The company sells Internet solutions (network equipment, IP telephony, technical support) encountered problems with manual project management. The main workflow involved a complex chain of interaction with suppliers, customers and business units within the company. As a result, any task, from the submission of commercial offers to the payment of invoices, incurred a significant loss of time and information. It was impossible to solve these problems without process automation.
The PlotnikovSoft company offers to the customer an integrated automation solution. The solutions implemented during the project included:
● sales management;
● work with contracts;
● purchase management;
● projects involving installation and follow-up technical support.
The new business process management system enabled the customer to significantly improve business efficiency, and in particular:
● the time needed for preparation and submission of commercial offers decreased from several days to 5–10 min;
● possible errors when filling out project documentation were eliminated;
● the process of approval for purchase requisitions was automated;
● project task time was reduced, due to the seamless integration between the Sales Portal (lead generation) and the installers portal (project implementation);
● payments for completed work started to be made regularly and on time.
A reseller company selling network solutions and IP telephony, based on hardware and software from other vendors.
Problems with preparation of contracts. The company is using non IT systems to record and control sales, and the employees filled in Excel spreadsheets manually. Moreover, the sales process had a complex structure: the total contract amount depended not only on the list of equipment, but also on its configuration, current purchase and retail prices and other factors including the buyer’s geolocation. A preliminary calculation made at the request of a potential customer took more than a week.
Problems of communication between company departments. When a contract with a customer was concluded, the sales department specialists forwards the project documentation to service engineers manually. At this stage, the “human factor” affected on business processes: the project documentation might be transferred with a delay, or might be incomplete or not transferred at all. As a result, the cycle of engineering works under the contract was unacceptably long, cash receipts were delayed, and the payment of subscription fees under technical support agreements incurred constant delays.
Problems related to an outsourcer. To improve the situation, the customer recruited an outsourcer, who examined the business process details for eight months in an attempt to standardize them. However, the customer could not make use of the results of this work, as this would have disrupted rather than facilitated the company’s activities.
To develop and implement a solution that will significantly reduce the number of problems concerning interaction between contractors, customers and the company’s employees.
To develop a user-friendly consumer application (portal) for each business process stage, in order to automate:
● the preparation and issue of commercial offers (sales department);
● interaction with vendors (purchasing department);
● the organization of work on the installation and maintenance of equipment (service engineers).
To develop a system of internal communication that integrates portals to eliminate the risk of loss or miscommunication of information during the interaction of departments, excluding needless control procedures and adding necessary ones.
What did we do?
A situation analysis showed that:
1. The results of the previous contractor’s work could not be used.
2. The customer did not have a full picture of what the results would be.
Task 1 – Development and implementation of the Sales Portal
The Sales Portal enabled us to:
● automate the preparation and issue of commercial offers;
● apply a price quote system for automatic correction and price verification, depending on the customer's geolocation;
● automate the receipt of current purchase prices from vendors.
A solution that automated the process of all price verification and substitution in commercial offers was developed and implemented. The time required for the preparation and issue of a commercial offer was reduced from several days to 5–10 min.
Task 2 – Development and implementation of an E-Signature Portal
The E-Signature Portal enabled us to:
● automate the preparation of a contract in the situation where a customer has accepted a commercial offer and wants to make a purchase;
● eliminate the need for manual data transfer from a commercial offer to a contract;
● connect a billing system that was developed for the customer’s needs.
Since the Sales Portal and E-Signature Portal are integrated, the need for manual data transfer from a commercial offer to a contract, with all its associated errors, is eliminated. All information about a customer is automatically entered into the billing system, where a client record is created and an invoice is generated. Any report can be uploaded in a convenient format from the e-signature portal.
Task 3 – Development and implementation of a Purchase Portal
The Purchase Portal enabled us to:
● standardize the purchase procedure;
● automate the approval of purchase orders at a fixed price;
● exclude the possibility of purchases at a higher price without approval;
● systematize information on all purchases, using the “what, from whom, when, at what price” template.
The customer was a reseller of equipment and software purchased from vendors. It is therefore important to create a purchase procedure for goods up to a certain price (for example, up to $250), including automation and simplification, and to introduce additional regulation for purchases above a certain price. To achieve this purpose, an algorithm that displays roles and statuses when approving and completing a purchase was implemented on the Purchase Portal.
Task 4 – Development and implementation of an Installation Portal
The Installation Portal enabled us to:
● systematize the work of engineers and project managers;
● synchronize a request for the connection of equipment with the conclusion of an agreement for its purchase;
● synchronize the technical support with a subscription fee;
● link payments to the service engineers to evidence of work performance under a contract;
● eliminate the transfer of hard copies of project documentation.
A request for the connection and setting up of equipment (for example, IP telephony) is sent to the engineers immediately after a customer signs the contract. Any loss of information or undue transfer of information from the sales department to the service engineering department is eliminated. Since the time for commissioning activities and technical support is regulated, the time elapsing between the lead receipt and payment was significantly reduced.
Powerful automation of the company’s main business processes, from sales to the installation of equipment and payment of invoices, increased the total work efficiency of the company with respect to its customers. In addition, the transition to the new management system consisting of four mutually integrated portals accelerated the implementation of projects and the payment of invoice, and increased the loyalty of the customer’s clients, due to the improvements in the service.
The company’s information system was integrated with databases of hardware and software vendors, the billing system, and other applications.
The customer’s workflow was reduced from a few weeks to a few hours. The lifetime of projects, from the lead receipt to the implementation of solutions and payment, decreased significantly.
At the same time, the transparency of the processes involved was increased: information about the customers, sales, and the structure of transactions was clear and instantly accessible.