Leading business centre provider selects Technology Management & Microsoft Dynamics to support continued growth

The UK’s 3rd largest business centre provider, Citibase PLC, has chosen Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, Technology Management, to implement a hosted Microsoft Dynamics NAV accounting solution to improve financial management and reporting as well as streamline key financial processes.

In spite of the recession, Citibase has doubled in size over the last 2 years and needed a more powerful accounting solution to handle greater volumes of data, enable transactions to be captured in greater detail, speed up month-end close and ultimately improve reporting and analysis. The solution will also replace many paper-based processes such as procurement, supplier payments and direct debit payments & reconciliation.

Citibase undertook an extensive review of solutions before selecting Technology Management and Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Paul Bowers, Financial Controller at Citibase explains, “With plans for continued growth, we needed to find a software solution that would meet our current requirements and was flexible enough to grow with us – and it needed to be from a recognised and respected software company. For our implementation partner, we wanted to work with a team that would take the time to listen to our requirements and become our trusted partner for on-going support and future developments”.

Paul Bowers continues, “As an SME (small to medium sized enterprise), we were looking for a hosted solution so we didn’t need to invest in in-house IT expertise or hardware. A hosted solution also enables us to easily add new business centres and allow staff to securely access the solution wherever they have internet connection. On our balanced scorecard of requirements, Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Technology Management were the clear choice.”

“Citibase join a growing list of both large and small customers opting for our hosted/Software-as-a-Service Microsoft Dynamics NAV, AX, CRM and Microsoft SharePoint solutions. With our own UK based data centres, Dynamics expertise and track record of over 600 business management software implementations, we can provide our customers with a complete solution – and without all day to day headaches of managing their own IT infrastructure,” explains James Crowter Managing Director, Technology Management.

About Citibase

Citibase provides fully serviced business centres for cost conscious SMEs from multiple locations around the UK. The Directors intention is for Citibase to expand quickly within the current fragmented, yet consolidating area of the serviced office sector, offering a branded accommodation solution for small businesses and start-ups.

Freedom At WorkCitibase’s unique ‘Freedom At Work’ branding focuses on giving individuals and businesses the independence, flexibility, control, support and confidence to create, run and enjoy their work. With flexible, short-term agreements, simple transparent billing, prestigious addresses, professional reception and administration support services, immediate starts and a friendly environment, Citibase is creating a positive alternative in the business centre market. www.citibase.com

At a glance guide to Technology Management

As we are about to enter our 21st year in business, still growing and evolving, it’s difficult to give customers or prospects a summary about Technology Management’s services and our ethos. With this in mind we designed some infographics that make up an “at a glance guide to Technology Management”

It gives some numbers around our hosting services, (although they continue to grow each month!) re-enforces our technical bias with 86% of the workforce being IT professionals and hopefully gives a snap shot of where we are at after 2 decades.

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TM Factsheet-2

From Ashes to The Cloud – Carvers Re-Opens

On the 29th February 2012 Carvers Builders Merchants was engulfed in a fire that completely destroyed their premises, office space and all IT equipment.

FIRE 7 AE 29

The days after the fire the priority was how quickly they could begin to trade again at their 2nd site, and from our perspective how we could get Microsoft NAV and their other key systems up and running.

With an offsite backup being taken on a nightly basis, we took the data that was available and loaded the virtual servers in our data centre. This enabled Carvers employees to access the systems from the various locations they were based at over the coming weeks. The fire started on Wednesday 29th and NAV was available again 48 hours later on the Friday, while Mail and other data was available over the weekend.  We had around 10 members of Carvers sales and admin team based at our offices in Wolverhampton while other staff were based at their 2nd site. The ability to connect to their systems no matter where they were and not have to wait for new servers to be ordered/configured (which would have taken over a week with the complexity of Carvers systems) allowed them to start trading. This also allowed the Carvers Website to come back online and begin to process orders taken through the site.

I’m pleased to say that Carvers opened a new temporary trade counter at the site of the fire last week, which has resulted in new terminals being installed on the counter and business returning to normal. The critical systems are still running from our hosting facility and Carvers are considering keeping them there as they review their IT strategy for the rebirth of the business.

 

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Having visited the site the day before they re-opened It was fantastic to see how Carvers had regrouped and come back fighting after such adversity. Although a small part of the recovery, the flexibility of cloud computing and the speed at which we could get everything back up and running was no doubt beneficial. Having spoken about these advantages many times, it was fantastic to see it in action.

