Located in rural New South Wales, Peppin Business and Financial Planners (Peppin) is a niche advisory service that specialises in analysing all aspects of a family’s or a business’s financial needs, and providing comprehensive advice. However, Peppin’s employees were frustrated at having to use a variety of systems to manage their workload: a document management system for files; a workflow tool to manage job execution; a Microsoft Access database to log billable time; and an accounting system to generate invoices. From October 2009 to July 2010, Microsoft Gold Certified Partner for Customer Relationship Management NEC Australia (formerly trading as CSG) helped deploy a single practice management platform based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Through a single customer-centric portal, staff can access and manage every aspect of a professional services engagement. Case-relevant files are linked through a Microsoft SharePoint Foundation site, and the time spent on any particular job is automatically logged. Situation
Founded in 1958, Peppin Business and Financial Planners (Peppin) is an independent financial advisory firm located in the southern New South Wales town of Deniliquin. With 15 employees, the company provides families and small businesses with advice that integrates tax, inheritance, investments and business strategy. It also facilitates family discussions on estate planning and succession.
The company’s speciality is to use staff members’ different areas of expertise to review all the separate aspects of a family’s or a business’s financial situation and provide thorough, all-encompassing advice.
“The challenge for us is to be as seamless as possible,” says Rob Brown, Managing Director, Family Advice, Peppin. “We want to be able to integrate a tax strategy, an investment strategy, an inheritance strategy and a business strategy into a single coherent piece.”
To aid collaboration, Peppin had deployed a document management system and a separate case management system. These gave each staff member access to all customer-related documents and a workflow to guide individual contributions.
“One of our problems was that the case management system was seven to eight years out of date,” says Paul Marshall, System Controller, Peppin. “And although each customer document was accessible, it wasn’t instinctively to hand. Staff found they needed to consult each other to get hold of information, so we were doubling up on staff time.”
These systems were supplemented by a time management module based on a Microsoft Access database that staff used to log the precise time that they spent on each job. The data was then manually entered into a MYOB accounting system that also generated invoices.
This time billing process was frustrating for staff because it was difficult to accurately log time when jumping between jobs. It was also not immediately clear whether a job was currently on budget, or over budget, because that data could only be accessed in MYOB once all contributors had entered their time.
“We knew that to do their work, staff were constantly flicking between four or five pieces of software,” says Brown. “We saw that our ambitions for integrated advice was constrained by silos of professional software.”
Peppin wanted a single system or interface that could track and manage all the work its staff did on different jobs. It wanted documents, timekeeping and job accounts linked directly to individual customer cases, and it wanted to reduce systems distractions for its staff. Solution
In August 2009, Peppin turned to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) specialists CSG, which had earned Customer Relationship Management competency in the Microsoft Partner Network.
Peppin already had Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 as part of a previous upgrade: however, the company shied away from deploying it because of the cost and complexity of configuring it for such a small number of users. CSG, however, believed the CRM platform could provide the basis for an economical solution.
“We introduced them to the concept of the xRM Framework,” says Adam Merry, Consultant, CSG. “The idea is you start with a CRM application, then build in or connect any number of other customer-related job processes. The critical thing for Peppin was the click-to-configure functionality, which makes it easy – and affordable – to mould to a company’s own work processes. This makes it very attractive to smaller organisations.”
CSG’s idea was to interface the customer job page in the CRM application with the tools and applications Peppin needed to manage jobs and finances. For example, as soon as an employee started work on a customer account in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, they would be automatically linked to a Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 document management site, where all the material related to that customer job would be grouped in a single location, irrespective of author.
The platform would also automate time billing. As soon as an employee opened a customer job, all the time spent working on documents related to that customer – or writing to them – would be automatically logged and attributed.
Actual development took 26 days; however, Peppin was initially cautious of deploying, wanting to ensure that the new solution would genuinely provide a better, faster, more intuitive way of working.
“For four months all we did was just play around with it,” says Brown. “Most people only learn when they actually experiment with something, so we went very gradually. We only deployed once everyone was pretty familiar with the whys and hows.”
“We also trained them in how to use the click-to-configure functionality,” says Merry. “This meant they would be able to evolve the solution themselves.” Benefits
Peppin’s new extended CRM solution built with the xRM Framework has replaced five separate systems with one. As a result, frustration with IT is reduced and employees are more productive. A more customer-focused service
Now that Peppin’s case management systems are linked to a single customer-centric solution, staff have a better grasp of every aspect of each case.
“If there are two or three advisors involved in a particular case, then the relevant documents are there as well,” says Brown. “This means we have full visibility, and visibility is critical to good decision making.”
What particularly impresses Marshall is how all case management actions are linked to a single customer entry point.
“This is document management with CRM; it is time management with CRM; and it is practice management through CRM,” says Marshall. “When you go into the new system, it feels like you are working in a small house where you can wander from room to room and instantly lay hands on what you need.” Automated time billing
The new solution has also removed one of the biggest gripes of professional staff whose working days weave between different clients. Billable hours are logged as soon as a staff member starts work on a customer’s files, and the time is aggregated and fed into the company’s time billing system.
“Having billable time automatically recorded has removed a whole level of frustration,” says Brown. “The beauty is that it happens in real time. For each job, the Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution reports on the hours logged. So as soon as I clock on to a task or a case, I can see straight away how much has been spent on it and how much budget remains.” Better case management
End-to-end integration and improved visibility have ultimately resulted in better management. With each job anchored in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, staff easily manage the transition from an enquiry to a lead, to the job, to invoicing and to profitability reports.
“That also means we can easily locate problem jobs are and do something about them,” says Marshall. Affordable practice management
For Peppin, the virtue of the xRM Framework is that it has economically underpinned the company’s heavily customer-focused business model.
“It’s really quite something to be able to put something like this in place for just 15 people,” says Merry. “In our opinion, there is nothing else like this on the
Market — certainly not anything that can be put together in five weeks.”
“Being responsive and efficient in addressing client needs is something we are zealous about,” says Brown. “This practice management system represents a moral commitment to our business standards.”
“Now we have what all big businesses want, but what small businesses struggle with: case and customer information at our fingertips. And because we can reconfigure the system without professional help, we can carry on improving forever.” Microsoft Dynamics
Microsoft Dynamics is a line of integrated, adaptable business management solutions that enables you and your people to make business decisions with greater confidence. Microsoft Dynamics works like familiar Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office, which means less of a learning curve for your people, so they can get up and running quickly and focus on what’s most important. And because it is from Microsoft, it easily works with the systems that your company already has implemented. By automating and streamlining financial, customer relationship, and supply chain processes, Microsoft Dynamics brings together people, processes, and technologies, increasing the productivity and effectiveness of your business, and helping you drive business success.
For more information about Microsoft Dynamics, go to:
www.microsoft.com/australia/dynamics For More Information
For more information about Microsoft Dynamics products and services, call 1800 197 960.
To access information using the web, go to: www.microsoft.com/australia/dynamics/
For more information about NEC, visit the NEC website at http://itsolutions.nec.com.au/
For more information about Peppin Business and Financial Planners, call 03 5881 1866 or visit the website at: www.peppin.com.au This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.