Aplicor Helps Host.Net Achieve Operating Excellence
Host.Net a BroadbandONE Company is headquartered in Boca Raton, FL, and serves the southeastern United States and beyond in the highly competitive world of Internet and network services providers.
In this market most vendors provide very similar products and services such as web hosting and IP phone service, to name two. Surviving and succeeding in this market requires vendors to focus on operational excellence to ensure that they deliver the best possible offers to prospective customers. Very often operational excellence relies on communication and the timely flow of information.
Host.Net recognized that front-end sales initiatives must be carefully coordinated with back-end operations to ensure the relationship is effectively managed throughout the lifecycle. And when customer incidents are reported sales people, for example, must be made fully aware of these issues.
Initially, like most companies, Host.Net captured customer data through paper based systems, spreadsheets, and text but it quickly became apparent that the company would not be able to deliver on its vision of customer relationships without help from automation. Specifically, Host.Net identified four major areas of improvement to enable it to achieve operational excellence:
- Ensure consistent communication with the customer throughout the customer lifecycle.
- Create a mutual awareness of the “state-of-play” between sales and operations to assist in effectively planning future operational requirements and to provide consistent reliable service to existing clients.
- Automate certain manual activities such as notifications and approvals that can cause bottlenecks if not effectively addressed.
- Share organizational wide information that is current between stakeholders in sales, marketing, and operations.
In addition, Host.net has a number of standard operating practices and policies that need to be shared between members of the organization at multiple locations and at specific points during their sales and operational processes. Manual coordination of these practices is time consuming and requires the direct participation of multiple personnel acting as “traffic managers” to coordinate activities to ensure a successful client sale would turn into a successful implementation. It is estimated that Host.Net spends in excess of $300,000 of payroll cost associated with coordinating these activities.
Host.Net Turns to Aplicor
Host.Net was already a customer of Aplicor CRM and this effort was initiated to transform the company’s CRM from a data capturing tool to a system that could provide major positive impact on the company’s processes.
One of the biggest early challenges was getting clarity and consensus regarding the business processes that would be enabled by the workflow tool. In some cases there was not a clear picture of how the existing processes worked or in some cases was supposed to work. The Aplicor team worked with Host.NET management and project participants in facilitated workshops to resolve these issues. The company’s business is a complex web requiring information and process assistance in many areas. These needs were addressed by Aplicor’s Content Management and workflow engines tuned to
Host.Net’s specific business processes.
Aplicor Content Management
Aplicor Content Management provides the ability for rich text pages to be created and linked to processes within the Aplicor solution set. For example, the multiple step sales process is linked to all Host.net sales opportunities and the service level agreement
(SLA) details are attached within the Customer Service Incident Profile. This gives all operations personnel instant access to the latest corporate documentation regarding
Host.Net’s solution selling methodology and service level standards for compliance.
These documents are also linked within the sales opportunity profile to ensure that sales personnel do not “overstep the mark” in offering guarantees that cannot be realistically supported by the operations group.
Other examples of content management pages developed included demand generation methods, prospecting techniques, various standard operating procedures (SOPs) and best practices related to customer acquisitions and services delivery.
Content management helped Host.Net to reach its goals for ensuring consistent communication and to share standard organization information across its enterprise. Next came process.
Aplicor Workflow Engine
Aplicor has opened up workflow as an enterprise tool that is supported through the CRM suite. Aplicor’s workflow is both a tool kit and a set of standard business processes.
Many customers find that rather than building processes from scratch, they can modify the pre-built workflows saving time but also taking advantage of the business expertise already built into these processes.
Additional workflows can be created as required to match organizational, industry or department specific requirements. Aplicor’s workflow toolkit supports actions such as: approval; notification; creation of an activity plan; assignment and reassignment of activities and tasks and more.
Host.Net specifically now uses Aplicor workflow for the following key functions:
- To improve operational lead time by automatically sending operational notifications to relevant parties within the organization when an opportunity is moved to the negotiation step in the sales cycle.
- To notify a sales representative of all high severity issues reported to customer support at all phases of the customer lifecycle.
- To alert an escalation resource for example, when an incident approaches its estimated completion date but has a status that indicates it has ‘Not Started’.
Today Host.Net has the systems and processes that it needs to capture, access and use information that it uses to deliver high quality service to its customers throughout the lifecycle. As a small company Host.Net needed affordable but advanced capabilities to help it manage its business processes and drive information to the people who need it — including sales people working with clients as well as operational people delivering products and services. While these capabilities are well documented in enterprise CRM solutions, a traditional enterprise CRM solution would have been too expensive to implement and maintain. Aplicor’s hosted solution provided advanced workflow and content management and fit the need affordably.
The IT industry is currently undergoing a fundamental shift from on premise systems to on demand solutions that hide much of the complexity of IT from the user and offer substantial savings over traditional systems. While everyone would like lower cost systems what is driving this transition is the fact that there is a large market of companies like Host.Net that simply must have advanced solutions at reasonable costs if they are to thrive. This study is a good example of what determined small companies can do to build and support their business processes without resorting to expensive traditional systems.
About the Author
Denis Pombriant founded Beagle Research Group, a consulting and market research organization focused on emerging technologies and companies that will have an important impact on the way business is conducted in the years ahead.
[Photo courtesy of simparel.]