CRM to TPH’s rescue

Before working with Brodie Computes and implementing a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live 4.0 Professional solution, The Printing House (TPH) had difficulty managing its large customer database collected from its over 70 corporately-owned retail locations across Canada.

Scott O’Born, vice-president of operations at Toronto-based TPH, a company that specializes in on-demand and quick printing, says although its offices are spread throughout Canada they’re networked to allow its main data centre to be run out of its Toronto office. Until last November, O’Born says the company relied on an in-house solution created by one of its software development teams, loosely tied to work with Microsoft Outlook, to support that infrastructure.

“We were able to get some tools developed,” O’Born said. “It would do the job but it wasn’t a very good solution. It was still hard to maintain our large customer base and connect with our other locations.”

That’s where O’Born says Guelph, Ont.-based Brodie Computes was able to step in with the deployment and implementation of a test version of CRM 4.0 from Microsoft. “Our marketing division had been looking at solutions for quite some time,” he said. “CRM 4.0 fit with our company structure and integrates well with our infrastructure along with our diverse locations.”

Barb Cummings, director of business development at Brodie, says the company has been involved with earlier versions of Microsoft CRM and has been a certified Microsoft partner for the past several years.

“We got involved with Microsoft CRM when it was still in beta for the first time in the 2001-2002 timeframe,” Cummings said. “We liked what we saw with version 3.0 and that’s what really allowed our business to take off. Version 4.0 is now head and shoulders above the rest because it now comes with wizards which put even more power into the user’s hands.”

While the Beta version of CRM 4.0 has been available to partners such as Brodie, who are involved in Microsoft’s Early Adopter Program, for quite some time now, the global launch of the CRM 4.0 solution took place at the end of January.

Frank Falcone, senior pro-duct manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM at Microsoft Canada, says ever since its release, Microsoft’s channel has been excited about the product. He notes that the main difference between CRM 4.0 versus 3.0 is that now customers can choose which deployment model best suits their business and IT needs.

“For CRM 3.0, we had an on-premise and partner-hosted service,” Falcone said. “With 4.0 we now have CRM Live, which is based on a single, unified code that allows users to easily migrate from one deployment option to another and also includes hybrid deployments. Partners are looking at CRM because they now have three deployment options.”

By giving customers more choice, Falcone says as businesses’ needs change and grow the CRM solution can adapt to their needs depending on which deployment option and type of hosted solution they choose.

Some other new features built into CRM 4.0 also include: multi-stage workflows, clustering and load balancing, offline reporting and customizations, as well as multi-lingual and multi-currency features, which Falcone says is especially useful and relevant to the Canadian bilingual market space.

TPH, O’Born says, has since been using CRM 4.0 to work with its sales order processing system to monitor buying patterns and changes and to also send alerts and tasks to its sales staff in its other retail offices across Canada.

Currently, Cummings says TPH has been testing CRM 4.0 Live and their data is hosted on Microsoft’s server in its Redmond, Wash. office. However, she says they’ll soon be moving it in-house to their Toronto location in the spring.

“We found the solution was pretty seamless and intuitive,” O’Born said. “In April, we’ll be using CRM as our on-premise solution to act as our core customer database to help us drive our online sales and sales orders.”

What’s great about Microsoft’s CRM, Falcone said, is that its built in wizard-based tools allow users, even those with little to no programming experience, to create sophisticated, custom reports without having to go to their IT department. In addition, because CRM 4.0 is an extension of Outlook, Falcone says it doesn’t take much time for users to get a handle on things.

“CRM is so easy to customize and it’s more than just software,” Falcone said. “There’s the software aspect, the customization and training on the software, the training of the people and the mapping out of the business processes to the solution. Partners and their end-users need to take on a holistic view in order to really capture the whole CRM solution,” he added.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 comes in a variety of server editions which include CRM 4.0 Workgroup Server, CRM 4.0 Professional and CRM 4.0 Enterprise. The Workgroup Server includes support for up to five user licenses, whereas the Professional and Enterprise editions have a no-licensing limit on the number of users.

“Our product works well across many businesses and verticals,” Falcone said. “CRM works well for small businesses all the way up to large enterprises. CRM Live is especially great for small to midsize businesses because they’re often on limited budgets and this one works on a monthly subscription price.”

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