Career Services extends Microsoft CRM across organisation

Especially attractive is the ability to customise elements of the software while still having the familiar look and feel of the base product, says general manager

Two years ago, a post-restructuring review at government agency Career Services identified a need to create a single view of how people interacted with the organisation.

Career Services information systems general manager Craig Le Quesne says the goal was to understand more about how and why people use its services.

“To do this effectively, we need access to a consolidated view of a customer’s interactions with us — whether they take place over the phone, during face-to-face meetings, or via the website’s online chat service,” he says.

At that time, there was already a project under way to implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the Career Services call centre. In fact, Career Services was one of the first local organisations to implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3, says Le Quesne, and the users were happy with it.

“We decided it was a fantastic building block,” he says.

Especially attractive was the ability to customise elements of the software while still having the familiar look and feel of the base product.

“First and foremost we are not a development shop,” Le Quesne says. He says that’s what Microsoft and partner Simpl, engaged after a competitive tender, do best.

“Essentially we pretty much run on a Microsoft platform,” Le Quesne says.

Staff are constantly being trained on Microsoft tools including Outlook, Explorer and Word among others. Le Quesne describes this training is a “long-term investment” and it was another attraction of Microsoft’s software. It is very closely integrated with Outlook, he says.

“That keeps it as familiar as possible for users.”

Le Quesne says the timeline for the project is unusually luxurious, with the go-live date being set to coincide with the new financial year, July 1 2008.

Business analysis happened between January and March this year and the implementation and customisation is being worked on now. Testing will occur after Christmas and that leaves plenty of time for staff training for the 180 users, he says.

“That’s the most important part, the user training and change management.”

Simpl will replace an existing custom-built database with a more standard Microsoft SQL database as part of the project.

Le Quesne says that database was built in .Net but Career Services can’t sustain it.

“It served us well but it’s not worth investing any more in,” he says.

Le Quesne says when the project went to procurement, through the Government Electronic Tenders website, it became clear that many organisations had the technical ability to do the work.

Given that, the key considerations in selecting Simpl centred on cost and project management expertise.

Simpl Group chief operating officer John Hanna says project management is a foundation pillar of the company.

“We applied a particularly heavy weight to it on this project,” he says.

Hanna says the Career Services project was one where the company could make a difference to the lives of a lot of New Zealanders, and “making a difference” is one of the company’s mantras.

It was also an opportunity to hone its CRM skills.

“We had a good CRM team before the project, now it’s the best in the country,” he says.

Simpl is working hard to stay engaged with its alumni of past employees and this project was also one where that came into play. A former employee was flown back from Peru to be involved in the project’s early stages, Hanna says.

Le Quesne was unwilling to put an exact figure on the project’s budget, except to say it is less than half and million dollars. He says overall he feels like he has full information about the project all the time and can look the Simpl team in the eye and “ask hard questions”.

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