When Rhonda Harling joined 4Solutions as its new marketing manager, it was an exciting time for the company – business was booming, the company was expanding, and sales were on the rise.
4Solutions, an IT company that specializes in electronic data interchange (EDI), runs the largest B2B pharmaceutical exchange gateway in Australia, with additional customers in the Philippines and New Zealand. The company originally had a team of six employees in Australia and three in the Philippines, but after landing a large contract to be an exclusive service provider of EDI services, the company has grown to include 10 full-time employees in Australia with five additional contractors, and 12 full-time employees in the Philippines.
But with the expansion of the business and the addition of new staff, 4Solutions was also running into some potential problems.
“We’d grown so fast, and had added a lot of new staff, so people didn’t know the status of projects, and they would have to call someone or Skype someone or email someone,” said Rhonda. “The team was using lots of different methods to try to get information and things were getting lost in the system.”
The company was already using WORK[etc] to input customer contacts and leads, and jot down project notes. Rhonda knew they could be using WORK[etc] to do much more.
Where it all began: the staff challenge
“I said to Cliff, ‘If only we had some central thing of being able to find out where we’re up to with projects,’” said Rhonda. “And Cliff said, ‘I think we can use WORK[etc]. I think it’s got everything we’re looking for. We just need someone to spend a bit of time and have a look at it, what it can do.’”
Clifford Bunten, the 4Solutions CEO, agreed with Rhonda that they could come up with a better system, and so they took it to the team. They created a staff challenge for the Commercial team to take a day and come up with new ways to use WORK[etc] and utilize the features they weren’t already using.
On a Thursday morning, Rhonda and 4Solutions’ relationship manager, Verity McLaughlin, went up to the boardroom to create a foolproof system. “Our goals were to create a system that didn’t let anything slip through the cracks and didn’t add to anyone’s workload,” said Rhonda. “We also wanted to ensure that everyone has access to the same and most current information about a customer.”
The team gathered, and over many, many cups of coffee, spent the day hashing out their new system.
“We all kicked ideas around,” said Rhonda. “Cliff was writing on the whiteboard, to give us an overview of requirements. Verity used her laptop, so we had a visual overview of the steps. I was using paper to record my thoughts. So, lots of brainstorming, paper, laptops, whiteboard and everything plus many coffee cups! Apart from listening to the boss, when he set the parameters, it was lots of talking over each other, and quite fun!”
The staff challenge was a fantastic success – by the end of it, Rhonda, Verity, and the Commercial team had come up with a whole new system for using WORK[etc]: the Project Lifecycle. The Project Lifecycle is now the backbone for how 4Solutions handles client projects.
“We want to use WORK[etc] as much as possible because it’s just so centralized. Nothing gets lost and everybody knows where everything is.”
– Rhonda Harling, Marketing Manager, 4Solutions
Challenge results: The Project Lifecycle
After the team had hashed out the steps, Rhonda spent a weekend training herself on WORK[etc] by watching videos that explained the features 4Solutions wanted to use. She then developed training materials for the rest of the company that explained exactly how the Project Lifecycle worked and how it is implemented in WORK[etc].
Each individual step of the Project Lifecycle is laid out for everyone to see in WORK[etc]. Steps are color-coded as well, to show which department is responsible for which step of the Project Lifecycle. Red represents the Commercial/Sales team, blue is for Accounting, and green is for Operations.
The result is that now every 4Solutions team member knows the status of every project, and how far along the project lifecycle each project is. Each team member knows what they are supposed to do for each project, and when they need to do it. Project tasks are no longer getting lost in the shuffle. And the best part is that it’s not putting any extra burden on team members to do it – it’s making everyone’s jobs easier.
“We’re finding that using the Project Lifecycle is not really any extra work for us because it’s just centralizing what we do,” said Rhonda, “and down the line it’s actually a lot less work because we’re not searching through old emails to find that information or looking through our notes to find out who spoke to whom, and it’s all just there in one place. It really has helped us a lot.”
After implementing the new Project Lifecycle, 4Solutions was able to increase staff numbers at its Philippines office from four employees to 12. Project revenue also increased by 300% for the year to date compared to last year due to a combination of the new Project Lifecycle, as well as “more focused activity in account management,” according to her.
