Mercom Corporation is an IT services provider that specializes in networking, communications, and security solutions. In 2010, the company’s business with the US government took off, making Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) compliance a necessity. At the same time, Mercom faced increasing demand for its project management services. However, Mercom relied on NetSuite, which lacked both of those requirements. To maintain DCAA compliance and bring financial and project management together under a single solution, the company engaged SSi Consulting and implemented Microsoft Dynamics SL. With the new solution in place, the company now has the capabilities it needs and has dramatically improved insight into operations, eased reporting, maintained DCAA compliance, and will achieve a full payback in only two-and-a-half years.Business Needs
Founded in 2000, Mercom Corporation is an IT services provider specializing in project management, networking, secure videoconferencing and teleconferencing, and security solutions. The company has more than 75 employees and is based in South Carolina.
Like many growing businesses, Mercom began its operations by using Intuit QuickBooks for financial management. The company grew quickly and began focusing on expanding its services division. As the company grew and its accounting requirements became more complex, the company decided to take advantage of the software-as-a-service solution NetSuite, which would provide more robust functionality and simplify IT support. By fall of 2010, however, Mercom’s business had changed dramatically; the company had begun providing IT services to government customers, including the US Navy, US Army, and several other Department of Defense entities. Because of this, Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) compliance was a necessity, which pressured Mercom to move its sensitive data out of the cloud and to an on-premises solution. At the same time, Mercom faced increasing demand from its customers for broad project management services. Unfortunately, NetSuite lacked comprehensive project management functionality, requiring Mercom staff to manage projects in spreadsheets.
“We require mature project management reporting, indirect rate development and maintenance, and daily project profitability analysis—none of which NetSuite could provide,” says Larry Mercado, Chief Operating Officer of Mercom Corporation. “For us to get the functionality and reports, our project managers, program managers, and executives were spending an inordinate amount of time maintaining spreadsheets. When your ERP or accounting software can’t provide your actual profit or an EAC [estimate at completion] schedule for projects, then you have no choice but to look for a new solution.”
|Compared to the cost of NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics SL will provide us with a full payback in two-and-a-half years while also providing us all the project management capabilities we need.|
Chief Financial Officer, Mercom Corporation
With the pressing need to maintain compliance and bring project and financial management together under a single solution, Mercom began searching for new business management software. Says Jeff Miller, Chief Financial Officer of Mercom Corporation, “For what we were paying for NetSuite and getting in return, we felt we could get a new solution that also included the project management features we needed and that would help us meet compliance.”Solution
After considering solutions from Deltek and SAS, company leadership at Mercom chose Microsoft Dynamics SL and worked with Microsoft partner SSi Consulting to implement it. Says Mercado, “We chose Microsoft Dynamics SL because it fit with the existing Microsoft infrastructure and solutions we already had and we could host it on our premises, helping to achieve the security our government clients want. We were also able to find a number of other companies with project management needs just like ours that had proven success with Microsoft Dynamics SL and they were willing to demo it for us, proving that it was the right fit for our business.”
With Microsoft Dynamics SL in place, Mercom now supports both financial and project management under a single solution. Currently, Mercom has 15 concurrent users of Microsoft Dynamics SL. These users span roles including the company’s accounts payable, accounts receivable, human resources, payroll, sales, and project management groups. For project managers, in particular, Microsoft Dynamics SL has proven particularly beneficial. Says Miller, “Now, we can do job-cost accounting and see into our gross profit, profitability, work in progress, time and materials, and percent completion.”
All of Mercom’s more than 70 employees can also access key information from the system via Business Portal in Microsoft Dynamics SL. Based on Microsoft SharePoint Server, Business Portal draws on key information from Microsoft Dynamics SL and enables Mercom employees to collaborate with one another and customers over the Internet. By using Business Portal, Mercom staff can fill out time cards, project managers can view project data and file expense reports, and customers can gain quick insight into the status of their projects.
With financial and project data on a single database, staff can now more easily run reports as well. Says Mercado, “With all our information up-to-date on a single database, we can easily run a report to get the information we need and then share it on Business Portal with employees.”Benefits
For its growing business with complex project management and compliance needs, Microsoft Dynamics SL has proven to be the right choice for Mercom Corporation. With the new solution in place, the company has improved insight into operations and eased reporting, maintained DCAA compliance, and will achieve a full payback in only two-and-a-half years.Achieve Full Payback in Two-and-a-Half Years
For Mercom, the cost of Microsoft Dynamics SL alone was enough to justify the switch from NetSuite. “Compared to the cost of NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics SL will provide us with a full payback in two-and-a-half years while also providing us all the project management capabilities we need,” says Miller.
Company leadership expects the savings to go well beyond just a reduction in costs, however, as Mercom begins to realize the full benefits of the solution to drive productivity. Notes Mercado, “We are just now beginning to uncover all the benefits of Microsoft Dynamics SL, and with its close relationships with Microsoft Project and Microsoft SharePoint, we expect to see it helping us implement process improvements and streamline the business today and in the near future.”Improve Insight and Reporting
With financial and project data on a single database, Mercom now has near real-time insight into its business and can easily run key reports.
Mercado notes, “Everyone on our team is essentially a salesperson, so Microsoft Dynamics SL has been extremely beneficial. Our staff now spends less time crunching numbers and more time doing their jobs, which ultimately helps our customer relationships.”Maintain DCAA Compliance
With all company information up-to-date, guarded with appropriate access restriction, and housed in the company’s own data center, Mercom maintains DCAA compliance. “In terms of DCAA compliance, we found that Microsoft Dynamics SL handled most of it right out-of-the-box,” says Mercado. “By using the Business Portal, we can restrict data and provide reporting and auditability where needed, which enables us to satisfy our key government clients and win new government contracts.”