Fish4 - GoldMine Case Study
Formed by the UK's four largest regional newspaper groups – fish4 has become established as a major site for finding cars, homes and jobs anywhere in the UK.
In 2002, when the decision was taken to fully integrate and automate the sales and order processing system, fish4 already had a history of working successfully with leading CRM and helpdesk specialist, Prior Analytics in expanding its CRM capability.
Two years earlier, in response to continuing growth, fish4 had recognised the need to move from its XL spreadsheet-based sales recording system to a more bespoke and integrated sales, order processing and customer support solution.
Following an extensive examination of the options available, fish4 chose FrontRange Solutions' GoldMine from Prior Analytics, confirmed recently as FrontRange's Top Sales Revenue Partner for 2004-5. During the selection process, Prior Analytics showed that it understood best the complexities of fish4's business and that GoldMine's functionality was ideally suited to meeting the company's tough demands.
At the outset, GoldMine was used primarily as an electronic contact centre and database for customer details. However, CRM consultant, Sokari Iremiren – who joined fish4 in 2001 and had extensive previous experience of GoldMine – worked closely with Prior Analytics to expand its use, with the long-term goal of establishing the GoldMine CRM solution as central to the business.
"Much of the early project work was focused on data issues," recalls Iremiren, "including, for example, educating users, cleaning data and adding user defined fields. In short, this first phase was all about getting GoldMine to 'mimic' how the broader business worked."
For Iremiren, there were three main drivers for change to expand use of the solution: "Perhaps the most important for a sales-led organisation like fish4 was the need to understand our revenue position in real time," he says, "as, under our previous XL spreadsheet-based system, we had to wait until month-end to know exactly where we stood.
"Equally, with all sales going through the central sales system, we would be able to exercise greater control over what we sell and at what price: and finally, improved process control would save time, improve internal efficiencies and provide better customer service."
A series of internal meetings revisited the entire sales and order process to ensure it was as inherently efficient as possible. Next, fish4 developed the specification for entering sales directly into GoldMine and linking it to fish4's Great Plains Dynamics-based accounting system.
"In what is a highly complex sales model, the goal of automating and seamlessly linking sales and financial accounting systems in this way was a fundamental change," says Prior Analytics' Director, Claire Robinson. "The rewards of a successful project implementation however would be equally wide-ranging, encompassing easier processing, greater management visibility and speed."
Prior Analytics then worked with fish4 to refine the specification, in order to ensure the solution fully achieved the desired objectives.
"The existing system, from initial customer contact through to invoicing and the advertisement going live on the fish4 site, required a lot of manual intervention and typically took two to three days to complete," says Robinson. "Our objective therefore was to automate as much of this as possible."
Prior Analytics' solution was to build a third party product which would integrate sales efficiently within GoldMine. "The fish4 sales and reporting model did not lend itself to an out-of-the-box solution and so a high degree of customisation was required," confirms Iremiren.Robinson agrees, and adds: "Unlike most resellers, our high level of technical and programming expertise enables us regularly to tackle such challenges and meet a wide range of complex client needs."
"Here, by linking sales process directly with GoldMine Opportunity Manager, a salesperson can now speak to a customer or prospect, log the details via a customised entry screen and automatically generate a completed booking form to send to the client. This in turn generates an opportunity within the CRM system that can be progressed into an order and subsequently a sale."
Another key aspect of the solution has been to link GoldMine with fish4's financial accounting system. At the same time therefore, the order or sale can be authorised by the accounts team and automatically loaded into the Great Plains accounts system for invoicing. As a result, the seamless process has become quicker and more efficient, with user error greatly reduced.For senior credit controller, Janine Spencer, "GoldMine has proved to be a very intelligent, efficient and flexible system…enabling fish4 to have tighter controls on revenue and revenue recognition."
Customers also benefit, as the sales team now has visibility of sales invoices within GoldMine and so can deal with any queries directly rather than, as previously, having to investigate off-line with the finance department.
Reporting has also improved dramatically. As part of the project, Prior Analytics created a suite of bespoke tailored Crystal Reports, providing all the necessary management information, from sales forecasts through to month-end accounts and board level stakeholder information. Sales analysis is now readily available by region, product and customer type. In addition, data on average sales booked, cost of deals and their value also help in developing more targeted and effective marketing programmes.