And now that they’ve got the Project Lifecycle running smoothly, Rhonda wants to incorporate even more features of WORK[etc] into the company’s daily workflow.
“We’d like to take a good look at WORK[etc]’s invoicing feature soon,” she said. “We’ve got a new finance manager, so it’ll be one of the things she’ll be looking at. We want to use WORK[etc] as much as possible because it’s just so centralized. Nothing gets lost and everybody knows where everything is.”
Rhonda’s Top Tip for Managing a Growing Business
“Having a centralized place for your information is key. When you expand it’s really easy for things to get lost, unintentionally, as different people take calls and people are out of the office.
“You might forget to ring someone, or email them late at night, but if you have everything centralized, like we do using WORK[etc]’s Discussion feature, you don’t have to go out of your way to contact everyone because it’s sort of done automatically really. It’s a good way to help handle your expansion because it can really help you to be organized.”
– Rhonda Harling, Marketing Manager, 4Solutions
WORK[etc] is a cloud-based, all-in-one business management software that breaks down the barriers between your customer relationship management, time management, and project management. With WORK[etc], here’s what you can accomplish in one platform:
- Consolidate multiple apps into the one platform
- CRM, Projects, Scheduling, Invoicing, Help Desk & more
- iPhone, Android and web apps
- Gmail, Outlook, and inbox gadgets
- Open API and integration tool set
For more information, visit http://www.worketc.com/features-overview/.
Centralising all our client information (including technical stuff like logins, server IP addresses, etc) has been key to running our business this year.
Beforehand this information was scattered on a variety of systems and at the time you don’t realise how not having everything within immediate reach can slow down every single task. I know that Work[Etc] has improved our support staff’s workflow in such a positive way in 2014 that I don’t think they would want to live without it!
I think 2015 will be the year we look towards automating a lot of tasks, because now all the staff are trained and have embedded their workflow into W[e] they are happy to start experimenting with saving even more time and energy. The new mobile apps and revamped desktop versions will keep those of us that like shiny new things very happy!
As a solo entrepreneur in the IT space I would love to hope that i can achieve similar success. I am hoping with the utilisation of tools such as Work[etc] opportunities for growth will also present themselves.
Currently I have been using a lot of social aspects for growth but see the potential in growing my business and improving the practices I utilise to achieve success.
4solutions experience seems to be very similar to ours! We have been using WORKetc in a basic way for the last 12 months. That gave us enough rigour in our systems to double in size. Now after the great blog by Steve on Projrct Types and Stages we are about to introduce a slicker way to use the system and introduce our own version of 4solutioms Project Lifecycle. In this last stage I have also spotted what I think will be the next two stages of enhancement of how we use WE, but I will let the team get to grips with things one step at a time!!
Glad to hear this Ian. Happy to chat more with you anytime.
Great article. The point I think to be crucial is “We’re finding that using the Project Lifecycle is not really any extra work for us… and down the line it’s actually a lot less work…”. You need to have buy in from the people who are working the lifecycle. We are currently facing this issue. The more buy in you have from the smoother the cycle works. This is a great testimonial!
Excellent timing on this article. I have been looking at ways we can better use Work[etc] to it’s fullest potential. I love the idea of doing a staff challenge! Planning the objectives for ours later today!
Great stuff Donna. There’s always more to learn, but the Team are here to help. What works for one person may not be right for another, but if you want to bounce ideas around with one of the Team here let us know!
Hi Rhonda – fantastic work and congratulations on optimising your systems with WE – it’s been a great tool for us as well.
With the Project Lifecycle process – is that a templated project within the system with various to-dos assigned to project members?
With the type of work I do with WORK[etc], This part of Rhonda’s testimony stuck out the most was “WORK[etc] Discussion Feature”. For me this is the most common feature i put to use. It allows me to communicate with the clients and other employees. Not of our employees work at the office, so having this makes it that much easier to communicate and keep projects/discussion in order. Keep up the great work, WORK[etc]!
I love the use of the discussion feature because it helps people that are off site be able to assess the project and see what is going on from a glance through the discussions feature. We use them frequently at our company and they have helped us all keep in touch. There was nothing better than the communication and being all on the same page.
