Consulting Firm Helps Clients Improve Business Processes With Integrated Solution

“We haven’t seen anything in the midmarket that competes with what this software delivers for a project accounting solution-not even from industry-specific players.” –Mike Silver, Partner, Omnios

 When clients approach Omnios, a Microsoft Gold Certified Business Solutions partner in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, they want help solving business issues-and they want it fast.  Omnios uses Microsoft Dynamics SL to serve its clients, which include project-oriented companies such as marketing agencies, contractors, and other professional services firms.  By using Microsoft Dynamics SL to integrate its clients’ project accounting and financial software with other business applications, Omnios helps clients increase their business efficiency relatively quickly.  Customers report reduced closing times for financial statements, shortened sales and billing cycles, and increased productivity.  Omnios can also easily customize Microsoft Dynamics SL to fit unique customer needs.  The company attributes 90 percent of its sales to Microsoft Dynamics SL solutions.

Situation

Omnios, a Microsoft Gold Certified Business Solutions partner located in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, specializes in technology consulting and software implementation.  The company focuses on businesses that need to track expenses and income for specific projects and jobs.  For example, Omnios helps many professional services firms, which depend on linking projects with costs and revenues to run their businesses effectively.

“We see ourselves as business consultants and solution architects for midmarket companies,” says Mike Silver, a partner at Omnios.  To better serve its customers, Omnios developed a methodology to help customers: The six-step process includes planning, interactive modeling, installing, migrating data and documenting business policies, training, and support.

In addition, the company has earned several prestigious awards.  In 2003, Omnios earned the Microsoft Solomon Excellence Award for its overall success, customer satisfaction, and high degree of innovation with Microsoft Business Solutions Technologies and Services.  Also in 2003, the company was named the Microsoft Business Solutions President’s Club for the ninth consecutive year for its business performance and high levels of sales achievement and customer satisfaction.  Omnios draws on this expertise to serve its customers. 

Most of the project-centric companies that call on Omnios for help share one requirement: They want a unified solution to support their project accounting and project marketing processes.  Yet, these customers have individual needs as well.  The following stories of three customers, each with different objectives, illustrate why Omnios sees Microsoft Dynamics SL as both a reliable solution for its clients and a strategic tool for building its business.

Marketing Services Firm Needed to Consolidate Its Systems

A large marketing services firm was struggling to deal with a mixture of systems created by recent company acquisitions.  The firm worked from multiple offices throughout the country and operated on seven separate general ledgers.  It often took the company a month to close its financial statements.

The firm’s employee labored to consolidate information from multiple accounting, inventory, and project management systems.  The new chief executive officer wanted to bring all these disparate systems together-and he wanted the job done quickly.  He set an aggressive time frame, with the first deliverables due in three months and project completion scheduled in less than six months.  “Businesses want quick solutions.  That’s why we developed a standard methodology and why we look for solutions that can be implemented in a relatively short time,” says Craig Sommerfield, a Partner at Omnios. 

Trade-Show Vendor Desired Easier Tracking of Complex Jobs

Another company, a trade-show services vendor overwhelmed by rapid growth, turned to Omnios for help in refining its systems.  The vendor found itself unable to effectively manage the 9,000 jobs a year it was accepting, some of which were worth more than U.S.$1 Million.  The company dealt with everything from the labor and materials costs of moving huge display booths across the country to purchasing furniture and T-shirts for its clients.  Furthermore, the vendor used three separate systems to handle job-related information, billing, financials, and payroll.  Because of these issues, the company asked Omnios to help revamp its processes.

Public Relations Firm Sought to Improve Business Processes

A public relations (PR) firm also contacted Omnios for help.  The PR firm was using multiple software programs and time-consuming manual processes to prepare client billings.  Employees would spend hours re-entering data and handling administrative details-time that could have been spent on revenue-generating activities.  To track work hours, the staff used one program, which exported the data into Microsoft Excel for processing.  Staff members would then import that information to Microsoft Word when they prepared invoices.  Because of these disparate programs, the entire billing process took weeks.

Solution

Omnios began developing solutions for the three firms by reviewing each client’s needs, goals, and objectives to determine an appropriate recommendation.  Omnios typically creates a profile of an individual client’s requirements and uses the flowcharts in Microsoft Visio drawing and diagramming software to clarify how the company’s business processes work.  Omnios then develops a customized plan for each client.  “We don’t just roll up our sleeves and start doing things,” says Silver.  “We take the time to make sure our targets are right.”

Omnios used Microsoft Dynamics SL to serve all three companies.  Although each customer presented different requirements, Omnios found that Microsoft Dynamics SL met their numerous needs.  “Our clients want a solution that can adapt to their business environments-not one that requires them to change their practices to fit a particular software application,” says Sommerfield.  “The flexibility offered in Microsoft Dynamics SL means we can offer a tailored solution without having to write a lot of custom code.”

Bringing Systems Together Quickly

Implementing Microsoft Dynamics SL helped Omnios bring together the marketing services firm’s various accounting, inventory, and project management systems within the tight deadlines required.  Omnios deployed a new financial accounting system within two-and-a-half months.  Within four months of deployment, Omnios had the project accounting tools in place.  Now, different divisions of the marketing services company are not only able to work collaboratively on projects, but they can also view project and financial information in real time.  Costs can be tracked against projects, and the revenue and bills for each project can be assigned independently of each other.  Microsoft Dynamics SL also provides the company with a centralized billing system.