If you are interested in how cloud computing can help your business please feel free to contact us on 01902 578300 or at liam.walton@tecman.co.uk

Microsoft vision of the future part 2

About 2 years ago Microsoft launched a concept video on how technology would impact our lives, the new forms of user interface like touch and gesture, new devices like slates and worktops being computers.  How data would interact with the real world with augmented reality, and how that data should flow seamlessly and between individuals and organisations. We used the video alot in presentations and have seen some of those technologies come to life in some shape or form.  Every time I showed it i got great feedback from the audience and many said it inspired them to see what IT may be capable of. Pleased to say that Microsoft have released another such video updated with new research and although builds on the original video rather than taking a different time scale. If you thinks its a little far fetched, just considered what you do with your smartphone today and how you would have felt if someone had predicted that 10 years ago…..

Enjoy the video

Productivity Future Vision

Windows 8 the first official demo video’s

Microsoft have been quite tight lipped about what’s happening with Windows 8, but today they shared a look at the new touch interface they have developed.

There are some similarities with the Windows Phone 7 “tile” look and feel and with the latest version of Media Centre. Personally I like it, and I love the way as with all PC’s you can do more than one thing at a time. The demo in the video shows this clearly and with the new types of devices that we are using to access data or to do our work, Windows is evolving to take this into account. It of course will work with keyboard and mouse and not just touch.

For a more in depth look and the Microsoft team getting asked a few questions around why and will businesses buy into the new look and feel, click below.

Case Study: Sun Hydraulics and their ERP Vision

This article is taken from January’s edition of The Manufacturer:

Sun Hydraulics needed an ERP system which could support its commitment to saying ‘yes’ to its customers whenever it possibly can. It chose Microsoft Dynamics 2009 delivered by vendor Technology Management.

Sun Hydraulics is a US manufacturer of hydraulic valves with manufacturing and sales sites all over the world. Here in the UK it set up shop almost 30 years ago and has spent the last 23 of those at its production facility in Coventry. Here it makes either batch or one-off valves, weighing up to 250kg and costing up to £5,000 a piece, for industrial and construction machinery and renewable energy technology like tidal generators, wind turbines and solar panels. The site employs 68 people, has a turnover of £12m and exports 50 per cent of what it makes – predominantly to Central Europe and Scandinavia.

Having implemented Microsoft Navision 2.6 around ten years ago, Sun Hydraulics upgraded to version 4.0 in 2008. Now, it has gone one step further and installed Microsoft Dynamics 2009. Ian Callow, Sun Hydraulics’ IT director, explains that the IT system is used to orchestrate everything the company does. “Everyone in the company uses our ERP system every day at some point,” he says. “We use it for everything from sales ordering from the front end to manufacturing processes on the shop floor and issuing purchase orders and all of the financial reporting.”

Whatever discipline it’s being used for, though, the main requirement is that the system enables ultimate flexibility and supports the company’s commitment to providing its customers exactly what they want, exactly when they want it. “We don’t want a ‘computer says no’ situation. We effectively assume infinite capacity and the application is our scheduling management. We never want to have to say we can’t do this, even if the computer says it is impossible, we want to be able to expedite things and move them around and meet the requirement. Our customers determine our production schedules.”

The system has to be able to cross check orders against supplies to ensure that the correct componentry is in stock and, if it isn’t, be able to order more. And, by having this information available at the point of order entry to front screen, Sun can respond immediately to customer requests rather than waiting to manually check stores. Management has to be able to easily and effectively rearrange production schedules at any given time. And, if the laws of physics can’t be bended quite enough to ship from Coventry, the management team has to be able to arrange it, via the ERP system, from one of Sun Hydraulics’ other global sites.

Says engineering manager Steve Hancox: “Previously, lead time from customer order to delivery has been as high as 16 weeks; now we have set up a system whereby we’ll deliver by tomorrow, if we can. We will try to meet whatever the customer requires. It might be that they don’t want it for six weeks or it might be that they want it tomorrow. We will always strive to work with the customer and meet their needs.”

Making the shoe fit

Some manufacturers opt for an ‘out of the box’ ERP package because they feel they will benefit from the standardised processes and because it is easier to implement, train employees on and maintain. Conversely, though, Sun Hydraulics chose Microsoft Dynamics because of the high levels of customisation that it offers. “We cannot operate by determining how we run our business by what the ERP system says,” says Ian, “it has to be the other way round. The IT must be tailored to suit how we work.”