I can relate to the growth of 4Solutions and Work[etc]. Working for a smaller business, we too have things fall through the cracks. We have used a few different CRM software’s. It wasn’t until Work[etc] that we found the single most important thing (in my opinion) is the centralization. The 2 quotes used about letting thing slip through cracks, and saving employee time by not re-inventing the wheel, are both remedied with centralization. We have a smaller staff as well, and you would think it would be easier with a small staff, but it still happens. With introducing Work[etc], it has helped to minimize those incidents.
It sounds like 4Solutions may have the project life cycle down a little cleaner than us, but we look forward to having a solution to work out kinks. The challenge for us is auxiliary projects and emergencies. As a user we have multiple tasks lists. That list can grow very long at times. If a deadline is not met or pushed back by an emergency, then the due date has to be changed on those tasks. So its difficult to know the priority sometimes. We have some business practices to improve on there, but are happy to hear we have the right software to make it possible.
The Project Management is great for the company I work with. There are several employees that are not in the central office, and with the project manager the key people working on those projects can see the status of everything.
Has really helped out small business get more on sync with one another.
I’m the support manager for a rapidly growing jail commissary company in the southeastern US. My first task when hired earlier this year was implementing a help desk solution for issues tracking that interfaced with our CRM. I ended up going with Work[ETC] and replacing our ancient, inadequate CRM along with implementing the help desk. We’ve been very happy with it, and are approaching our 700th support case logged since August. We’re now implementing sales lead and project management protocols using Work[ETC], as well, with expense reporting coming next. We’ve got four support staff, two field sales people, one in-house sales person, and the division manager happily plugging away on it, and looking to use it for more.
Thanks for sharing your story 4Solutions. It’s great to hear how other companies are learning to make full use of WORKetc.
Our experience at TechHelp has been similar. The marketing team first used WORKetc to fill the hole in our front end engagements with clients. It worked beautifully.
A small team of “Pioneers” from different departments was charged with exploring and testing all of the capabilities of WORKetc. Like you, we quickly learned that we had only explored the tip of the iceberg. As the pioneers lead the rest of our team into the Project, Invoice and Reporting capabilities of the system, our biggest challenge is to create “standard work” processes from among the many options available in WORKetc.
I love your Project Lifecycle approach and will share this with our WORKetc Pioneers.
Another great success story guys, well done to you and the team at 4Solutions.
There is no doubt in my mind that the collection of tools offered by WORKetc is second to none other that I have found. I am able to manage my consulting business from the initial marketing stage right through to the delivery and the all important payment from one easy to use product.
Here’s to another great year in 2015!
Fantastic use of W[e] and a solid Project Lifecycle. This has helped me to re-think a couple of steps I could add into our own lifecycle as we continue to slim down our target client and really focus on repeatable systemized projects. The growth of 4Solutions goes to show how important systems are to have in place yesterday because you never know when that growth spirt is coming!
Very good write-up. We consolidated 4 systems to one Work[etc] implementation and has become the center for customer relationship management, project management, support ticketing, T&E, and documentation. I’m glad this platform is working out so well for others as it has for us.
This case study is a great example of bringing in Project Management concepts to manage the workflow, and using an integrated tool like WorkEtc to facilitate the centralization of work. Not only that, but WorkEtc also provides a Knowledge Repository where you can store training documents (like the Project Lifecycle diagram above), PM best practices, and project artifacts to attach to each project as well! Great job!
Another great case study explaining the business process problems that Work[etc.] solves.
We successfully replaced four solutions with Work[etc.]. Not only did this save us money, but more importantly it saved time. We have better communication across our internal departments, and we have created an “ecosystem” where all of our business processes live.
Looking forward to growing with Work[etc.]! Keep up the good work!
A great case study, as someone in a similar field it’s great to see with the overpopulation of the market that there is still opportunity for growth. I am looking forward to continued growth over the next 12 months and more great case studies for guidance and motivation.
I’ve actually met them before (they’re Australian office is local to my area) and it’s great to see WORK[etc] helping them move forward.
Our company uses WORK[etc] for our project management, as well. It’s helpful to see all facets of a project in one place, and not have to ‘go looking’ for the next step.
A great success story. Its great to see how having the right systems and processes in place can make such a difference. There is always room for improvement and this case study really illustrates that.