Implementation and Challenges:
To ensure smooth implementation, a cut-off date of 1 June 2003 was agreed. Purely historical sales data would not be entered onto the new system: it would, however, include sales started but not yet complete. A great deal of detailed functionality testing of the applications was undertaken before the go-live date, to ensure that it would deliver what was required. In addition, throughout this process the opportunity was taken to add further 'wouldn't it be nice if…' elements to the specification.
The project has presented a number of challenges, the biggest of which was the sheer scope of what fish4 wished to achieve. "The aim, in short, was to create a fully automated, easy-to-use system spanning a number of core business functions," confirms Robinson.
Given that the various sides of the business – homes, cars and jobs – are sold, booked and invoiced using different methodologies, it would have been very easy for timescales to slip, exceed budget or disenfranchise users as a result of disruption during the testing and implementation phase.
Prior Analytics and fish4 quickly established that, in order to manage such a broadly-based project effectively, a phased approach was essential, with clearly defined objectives for each individual element from both sides. The project was divided into manageable 'chunks', with each element scoped in advance to provide an estimated timeline and budget for management approval.
The plan included comprehensive User Acceptance Testing, with feedback to the project team, together with dry runs in advance of the modules being launched 'live'. An example: the process of closing month end using the new automated system for the first time was run in parallel with the old manual system to double check the accuracy of results and also to act as a safeguard.
Similarly, with data quality identified as of paramount importance, Prior Analytics designed data entry screens for users to support both ease-of-entry and data validation. "Equally, many CRM implementations go awry due to poor project management," believes Robinson, "and we identified that clear reporting lines would be critical to success. This was achieved by designating strong project managers and support teams from both companies, who communicated – and indeed still do – on a daily basis via email, phone and MSN to review progress and resolve issues as soon as they occur."
Continuity, too, has helped enormously in building a strong relationship based on confidence and trust. We have a dedicated developer for fish4 and the same account team has effectively managed the relationship since day one."
Implementation has brought about a level of change which was critical to the business. "Something needed to be done," says Iremiren. "Over the past two years, we have continued to see impressive sales growth - our sales force, for example, has tripled in size - and we simply could not have carried on as before. "
At the same time, the Prior Analytics solution is future proofed, enabling the business to grow still further: equally, the process efficiencies achieved have ensured that this increased level of business can be managed without an equivalent increase in back-office support."
The project was delivered on time and within budget. Fish4 now has a fully automated and integrated solution to manage sales, customer contacts, order processing, invoicing and a full suite of management reports. Two years on, benefits have been both measurable and significant, including time savings, the reduction of manual processes, real time reporting as an aid to quality decision-making, better overall control and, last but far from least, greater insights into customer behaviour and a significant time saving in producing month-end accounts.
For sales manager, Jimmy Kyriacou, for example, "I now have invaluable sales information at my fingertips, dramatically freeing up my time and allowing me to focus on other important tasks. The new system would be an asset to any sales organisation.
"Since implementation, Prior Analytics has continued to work with fish4 in developing and refining established processes, with the goal of further improving efficiencies and customer service. Peripheral solutions around the core CRM and support modules have since included CTI telephony caller identification (screen popping) and integrating GoldMine with Outlook for improved email management. Looking ahead, other likely developments include the addition of Quick address and fax-to-email software.
Throughout this period, Prior Analytics has also been responsible for the implementation and development of fish4's HEAT help desk solution – also from FrontRange – which is used by the customer services team to provide internal and external support. The next step is to integrate HEAT with GoldMine: "our goal is to bring all customer touch points together," says Iremiren, "in order to have a single, common view of each customer." Externally, fish4 has also been able to provide a tailored customer booking screen for a major client with eight operating sites, enabling it to book directly onto fish4's sales system.
"On the face of it," says Robinson, "many of the improvements sought by fish4 appear to be aimed at securing internal efficiencies than improving the customer experience. Yet unlike many companies who overtly claim to be customer-centric, fish4 has rightly recognised that the best way to deliver better customer service is by simplifying and improving internal processes, so providing a faster, more unified and accurate response.
" For its part, fish4 has been delighted with Prior Analytics' responsiveness and creativity. "In particular, their flexibility and technical ability continue to make the Prior Analytics team a pleasure to work with," says Iremiren.
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