You could call it a case of learning to eat your own dog food.
During its almost decadelong relationship with IT distributor NewWave Technologies, solution provider BizTech Solutions had taken on critical projects, including integrating core accounting systems, managing Citrix Systems software implementations, and deploying Microsoft SharePoint collaboration technology. But perhaps the most ambitious effort this Microsoft Gold Certified Partner has undertaken for NewWave was a project less focused on products than on process. During the past year, BizTech has helped NewWave re-engineer its returns process—the type of project that's especially perplexing in the fast-moving IT industry.
NewWave President Bill Cordell said that during day-to-day interaction with BizTech, his team talked with the solution provider about its frustration with handling returns, which was being done manually and taking far too much time in the competitive scheme of things. "It could take several days for the approval process, the credit process, the RMA [return material authorization] process and then the paperwork process," he said.
BizTech and NewWave determined that they should apply emerging technology to the problem and outlined the behind-the-scenes steps to manage the conversion, concluding that the returns problem must be fixed first. "One thing people need to realize when they get involved in this type of work: The integrator can only do the work if you give them the information to do it," Cordell said.
Doane Hadley, president of BizTech, Freehold, N.J., said his team first focused on ways to replace paper. The earlier work BizTech had done for NewWave paid off, since the solution provider needed knowledge of its accounting systems to grasp how the returns workflow should be refined. To handle returns, authorization numbers, shipping addresses and other logistical data had to be collected. Each salesperson handled an average of 75 to 100 returns a month—a drain on productivity.
BizTech CTO Derwood Plyler said his engineers applied a .Net-based solution using Captaris Workflow, an application that integrates with the SharePoint software that BizTech already installed. Captaris Workflow provides companies with templates for defining and automating business processes. Other products that played a role in the solution included Micosoft's SQL Server 2000 and Windows 2000 and Dell server hardware.
Plyler said installing the software was easy. His team's challenge was convincing NewWave's employees that an automated process was more efficient. BizTech spent almost six months training the NewWave staff, and it also hosted a prototype application and ran it on an ASP basis so the distributor could become comfortable with the technology before it showed up on-site, Plyler said.
The next phase planned for the project is extending the current iteration of the solution to the Web site. To date, the distributor estimates it has cut the amount of time its accounting team spends on returns processing by 70 percent, or about two hours per day that could be spent on other tasks. More important, BizTech's success with this implementation proves it's possible to teach an old dog new tricks, especially in the world of business.
UPSIDE FOR TEH VAR
BizTech Solutions leveraged the knowledge and trust it had built with the customer in previous jobs and was able to land a more critical project with the company.
THE CUSTOMER VIEW
Distributor NewWave Technologies already knew it could rely on BizTech Solutions. And since BizTech already had a grasp of its systems, why not turn to the VAR for a new project?
BizTech applied a .Net-based solution using Captaris Workflow, which integrated with SharePoint. Also playing a role were SQL Server 2000, Windows 2000 and Dell server hardware.
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