Facing a host of complex business management demands, Victoria's Country Fire Authority (CFA) Fire Equipment Maintenance (FEM) division is realizing an aggressive plan to improve business efficiencies and customer service.
Manager Terry Hayes says the division has addressed multiple problems by deploying a new suite of business processes to smooth operations. The problems included an ageing software system needing manual interventions that was unequal to the demands of the business, and growing customer and brigade demands. And he says the solution is addressing calls for increasing accountability from the authority.
To address these issues, FEM wanted an open and integrated system providing a central repository of information for staff organization-wide and enabling seamless communication with CFA. It also wanted a web-enabled system that would allow brigades to dial into a system by secure Internet connection to check relevant job requirements and customer queries.
Eventually it chose Sage Accpac's integrated business management suite, comprising the Sage Accpac ERP and Service Manager systems, intending to implement the CRM application during stage two of the project. FEM completed rollout of the Sage Accpac ERP and Service Manager systems in December 2003, and will begin the CRM installation in January 2006.
The FEM's administration involves Customer Service & Enquiry, Service Management and Brigade Communication, each of which managed communication and information independently. The diversity of processes presented some strategic issues when considered against a backdrop of increasing workload, an ageing system and high reliance on paper based processes.
"The main issue we faced was in trying to provide 300 brigades with an integrated view of these different data pools, which is essential to data integrity, coordination and customer service. We also struggled to share information with other CFA corporate systems," Hayes says.
"In addition, the remote brigades had no visibility of the work or customer related data which meant they had to call our administration for minor queries. This substantially added to FEM's administrative and communications activities."
The result has been increasing sophistication of internal processes and the redistribution of functions across the internal network (that is, the decentralizing of some activities and transfer of others). This has made its task management and accounting systems more than flexible enough to meet requirements.
But Hayes says the achievements would never have come about without strong engagement from the business.
"Intrinsic to the solution has been the involvement of Online Business Solutions staff in the development of our business processes. They understand our business, which makes exploration of new opportunities or resolution of problems more of a team activity."
"In particular, FEM needed efficiency in managing the large volumes of active jobs and communicating customer service issues with the 300 brigades across the State," managing director of Online Business Solutions Frank Garth says." Another key need was complying with the performance guidelines for the issuing and collection of invoices, the distribution of funds and the accuracy of reports to individual brigades."
Online Business Solutions deployed the Sage Accpac system with a SQL database over a wide area network.
Hayes says the automated workflow built into the Sage Accpac ERP has resulted in more efficient management of the many active jobs and sales orders across the organization.
"The improvements to the workflow have been great. Procedures are now standardized, staff productivity has improved and there has been a significant reduction in delays and processing errors - all increasing our efficiency."
The next phase in the FEM Sage Accpac solution is CRM. Sage Accpac CRM, combined with Accpac Service Manager, should let the field to take ownership of the centralized customer database.
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