Steel provider Steelmark is implementing IT solutions to improve its customer relations and internal processes. In fact, according to network support officer, Jason Bruce, the last two years have seen a marked change in the organisation with a new emphasis on improving productivity and workflow through the use of IT.
Focusing on IT
While the organisation has not yet adopted the Internet -- new parent company Smorgon Steel is beginning to move Steelmark in this direction -- in recent years it has stepped up the IT focus from simply using and adapting software products such as Excel and Office 2000. According to Bruce, the company has developed and designed several databases to improve internal business process, and with the help of a solutions provider, has implemented a customer relationship management tool.
Bruce, whose role is largely to develop and design databases, says Steelmark has a long history in software and IT training, but has been restricted by its industry and customers. "Our biggest problem is the industry is not very IT-focused . . . and it doesn't really need to be. Not many customers actually use IT and the Internet," he says. "We have to get around that."
Steelmark, recently acquired by the Smorgon Steel Group, is a steel distribution and modifications company. It services about 400 customers in the Asia-Pacific region and operates a retail business for "drop-in" customers. In addition to buying and selling retail steel, Steelmark builds steel products which go to tradesmen, roofers, fencers and hardware stores.
According to Bruce, in the last 12-24 months, Steelmark has developed several databases to replace Excel spreadsheets and manual processes. These include a scheduling database and a price list database, both developed in-house.
But the most significant change for the organisation has been the implementation of FrontRange Solutions (formerly Goldmine Software) sales force automation tool, Goldmine 5.0. Implemented over Christmas 1999, Goldmine replaced a paper-based system for tracking and recording customer behaviour. Previously, customer interactions and notes were handwritten on cards shared by the sales representatives, product managers, sales managers and senior executives.
The on-the-road sales team now has electronic access to up to six months of customer information via their notebook computers. Sales managers back in the office can also access up-to-date information from the database.
Implemented with the help of Goldmine solutions partner, Henry Management, the project was both Steelmark and Bruces first experience in working with a solutions provider. "Most of our work is internal. We probably could have implemented [Goldmine 5.0] ourselves, but it paid to have the support," Bruce says. "And it was definitely a good learning experience."
He says Steelmark considered several CRM solutions, but "Goldmine was the only system that suited what we needed". And Henry Management was one of the only solutions providers in the area with expert knowledge in the Goldmine solution, he added. "They came to the party with everything. Even now [12 months after installation] they are happy to lend a hand free of charge," Bruce says.
Software and hardware problems
Due to Steelmark's complicated Novell system, the installation process was fraught with numerous problems, both software and hardware-related, according to Bruce. Although Henry Management lacked expertise in Novell, he says, they worked closely with Steelmark, and thus successfully implemented the solution without any need for new software or hardware. "For both parties it was a good learning experience. We exchanged a lot of knowledge."
Despite the few glitches, Bruce says Steelmark "couldn't complain at all" about Henry Management. Not only did they fulfil their contract to implement and support Steelwork's Goldmine project, the company was willing to share its expert knowledge on the product and was always available, he says. "They really looked after us. Even when the problems were more about our software and hardware than the Goldmine solution."