REDMOND, Wash. May 8, 2007 – At Malibu Boats, the mission is, “To build the best boat possible. Enjoy your workplace. Give our owners the best value.” That all sounds simple enough, and the company has been fulfilling that mission since the company began making boats in 1982.
But today there are more boats to build, more customers to satisfy, more dealers to service and more employees to manage. As a result, the organization has outgrown the paper shuffling and other manual processes it has long relied upon to run its business and achieve its goals. Paul Singer, Malibu Boats Vice President of Sales and Marketing, says the company needed to invest in an IT solution that would enable its people to make smarter, faster decisions and ultimately streamline the business for the future.
“So many things had always been written by hand,” says Paul Singer, Malibu Boats Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “We relied on faxes and on the institutional memories of our employees, like our production coordinator, who held a lot of information in her head. If she was gone, we were often stuck. We had fewer boats, fewer dealers, fewer employees, and for a long time, this system worked. But then we started to outgrow it, and needed a better system. Lucky for us, Microsoft had a better system.”
Malibu Boats, like many other organizations across the globe, has begun to embrace Microsoft products and services to empower their people and ultimately impress partners and customers through its software innovation. In this instance, Microsoft Sharepoint and Dynamics products enabled Malibu Boats to share information throughout its internal and external networks. These solutions improved the content and visibility of the company’s database, allowing dealers to order boats online and enabling greater communication and productivity among employees.
Equipped with the right software, Microsoft believes that People-Ready organizations can achieve similar success. Microsoft’s People-Ready vision, which the company began articulating about a year ago, and was recently supported by analyst research (.pdf file, 293 kb – see sidebar), is based on the belief that people are the ultimate drivers of success for any organization, in any industry, and that with the right software they can drive business results, from customer relationships to innovation to the way they work with partners, to operational improvements.
CRM Solution Helps Fitness Club Get Closer to Customers
Jeff Grayson, Chief Intelligence Officer of Equinox Fitness, a high-end group of U.S. fitness clubs that has grown more than 400 percent in the past five years, says the company sought to streamline its sales process, increase membership prospect follow up and improve management insight with the help of Microsoft Dynamics Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
“Microsoft’s innovative CRM platform permitted us to customize the tool in a way that matched our sales process instead of forcing the business to fit into the model of some off-the-shelf product,” Grayson says.
Prior to its implementation, Grayson says prospective customers were getting less than the best treatment during their introduction to Equinox. Thanks to a manual card filing system, the company’s sales process focused more on last-minute closing than building long-term relationships.
Now all that information is accessible in a database, and Equinox as an enterprise can use and understand that data, he says. Grayson praises Microsoft’s ability to address Equinox’s unique business needs and create customizable solutions his people actually use not just to do, but to excel, at their jobs.
“We’re four months past deployment and we have more than 250 sales people enthusiastically embracing this process and interpreting the data as part of their day-to-day lives,” Grayson says. “I’ve heard a lot of stories where things like this get rolled out and everyone hates it and curses it. People fill in information because they have to, not because it helps them. At Equinox, people are calling our Microsoft CRM solution their personal assistant.”
One Platform Helps Financial Services Company Tighten its Belt
Accenture, a worldwide management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, inherited a disparate set of technologies and applications after separating from Arthur Andersen in 1999. As a result, it turned to Microsoft to deploy a single platform worldwide. This was a rarity for a company as large as Accenture, which boasts 146,000 employees and annual revenues of US$16.65 billion.
The results of Accenture’s overall IT transformation, of which the move to Microsoft technologies played a significant part, have been dramatic. During a time when the number of Accenture employees increased by 64 percent and revenue increased by 36 percent, the company reports IT expenditures as a percent of revenue fell by 50 percent, and IT expenditures in dollars decreased by 30 percent. Additionally, global applications were cut in half, and multiple technology platforms were reduced to one.
“From an internal IT standpoint, we don’t debate or spend time and money analyzing platform decisions,” says Vid Byanna, Accenture’s Executive Director of Global Infrastructure. “By moving from multiple, disparate architectures and platforms to one, we can channel that time and energy into delivering value to the business.”
Web Portal Helps Miami-Dade Schools Communicate & Collaborate with Parents, Educators and Administrators
When the fourth-largest public school district in the United States needed to communicate with its more than 1 million students, parents, teachers and administrators, Miami-Dade County Public Schools found that it had no consistent way to deliver information. To answer that challenge, the district is building an enterprise Web portal that will provide all stakeholders in the education of Miami-Dade children with a single point of access for relevant information, services and applications.
