Federated Farmers provides a range of services, and a powerful lobbying voice, for 18,000 member farmers and rural families throughout New Zealand. A recent success is the exclusion of farm dogs from the compulsory dog-chipping legislation.
But the organisation still needs chips and, more importantly, software to run on them, to help monitor and coordinate the views of its members and deliver advice to them. A nationwide team of field officers regularly visit farmers with a focus on recruitment and retention, as well as hearing and responding to their concerns. Members’ views are canvassed by staff and elected representatives who formulate submissions to influence local and central government decision-making.
With growth in terms of both members and areas of responsibility, however, the group was struggling to coordinate member views, and communicate relevant updates on policies and debating points in return.
Federated Farmers had been managing its member database and communications through an ageing Microsoft Access-based membership system. This had limited functionality, and because it was custom-developed it had only limited support. As membership increased, the system’s performance started deteriorating.
Moreover, it wasn’t integrated with the group’s accounting system, Sage Accpac ERP, installed in 2000. Subscription receipts were entered into two systems — and therefore needed to be reconciled manually. Membership data was exchanged between offices on CDs and word documents were emailed between offices.
The group recruited systems integrator and developer BES to provide a solution. BES recommended that Federated Farmers upgrade its Accpac ERP system to the Enterprise Edition (500), and implement Accpac CRM 500, also from Sage.
In parallel, Federated Farmers decided to turn to a hosted environment to compensate for its limited inhouse ICT skills and lack of shared network. It chose Pacific Technology Solutions (PTS) as the hosting provider. PTS provides data circuits between the main Federated Farmers offices (Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin), with ADSL connections to the smaller offices.
The manager of corporate services, David Bryant, says that the new system has already helped significantly during this year’s annual subscription billing process.
Centralised intelligence has also improved the delivery of initiatives such as the Friday Flash newsletter. Its distribution is now managed through a single contact list in Accpac CRM and it is sent via email to some 9,500 members every week. Federated Farmers can also now issue regular communications of specific interest to different subgroups.
The CRM applcation logs all calls made through the 0800 advice service, so that the quality of advice can be monitored and the organisation is more accountable to its members. A system of escalation alerts in the Accpac CRM system ensures that case files are progressed routinely within set timeframes.