Hills has unveiled plans to end a five-year agreement with Salesforce, after striking a deal with Microsoft to provide customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.
In revamping back-end office functions, the specialist distributor will work with a number of Microsoft Dynamics 365 partners during the deployment, including Barhead Solutions.
“Getting the right platform and the right partner was critical to ensure streamlined operations and continuous improvement in years to come,” Hills CEO and managing director, David Lenz, said.
“As well as delivering a clear return on investment for the business, we wanted a platform that would significantly improve the customer experience, streamline interaction with suppliers and create an efficient and collaborative workplace.”
According to Lenz - unveiled during Business Forward in Melbourne - the move to Microsoft was undertaken as part of a strategy to update and consolidate to a single cloud-based platform, replacing an excess of suppliers with strategic partners including network and communications from Telstra and computing hardware from Dell.
“Hills has grown through acquisition and has inherited a variety of ERP and CRM systems that are not able to deliver the long-term value that the organisation requires,” Lenz added.
“By consolidating suppliers and streamlining information systems, we’ll achieve world class scalable, real-time software-as-a-service (SaaS) technologies across all Hills A/NZ locations.”
Specifically, Lenz said Hills will work with Microsoft Dynamics partners to rollout the CRM platform as the first phase of the project over the coming months.
“We will then look to consolidate our ERP platform, replacing four separate ERPs with Dynamics 365,” Lenz explained. “Moving to a cloud-based solution will also ensure flexibility and scalability as Hills grows and expands, while at the same time reducing the risk posed by legacy infrastructure.
“The Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM SaaS model is scalable and together with Microsoft 365, gives us a complete end-to-end business technology stack without having to invest heavily in capex infrastructure.”
Upon the completion of the project, Lenz said the publicly-listed business will experience OPEX savings in excess of $1.8 million annually.
“Hills is an iconic Australian company that, 70 years on, is still evolving and adapting,” Lenz added. “We are focused on implementing strategies that will deliver improvements in our business and the best outcomes for our customers, shareholders, vendors and staff.”
Besides organic growth, Hills has expanded through acquisition, leaving the company with a patchwork quilt of “various ERPs and ineffective built CRMs”.
Consequently, plans are underway to consolidate suppliers and streamline information systems.
“Platforms and technologies introduced must support growth through both organic and future business acquisition activities and deliver improved operational efficiencies,” Hills general manager of sales operations, John Khoury, added.
“We realised that we have some great products and services but to compete in a global market and be agile and efficient - to survive and grow and acquire other businesses - we need to deliver a full digital transformation programme within 24 months.
“We feel Microsoft will be a key strategic partner helping us to take out complexity and address risk – both cyber and business risk.”
In already operating as an Office 365 enterprise user, Hills has since expanded its enterprise agreement to the Microsoft 365 stack, allowing the distributor to leverage Advanced Threat Protection, Azure Active Director, InTune and Windows 10 capabilities.
Furthermore, the business is also seeking to roll out SharePoint and OneDrive technologies.
Looking ahead, Microsoft Teams and Yammer will also be explored, in a bid to address any fragmentation within Hills’ 400-strong workforce, operating on both sides of the Tasman.
“We have a complete end-to-end business technology stack without having to invest heavily in capex infrastructure,” Khoury said.
“The SaaS model is scalable up and down, it gives us a lot more flexibility and agility and integrated solutions with Microsoft 365 as well as the ERP and CRM of Microsoft Dynamics.
“It is going to make us more agile to better position ourselves for any M&A opportunities and support organic growth whilst taking out complexity and risk.”
James Henderson attended Business Forward as a guest of Microsoft