For any organisation dependent on the taxpayer, having an accurate data management system to track expenditure and outcomes is critical.
When your organisation is meant to help get that taxpayer money used to help fund local business - that becomes even more of a priority. But when he started off, Jacob Roberts, the Business Information Manager of new organisation The Growth Hub, was using spreadsheets alone to do the job. How long would that be sufficient, one would have to ask?
What's the Growth Hub? Well, maybe we should say Hubs - as they are a set of regional public/private partnerships, wholly publicly funded, launched in April 2014 by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills to help promote SME success, especially in the manufacturing and engineering sectors.
Roberts' particular Hub is the Coventry and Warwickshire one, and has, since its set up, already started doing some positive work, liaising as it has with over 2,000 companies in the region and already provided intensive support to over 220.
And the answer to our question about spreadsheets? Not long, he told 24n.biz - as the rapidly growing data set he was working with needed to be purged of any and all inaccuracies, he decided.
To help progress beyond Excel, Roberts and his team have turned to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM suite, implemented with the aid of ERP specialist Trustmarque.
As a result, the new body now has an online CRM platform to boost its Business Intelligence (BI) capabilities - resulting in a much better picture of his data, he says.
When the Hub opened in April, all nformation was collected on a variety of disparate spreadsheets. To fix this, the very first step was actually the recruitment of Roberts himself, whose job as Information Manager is to bring necessary information together in a meaningful way.
But from his first day in post, he told us, his aim was to not only give staff the means to record information coherently and consistently, but also to give the management team the means to use that information: "As a publicly funded project, it is important for the Growth Hub to be able to identify the areas that aren’t yet receiving support in order to ensure inclusivity," he says.
An improved ability to report on performance and to be able to accurately record all the Hub's activities and interaction, developing a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and tracking progress according to different variables, was Roberts' main aim in terms of a new IT system. For example, he wanted the ability to include finding out how many jobs the team had helped to create, how many businesses it has engaged with in a certain time period, or the number of firms it has spent a significant amount of time with, broken down by month, sector or location.
Efficient data collection was also necessary for the day to day running of the business; for example, delivery staff needed to record addresses and contact details. A CRM system was soon identified as the best way of doing all this, delivered in the shape of a Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform that drives productivity through social insights, business intelligence, and campaign management in the cloud either on-premises or with a hybrid combination.
Trustmarque came on board to help install the new system on the recommendation by the head of ICT strategy, systems and development at Coventry City Council, where the vendor had previously successfully assisted in the implementation of Microsoft Azure. What's interesting about the relationship that's developed, adds Roberts, is that it is a very consultative one, which translated into him and his team being empowered to use the new software in innovative ways, he believes.
"If we had just given Trustmarque a list of what we wanted and developed on the back of that, it wouldn’t have been a patch on what we came up with together," he says, for example.
In terms of specific benefits, Roberts says that, "The CRM system has enabled a clear mapping of our endeavours to support local businesses and organisations. Information gathered in the system has allowed us to export our work across Warwickshire and Coventry onto a visual map, revealing where there are geographical gaps in activity, as well as showing where we have engaged with businesses, for instance," he says.
The Growth Hub is also seeing the benefits of efficient reporting and faster processes, with tracking of KPIs improved overall following the implementation of the Microsoft technology, he thinks - with said KPIs also easier to document.
"Hubs like ours are new things, so there's no real established 'best practice,'" Robers concludes.
"That's why we need very flexible IT to help us - and which is why this kind of system is ideal."
(c) 2015 24n.biz