‘To be a world class chamber enabling members to be internationally competitive.’ This is the vision of the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectorial Associations (AACCSA), a business chamber representing nearly 10 000 business members in Ethiopia. Members vary from large multi-national corporates to small single member businesses. Business Needs
With its relatively lean but flexible structure, the Secretary General of AACCSA, Mr. Getachew Regassa, drives a focused, results-driven institution. It sees it as its mission to promote trade and investment in the country by providing demand driven service to its members and by advocating for a favourable business environment, based on international best practices. In short, the Chamber aspires to serve as a centre of excellence in service delivery.
More specifically, the objectives of the Chamber include supporting business members by the provision of business information and services, the provision of technical assistance and offering training and research to enhance the quality of economic activity. It also promotes a more flexible and hospitable economic environment for all businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, and encourages business ventures that contribute to job creation.
After investigating IT solutions employed by chambers of business in Paris and Sweden, AACCSA realised the need for IT support and the value these could add to improve efficiency levels. In 2010 the Chamber decided not to design and implement its own in-house system, and opted for a solution provided by Microsoft.
AACCSA’s head office and its two branch offices are staffed by 82 well-qualified and experienced employees, mostly women, under the leadership of the Secretary General. The majority of these work at the head office, while smaller complements of 10 to 20 people respectively are deployed at the Chamber’s two branches.
A wide area network caters for much of the internal communication needs, but this is supplemented by email facilities and their website where external members can communicate with the Chamber through its web server with a personal login and password.
|With this solution in place timely, accurate, efficient and effective reporting will become the benchmark and not the exception, particularly in terms of accounting and financial management.|
| Getachew Regassa|
Administratively, however, much was still done manually, causing frequent process failures due to human error. At the same time the lack of a properly integrated resource planning tool made for slow and cumbersome work flows and processes. AACCSA recognized that its work processes should increasingly be shaped by information technology.
To increase operational efficiency and to provide adequate information to the business community swiftly and timely has always been a challenge. Targeting member companies based on their areas of business or any other variables required a manual exercise. The Chamber also had a need to do faster and more accurate follow-ups with visitors and delegates to trade shows and tours. Event management with all its activities and challenges could also gain handsomely from a system that would allow for the integration of financial variables, planning support, human resources, project management and sound procurement processes.
The Chamber could not be seen to deliver slow or inaccurate services to members who were expecting leading edge guidance towards international best business practices. Solution
In August 2010 the Chamber signed an agreement with CIMAC Inc, a global software solutions provider with a strong and reputable presence in Ethiopia, to deploy an Integrated Information System (IIS) based on Microsoft’s enterprise resources planning (ERP) solution, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 R2. The ERP solution and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 were integrated with Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Foundation and run with SQL Server 2008, offering a perfect fit for the Chamber. The fact that they had an SQL database before, makes migration of data quick and easy, saving the project considerable time.
The solution supports and connects core business processes like accounting and human resources, and provides specialized capabilities that help the Chamber achieve improved efficiencies in many respects, most notably in membership management.
Secretary General Getachew Regassa has high expectations from the project: “We have set the bar very high. It is not just a matter of improving our internal efficiencies or serving our members better and faster. It includes the scalability to deliver a constantly changing and growing range of services to an ever increasing number of members. There is also the expectation that we, as representative chamber, create with our members in terms of Microsoft solutions. By far the majority of businesses in this country are driven on Microsoft platforms and software. By visibly endorsing these solutions as we do, we create an expectation with our members that they are the best that are available.”
Yilkal Abate, Program Manager of CIMAC, drives the project, supported by the CIMAC corporate Project Management Office in the USA. The project was done in collaboration with AACCSA’s MIS Manager, Ketema Bayou, and AACCSA’s internal team of five IT specialists. Benefits
Although it will be another six weeks to full utilization of the system, the signs are encouraging with approximately 90 percent of the system being utilized. In addition to the more obvious benefits of reduced time and effort spent on menial business processes and enhanced reporting capabilities, human error has been reduced significantly, while real-time information has provided management and staff with up to date and reliable information around the clock. The speed, flexibility and ease of reporting to all stakeholders on very short notice is a major benefit.
All users are sharing data from the same reliable source at the same time, removing the uncertainty that comes with uncontrolled information silos feeding unreliable data to users. Data is verified and reliable, strengthening the quality of decisions and management information alike which has resulted in improved cost efficiencies within the Chamber.
The solution’s detailed profile tracking capability allows the Chamber to track its activities and services, as well as the movements of members across the business sector.
For AACCSA, however, several less obvious advantages will be accruing as well. Microsoft Dynamics NAV and its link to Microsoft SharePoint now allows them to stage events with the full support of a sophisticated IT solution to take care of the planning, project management, financial integration, monitoring of programs, delegate management, etc for events of the Chamber.
It also makes the management of their member database and the recruitment and administration of new members much easier, much of the work becoming a simple online procedure that feeds directly into the database. The calculation of sales commissions for staff who successfully recruit new members becomes automated and leaves a clear audit trail to avoid misallocations or corruption.
Secretary General Getachew Regassa has the final say: “As a representative body it is ultimately all about good corporate governance, transparency and accountability. With this solution in place timely, accurate, efficient and effective reporting will become the benchmark and not the exception, particularly in terms of accounting and financial management. This also applies to the application of sound human resources management principles and activities, and fair performance management. CIMAC’s responsiveness, knowledge and cooperation were all essential to the positive outcome of the Chamber’s IIS project.” This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.