The constant theme running throughout Hills Ltd’s 70 plus years of history has been innovation and renewal.
Not content to rest on the laurels of the Hills hoist, invented in 1945, the company went on to craft TV antennae and satellite communications, before diversifying into security solutions. Hills divested and acquired businesses over the years and today markets a broad range of technology and communications products and services.
The innovation that has characterised the business since inception extends to its internal operations and the company is currently embarked on a digital and technology transformation that will lay the foundations for streamlined operations and continuous improvement.
Beside delivering a clear return on investment for the business it has been designed to significantly improve the customer experience, streamline Hills’ interaction with suppliers and create a modern and collaborative workplace for employees.
John Khoury is the general manager sales operation, technology and change management at Hills Ltd who is leading the programme of work.
Besides its organic growth Hills has expanded through acquisition, which has left the company with something of a patchwork quilt of what Khoury describes as “various ERPs and ineffective built CRMs” that were never going to deliver the value that the organisation needed.
By consolidating suppliers and streamlining the information systems Khoury wants to; “Deliver the best in world class scalable, agile and real-time Software as a Service (SaaS) technologies across all Hills ANZ locations. Platforms and technologies introduced must support growth through both organic and future business acquisition activities and deliver improved operational efficiencies”.
Key to that ambitious intent is replacing an excessive variety of suppliers with trusted strategic partners, most particularly Microsoft.
“Hills is an iconic brand that is transforming itself into new markets. We feel Microsoft will be a key strategic partner helping us to take out complexity and address risk – both cyber and business risk,” says Khoury,
Already an Office 365 enterprise user, Hills has since expanded its enterprise agreement to the Microsoft 365 stack allowing it to leverage Advanced Threat Protection, Azure Active Director, InTune and a raft of Windows 10 capabilities.
It is also looking to roll out SharePoint and OneDrive as the foundation for a more agile and collaborative workforce. Longer term Khoury is interested in the potential of Microsoft Teams and Yammer to address any fragmentation within Hills’ 400-strong workforce to create a more united and cohesive team across the nation.
A major project now underway will also see Hills replace Salesforce with Dynamics 365 which will form both the CRM and ERP foundations for the company.
Khoury says the upgrade is required as the Salesforce system had never been fully utilised or integrated with other applications. Hefty customisation also meant that Hills never benefited from the updates that characterise most SaaS solutions.
The transition to Dynamics 365 alongside effective change management and end user training is expected to deliver far greater benefits as will the tight integration with Dynamics’ ERP functions. Hills will initially deploy the customer engagements functions of Dynamics, for case management, field sales and mass marketing with plans in the future to leverage the tight integration with LinkedIn and Adobe to support its sales and marketing efforts.
Hills is working with Microsoft partner Barhead Solutions to consolidate its ERP platform, replacing four separate ERPs with Dynamics 365. The accounting and supply chain module along with sales, distribution and logistics are to be rolled out first followed by IT help desk and project management functions which Khoury expects will reduce Hills’ reliance on offshore support teams.
Moving to the cloud-based ERP solution will also ensure flexibility and scalability as Hills grows and expands – while at the same time reducing the risk Hills would face from legacy infrastructure and complexity.
Cyber risks are being addressed through the transition to Microsoft 365 and Windows 10, extending to email and web filtering, over a new premium fibre fully managed Telstra network.
Khoury notes that it also positions the business to deal more efficiently with M&A opportunities that arise.
“We have a complete end-to-end business technology stack without having to invest heavily in capex infrastructure. The SaaS model is scalable up and down, it gives us a lot more flexibility and agility and integrated solutions with Microsoft 365 as well as the ERP and CRM of Microsoft Dynamics.
“This will help us fast-track the ‘One Hills, One Outcome’ mission – to be an integrated organisation able to up- and cross-sell a wide range of products and services. A total one-stop-shop in various sectors.
“It is going to make us more agile to better position ourselves for any M&A opportunities and support organic growth whilst taking out complexity and risk,” which is why says Khoury; “This is a partnership with Microsoft.”