This is an example of work we’ve done.
A highly specialized technical support company started very small, but had grown substantially, and was predicting continued growth, with employees in various locations in the U.S. and abroad.
Each customer has unique contact and contract information, of course, but each customer also has a set of highly individualized technical information, as well as a unique set of tasks that must be done carefully and in a timely fashion.
When the company had only one or two customers, manual processes for maintaining information and tasks were okay. Now, however, those manual processes were time-consuming and inefficient, and threatened the quality of service.
Our recommended solution included three of the four functional areas in one product, reducing costs and simplifying implementation tremendously.
One of the problems we were asked to solve
Among a number issues, one of the principal difficulties to be resolved with new business software was task management for each customer.
Basic customer information was stored in documents on a computer in one location, and was not easily accessible for other team members.
An outline of the task management process they were using:
- Task creation done by the owner, in an Excel file
- Task assignment done by the owner via phone or email, and typed into the Excel file
- Additional documentation (usually a Word document) was sent to employees by the owner, via email
- Updates from employees came in via email or telephone; the owner typed in this new status, and notes, critical for future reference.
- If the employee updated documents, that meant the owner no longer had the most current version – but the owner might not even know that, because sometimes busy people forgot to tell him, or to send the newest version to him.
- If someone else on the team needed to take the next step, the owner would call or email employee #2, explain everything, and forward the notes he just took. And he would often have to tell employee #2 to check with employee #1 to see if there was additional information, “just in case.”
Overview of requested solution
The company specified an interest in web-based solutions for four functional areas. Each area had a set of specific requirements. The four areas were:
- Project management capabilities, particularly around tasks
- Issue tracking, with limited access for customers to view status
- Customer relations management / sales management / contact management
- Document storage, sharing, and versioning
The company also specified a few general requirements, including:
- Providers must be stable and proven; have a high level of uptime (at least 99.9%); have easy to reach, understandable, support staff; and have satisfactory backups
- Reasonably priced / good value
Action and results
Using our standard process, we:
- Held a series of meetings with key people to get initial definitions and priorities for requirements
- Did some research and learning, and then met again to revisit and refine requirements
- Produced an initial list of candidate solutions for each of the functional areas
- Met to review those candidate solutions, and then further refined requirements
- Conducted further research and analysis, eliminating a number of competitors
- Tested remaining “final” competitors
- Wrote a report detailing results and making a recommendation
The recommended solution included three of the four functional areas in one product, reducing costs and simplifying implementation tremendously.
The solution for the fourth area was very inexpensive, without giving up quality or functionality.
The customer was thrilled with the result.
Elapsed time: 4 weeks (not full time).