Advanced Feeds benefits from boosted intelligence

SharePoint Technology brings the team together, says director

Canterbury-based Advanced Feeds is claiming productivity improvements from a business intelligence-focused technology upgrade.

The project, which won Christchurch-based systems integrator Datasouth a Microsoft Partner Award, solves a number of system bottlencks impeding the flow of vital management information at the Methven company.

Advanced Feeds owner-director John Wright says his small business, which grew out of his parents’ arable farming operation, previously had a labour-intensive and disjointed IT system that was unable to cope with the company’s growth.

It was difficult for staff to share data either with themselves or customers, especially for sales staff seeking to inform customers out on the road. Scheduling pick up and deliveries was also a manual process and administering company information was becoming a costly burden.

The company employs 10 people and Wright is its IT department.

Early last year, he recruited Datasouth to look at how to solve the company’s communication and information problems, saying the supplier understands the cost constraints of small enterprises.

The winning solution involved installing a server with Microsoft Small Business Server 2003; Microsoft Exchange Server for email and collaboration; and Windows SharePoint Services to create internal groups of websites that allow the sharing of documents, calendars and task lists using an extranet.

Utilising SQL Server 2005 Work Group Edition also lets Datasouth create a customised stocktracking and supply chain management business intelligence solution using SharePoint and SQL reporting services.

Keeping track of both manufactured and raw material stocks is now done using software from a Datasouth subsidiary, Synergy Business Solutions.

Small Business Server 2003 and Exchange Server 3003, coupled with the SharePoint extranet also allows email to PDAs and laptops through the use of Outlook synchronisation, Outlook Web Access and Outlook Mobile Access.

“Dragging Synergy software information and reporting on the SharePoint was the core focus,” explains Wright.

Overall, Advanced Feeds claims better customer service, a reduced sales cycle, ease of maintenance, and administrative productivity gains from the project.

“I’m really liking the SharePoint Technology with its ability to bring our team together,” Wright continues.

The project has been a year-long work in progress, he says, with completion six months ago. The biggest challenge was taking the time to understand the new technology, but Datasouth provided training with more sessions planned.

Looking back, Wright says the implementation perhaps could have taken longer for the company to get its head around the core technology and to allow more development in-house.

“I think, again with hindsight, that we should have ignored some of the ‘bells and whistles’, which were nice to have rather than essential,” he says.

Craig Gerken, general manager of Datasouth, says Advanced Feeds using a Microsoft platform allowed for easy integration and SharePoint allows easy extraction of data.

Overall, the project will enable the business to use technology to improve business productivity, rather than just manage it.

Datasouth is doing much work around SQL Server and Windows Office Sharepoint Services for business intelligence and better reporting, Gerken says. This gives users meaningful information to help make decisions on where to take their business.

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