Based on the 2007 Microsoft Office system, the portal aims to improve learning potential for children, enhance parents’ ability to participate in the education of their children and increase the effectiveness and productivity of teachers and school administrators.
“In the past, people had to look in many different places to get information,” says Deborah Karcher, Chief Information Officer for Information Technology Services at M-DCPS. “Teachers used one system to access e-mail and calendars, and another for teaching resources, and had to ask someone in the school office for data from our Student Information System running on the mainframe. Similarly, school principals had to use five or six different systems in a normal day’s work. We have several very good systems and applications, but we needed to give people a better way to take advantage of them.”
The district can now push the right data to the right stakeholder audience rather than forcing users to navigate a maze of resources to find the information they need. For instance, the school district now communicates time-sensitive information such as emergency notices, school events and school closures to all district users with just one communiqué, which is critical in this hurricane-prone region.
The new infrastructure also changes the way that teachers and parents can access and make use of student performance data. Teachers now can readily access historical data about individual student performance for assessments, progress reports and remediation plans and more quickly capture a snapshot of a student’s overall progress.
Microsoft Mobile Platform Improves Retailer’s Customer Service Performance
Best Buy, a leading specialty retailer of consumer electronics, computers and applications, needed a more efficient approach to scheduling and routing for its Geek Squad brand—a team of field-based support professionals who serve customers in their homes and small businesses. IT executives decided to develop and deploy a full-scale scheduling, routing and dispatch application to more than 2,000 Geek Squad Agents.
While the application was under development, Best Buy deployed the mobile platform solution on which the application would ultimately reside to some 2,000 support professionals. Based on Windows Mobile powered smartphones, it is helping them be more productive and provide better service to customers, thanks to rapid access to schedule and route updates, rich communication and collaboration capabilities, and easy access to Internet-based technical content.
“With the limited Internet capability agents had before this solution, they were forced to bring along a trunkload of documents and manuals, or to try accessing needed technical content using the customer’s not-necessarily-functioning Internet connection,” says Scott Lepsch, Technical Specialist at Best Buy. “Now, agents have technical content whenever they need it.”
In addition, an agent can quickly refresh his or her memory of a customer’s larger situation—not just the problem at hand but also the customer’s service history, length of time using a given technology, and so on, providing a competitive advantage over businesses that do not provide field service personnel with rapid and constant access to comprehensive, real-time customer information.
Shipping Company Floats Enterprise Infrastructure Solution, Impresses Customers
As the second largest container-ship line in the world, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) relies on its 5-terabyte database that tracks more than 15 billion transactions a year. With annual growth of 30 percent and more and more data requests from its worldwide customers, MSC needed an enterprise solution that would scale with its growth, simplify database administration and help ensure high availability.
“For Mediterranean Shipping Company, and all other carriers, the global demands of shipping are always pressing,” says Bob Erickson, Executive Vice President for Software Development at Interlink, a fully owned subsidiary of Mediterranean Shipping Company. “In the United States alone, we move 1,200 inland containers per day. Even though our business is based on ocean shipping, we increasingly provide door-to-door service to meet customer needs. Looking ahead to growth in the number of containers moved and the need for more exacting data for customers, we know that our information systems have to scale up, for us to remain competitive.”
The company upgraded its database and has increased its agility to swiftly respond to customer needs, simplified database administration, provided faster query responses and given it an even better development platform. The agility that MSC has gained from being armed with the right tools and technologies is important. Erickson notes things change quickly in the global shipping business, and MSC employees must be able to adapt to help drive the business forward.
“The biggest challenge we face is trying to stay ahead of all the business requirements that are changing in the global shipping area,” says Erickson. “We constantly get new requests that have to be implemented very rapidly. We try to respond very quickly, giving our customers and our people the tools that they need to be more efficient and more effective. We work together globally to come up with solutions. There’s an attitude that we can make things happen and we can accomplish our work quickly.”
Paul Singer of Malibu Boats agrees attitudes have improved throughout all facets of his business since deploying a People-Ready solution.
“We’ve always been about people, whether the processes were more manual in the past than they are now. Our founder has always believed that someone who is happy in a place that they work is going to work harder,” he says. “What Microsoft has done is made our employees even better at their jobs, even more productive and even happier in their work environments. That makes everyone happy, and gives our bottom line a boost.”