Extending Value Through Custom Applications

For the trade-show services vendor, Omnios installed modules for financial management, distribution, and professional services automation.  Omnios also recommended some customizations.  The Microsoft Dynamics SL Technical Center wrote the customizations by using Tools for Visual Basic development system, a module within Microsoft Dynamics SL that provides a development foundation for building complete line-of-business applications.  The customizations included:

  • A job-entry application to make it easier to set up projects, showing the budgets, contracts, and billing information tied to each project.
  • A transportation module for freight and handling transactions that automates billings and releases the entries to purchase order, accounts payable, and project management systems.
  • An enhancement to the Project Allocator in Microsoft Dynamics SL to simplify assigning costs and revenues to complex projects.

The open architecture of Microsoft Dynamics SL not only made it possible to integrate the solution into the client’s existing Microsoft infrastructure, but it also made it easy to add new applications.  “One of the chief advantages of using this solution is that it’s from Microsoft,” says Sommerfield.  “Most companies are already using Microsoft SQL Server for database storage, so it’s easy to add Microsoft Dynamics SL on top of it and use industry-standard tools for customization.”

Microsoft Dynamics SL simplified serving customers in other ways, too.  For example, in the past, the trade-show vendor had difficulty tracking items-such as chairs or T-shirts purchased on be half of the client-and assigning them to particular projects.  Now, with the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics SL, it can track and assign items easily.  In addition, the company’s Web site was updated to allow its clients to view their inventory and place orders.  At the time of implementation, no other trade-show vendor offered that service.

Simplifying Billing Processes and Reporting

For the PR firm bogged down with a complicated billing process, Omnios suggested integrating the billing and project accounting systems using Microsoft Dynamics SL.  Initially, the client had considered a custom solution, but the company ruled that out when it discovered that it could achieve the same benefits of integration with Microsoft Dynamics SL at less than half the cost of the custom solution-and it could deploy the solution in about a year.

The Microsoft Dynamics SL solution linked the accounts payable, accounts receivable, and billing systems together, thereby eliminating the need to re-key and manipulate information in separate programs.  In addition, Omnios installed a module to evaluate staffing and developed five custom reports to provide detailed fee and revenue comparisons by project.  The reports also help break down internal costs and invoice types-such as fixed-fee, time-and-materials, cost-plus, or not-to-exceed billings-to help the company gain insights into which billing arrangements are most profitable.

Omnios integrated the Microsoft Dynamics SL solution with Microsoft Windows Small Business Server and Microsoft Office, too.  Now, all employees can run project-tracking reports and analyze materials from their desktops.  They can also export reports to Excel for distribution across the organization.

Benefits

Omnios chose Microsoft Dynamics SL as the foundation for its company’s offerings because it fulfills the needs of so many customers.  “We looked at all the products in this tier,” says Silver.  “We haven’t seen anything in the midmarket that competes with what this software delivers for a project accounting solution-not even from Industry-specific players.”

By using Microsoft Dynamics SL to bring multiple systems together into a cohesive whole, Omnios not only helped its clients eliminate time-consuming and error-inducing manual processes, but also helped increase productivity and customer satisfaction for its own customers.  Clients told Omnios that giving managers ready access to reports provides more visibility into their projects and that, as a result, managers have made better decisions.  Other achievements that the clients have reported include the following:

  • Improvements in cash flow and a quick return on investment-The marketing services firm reduced the closing time for its financial statements from approximately four weeks to 15 days.  The company also cut its inventory by U.S.$500,000 and recouped its investment in nine months.
  • Time-savings in sales and billing cycles-The trade-show services firm reduced its billing process by three to six weeks.  Microsoft Dynamics SL also helped reduce the time required to set up projects.  In addition, the company trimmed its sales cycle from five months to a little more than three weeks.
  • Productivity gains and time-savings for PR firm-By using Microsoft Dynamics SL, the PR firm increased its billable hours by nearly 30 percent, an unprecedented increase for the company.  The automated record-keeping helped it slash the time spent on billing from 25 hours per month to 5 hours per month, while cutting three weeks from its billing cycle. 

Omnios cites three factors that have made Microsoft Dynamics SL the foundation of its business: flexibility, ease of implementation, and the smooth integration into its clients’ existing infrastructure.  “It’s a powerful combination,” says Sommerfield.  “And having Microsoft’s research and development behind this solution gives customers confidence and helps us close more new business.”

Selling Microsoft Dynamics SL often opens other opportunities for the Microsoft reseller, too.  For example, one client contracted with Omnios to interview prospective IT employees to ensure that any new hires understood the Microsoft Dynamics SL solution.  In addition, satisfied clients refer other companies to Omnios, as do the vendors the company has worked with while installing Microsoft Dynamics SL at various locations.

The company’s close association with Microsoft helps it as well.  Omnios credits its Microsoft representative for the company’s high level of sales and support.  “He’s been incredibly responsive to our needs,” says Silver.  “He provides everything we ask for.”  Omnios draws on support from Microsoft, its own expertise, and a focus on customer needs to base its business on the flexible software solution.  Omnios attributes 90 percent of its sales to Microsoft Dynamic SL, and the company predicts a bright future.  “Our customers think they have a competitive advantage with this solution,” Silver says.  “And because our customers believe that, we have a competitive advantage, too.”

Omnios
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