The advent of commercially-available electricity in Australia was a technical marvel 140 years ago and the National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) became its gatekeeper not long after.
Today it is responsible for nearly 5,000 members, boasts a 100,000-person workforce and also trains and employs 700 electrical contractors to hire out to member organisations.
However, after more than a century in operation, some of its critical systems, especially around membership payments, were unable to support its growth.
Although NECA had attempted to adapt and work with the systems, by 2017, NECA NSW and ACT executive director Oliver Judd decided that it was time for an overhaul.
“It’s hard to imagine but we were sending out hundreds of invoices in the old system and then just waiting for people to pay,” Judd said. “Some of them pay, others intend to pay but don’t get around to it, so we have to spend a significant amount of time and energy calling them.”
Further complicating matters was that many NECA locations around Australia were using different CRMs, which reduced the organisation's cross-operational viability.
“As a 100-year-old business we’d become a bit of a patchwork quilt with bits and pieces plugged in over the years. We needed to reorganise the whole business, replace our outdated and poorly integrated systems, and standardise our processes," Judd admitted.
Individual users also faced problems, with NECA’s services split across a number of platforms; contractors had to remember up to six different platforms to access information.
“We want to bring it all within one environment, making it easier for members to access information. This includes offering single sign-on. Right now, it’s crazy,” Judd said.
In order to address all these issues, NECA turned to Parramatta-based software provider Sognos to consolidate their systems.
Leveraging their partnership with Microsoft, the provider implemented a number of new systems, including an integrated Dynamics 365 CRM, ClickDimensions Marketing Automation and Dynamics NAV finance system.
Currently, half of their members are using the new systems and NECA is already seeing improvements, Judd claimed.
“Once members are in the direct debit system, we don’t have to chase them for debts because it just rolls over continuously. We’re going to save a huge amount of man hours not having to chase up our debtors,” he said.
“We also have a number of other product subscriptions that sit on the portal, which they can now more easily purchase, so our cashflow’s getting a lot better.”
Rick Vosila, managing director at Sognos, said part of the integration’s success was due NECA's willingness to take up the new systems.
“I think Oliver [Judd’s] embracing of the solution, including working so closely with Sognos, has played a huge part in how well it has gone. It goes beyond the technology; the partnership was key,” Vosila said.
Judd added that Sognos helped considerably with the process.
“Sognos has been really responsive," he said. "They put one of their staff members in the NECA office from the start, which was particularly helpful right after we went live."
With Sognos’ help, Judd has already seen improvement and anticipates more improvements are yet to come.
“When members resigned in the past the reason they often gave was that they hadn’t heard from us. Now we can totally change our approach to how we engage, re-diverting our staff’s energies,” Judd said.
“We’ll be giving members a call and making sure that if they have issues, we can handle them. It’s hard to quantify but I’m expecting it to improve member retention and net growth. There’s already a lot of opportunity but there’s much more to be discovered. That’s part of the fun.”