time.
As a result, Telstra Media Classifieds has dramatically cut their overheads, reducing invoicing staff by three quarters and server infrastructure by half. Customers
now get a better, faster service, and the business can grow more easily, because
the company’s invoicing system can be readily integrated with other platforms irrespective of vendor.
||“Despatching those invoices using Dynamics involves one step, where it used to involve several. The process has fewer complications, and we don’t have to keep someone on standby 24/7 in case a problem emerges at the last minute.”
Digital Systems Development Manager,
Telstra Media Classifieds
Telstra Media Classifieds is the owner of Trading Post, one of Australia’s biggest and longest-established classifieds publishing businesses. With approximately 200 staff, the Melbourne-based business has a strong brand and a reputation for providing good value services to private and commercial traders, especially through trades in household and automotive goods.
During 2009, Trading Post moved rapidly towards becoming a purely online business. The company wanted to take the opportunity to streamline some of its complex systems, some of which had been designed for the print business and for staff who dealt with customers on the phone.
“These systems required lots of manual data inputs and reconciliations,” says Shane Dwyer, Digital Systems Development Manager, Telstra Media Classifieds. “That inevitably led to inaccuracies in our invoicing process.”
This meant the business incurred a significant additional overhead and also increased the amount of time the business took to despatch invoices.
“It took us about 12 hours to batch our invoices and get them off to Australia Post. We had to have someone available 24/7 to oversee the process, and even then, we had precious little leeway before we had to start work on the next day’s invoicing.”
In addition, Telstra Media Classifieds wanted to rationalise its overall information architecture, eliminating systems that had been designed to service particular customer segments.
“We had two separate systems for billing private and commercial customers,” says Dwyer. “Just licensing these systems cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
With a view to cutting overheads and improving invoicing processing times, Telstra Media Classifieds went to market for a single new billing system in January 2010.
“There was a real push for a best-of-breed approach,” says Dwyer. “We were also looking for a solution that did not require a lot of customisation, that we could configure in about six months, and that we could more or less self-implement.
“Most importantly, we did not want to over-commit or over-develop. We just wanted a standalone back-office billing system that integrated with our key operational areas, in particular our Oracle data warehouse.”
Telstra Media Classifieds has a long-standing relationship with Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner, Tectura. In mid-2009, Tectura demonstrated the latest version of Microsoft’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform, Microsoft Dynamics® AX 2009.
“The Dynamics platform was ideal for Telstra Media’s infrastructure and growth plans,” says Kathleen Marsh, Project Manager, Tectura. “It is very easy to use and it has excellent functionality for managing customer data, billing data and reporting. Using Microsoft SQL Server it integrates with the company’s data warehouse to provide staff with a single view of critical business metrics, such as customer price points and the amount of time particular pieces of merchandise spend in-market.”
In addition, the data entry fields in Microsoft Dynamics AX are programmed to anticipate the general form the entries should take so that if, for example, a price contains too many zeros, the system will not accept the input. This promised to speed invoice generating times by reducing the number of data entry errors.
Development went smoothly, and the new system was ready for its first test billing-run exactly on time in November 2010.
“There was sufficient local support from Tectura to ensure we had just the expertise we needed,” says Dwyer. “They had the discipline to ensure the project was managed efficiently, and we precisely hit both time and budget targets.”
Microsoft Dynamics AX provides Telstra Media Classifieds with a reliable invoicing system and a single point of truth for all customer data. It has delivered cost savings to Telstra Media Classifieds since the day it was deployed.
More reliable invoicing
By increasing the level of automation, Microsoft Dynamics AX has reduced the amount of complex data entry and reconciliation required to produce invoices, and consequently reduced the amount of effort required to produce an invoice.
“We are getting the invoices right first time,” says Dwyer. “Not one of our customers has queried an invoice since we started using Microsoft Dynamics AX in December 2010.”
Reduced infrastructure and support costs
Reduced complexity has translated into dramatically reduced overheads. These include ongoing technical savings.
“We have reduced the number of servers we need to keep our invoicing going – and actually servers were our main cost,” says Dwyer. “Now we have roughly half the infrastructure, and it is about half as complex. That means maintaining our billing systems requires about a quarter of the effort.”
Faster process execution
According to Dwyer, one result of automated invoicing is that the time taken to prepare a batch of invoices has been cut from approximately twelve hours to one and a half, which has a significant impact on reducing business costs.
“Automated invoicing also delivers an operational cost saving,” he adds. “Despatching those invoices using Dynamics involves one step, where it used to involve several. The process has fewer complications, and we don’t have to keep someone on standby 24/7 in case a problem emerges at the last minute.
“Dynamics also gives us some breathing space. If anything goes wrong in our invoicing process, then we have a long time to fix it before we start getting over-loaded with the next day’s invoices. The business has a much bigger safety margin before it would theoretically have to close its doors to new business.”
Greater flexibility to expand the business invoicing system
Telstra Media Classifieds is looking to expand their invoicing system to other areas of the business and is confident that their choice of technology will expand, rather than constrain its options.
“We know we can integrate our billing system into other business tools,” says Dwyer. “We think Dynamics AX is comprehensive enough to plug into the online space and we aren’t worried about compatibility. We are actually looking at a variety of cloud CRM systems at the moment and regardless of which one we choose, we know that Dynamics will integrate seamlessly.”
Microsoft Product that was featured
Microsoft Dynamics® AX is an adaptable enterprise resource planning solution to help you consolidate and standardise processes, gain visibility across your organisation, and simplify compliance requirements.
Microsoft Dynamics AX is available in two editions and selected components can be added to it.
The product includes tools to:
• Help you integrate and exchange data from multiple systems and processes
• Automate supply chain collaboration
• Centralise processes
• Reduce risk and liability associated with corporate governance, regulatory compliance and customer initiatives.
For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services call the sales and information line on 13 20 58 Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm AEST. To find a partner or solution, visit www.microsoft.com/australia/findapartner/