Critically, this has allowed the flexibility to be built in. It also allows communication links with sales operations in France and Germany which are too small to run their own systems and thus piggyback on the UK’s and enables the company to adhere to and illustrate security compliance which are necessary in the US.

Microsoft Dynamics also ticks another of Sun Hydraulics’ principle boxes through customisation: simplicity for the end user. “We wanted to make it as simple and as error proof and as free for the user as possible,” explains financial controller Ray Glasspole. “For example, at the front end the sale steam can put a sales quote on the system, send it to the customer and the customer can see the price, lead time, any discounts and so on. If the customer then wants to go ahead it’s one button to turn the quote into an order. They don’t have to re-key it.

“The shop floor employees see a list which is prioritised by the required date. They sign on to a Machining area and it tells them the numbers they need to process. They do it, go back to the screen, type in the output and move onto the next job. The idea is as much as possible is done for the user.”

The vendor Technology Management’s proficiency in customisation along with its focus on manufacturing processes and a shared ‘can do’ attitude has been invaluable to Sun, Ian suggests.

“We’ve got a pretty good idea of what we want the system to be able to do so we’ve been able to intonate our requirements quite clearly and comprehensively,” he says. “Where the standard system didn’t do what we wanted it to be able to do, Technology Management were able to customise. They’ve always taken the stance of ‘if that’s what you want, we’ll do it’.

“It’s quite clear from working with them that they have a lot of practical business experience which other vendors sometimes lack. Vendors tend to be computer geeks who don’t really understand the business need. These guys do and they have a high proportion of manufacturing companies on their books too; this is important as it means they better understand the requirements.”

Customer is king

The pipe dream for Sun Hydraulics is to implement a system whereby online customer orders automatically feed into the production schedule.

Says Ian: “At the moment, we run a production plan on a daily basis and whoever looks at the plan will cast an eye over it to ensure there isn’t anything ridiculous on there, based on their own experience. They can do manipulation on what the system suggests before it gets approved. We do that manual sanity check but at some point hopefully we can trust the automation.”

The online ordering basket will eventually become the same as internal sales staff placing an order and will filter through to production in the same way. Customers will be able to select next day when an item is in stock or be offered available lead times. If what they require is not offered the system will prompt them to contact Sun by telephone who will manipulate the system to make it happen.

Steve maintains that this approach to customer service gives the company a big edge over its competitors. “We get feedback that we are very easy to deal with,” he says. “Customers ask us if we can do something and they get an answer very quickly, usually a positive one. They, in turn, can be more responsive in their own business strategies. We’ve won business from our competitors because we can work to the customer’s production schedules rather than vice versa. Our deliveries are up there with the best in the business. Many of our competitors are double, triple or even quadruple on our delivery times.

“Our main business strategy is to be completely responsive to our customer and this ERP system facilitates that.”

Download the World Cup Fixtures into Outlook Calendar

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With World Cup excitement starting to build, make sure you don’t miss the game’s you want to watch by getting the fixtures into your Outlook calendar.

Here’s the link and instructions to download them from the BBC site…

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/world_cup_2010/8677077.stm

And don’t forget that Technology Management are showing the England group game on the 23rd June…its a 3pm kick off on a Wednesday afternoon all the details can be found here

Just noticed that all covered games are being shown on the BBC and ITV’s web sites as well…..

Liam

Hosted Email Feedback

I decided to contact Andy Taylor an IT manager who had moved across to our hosted Exchange Service in December 2009, to see how he was getting on after 6 months of using the solution. Baylis and Harding had run Exchange in house since version 5.5 around 16 years ago, so this was a fundamental shift in moving to the cloud.

 

(TecMan) I’m interested in how you found the move to hosted mail? Were the users disrupted.

(Andy Taylor) The move to hosted email was quick and easy with very little interruption to business continuity. Technology Management’s Implementation team were very thorough and knowledgeable

Has the uptime and availability of the service been as promised and what you expected?

The uptime and availability of the service has been fantastic. We have easy access from anywhere and are guaranteed a quick, stable connection.

Has the change in the location of the exchange server caused any performance issues ?

The performance and availability of our email has improved significantly. We have gone from using a temperamental exchange server to a hosted solution which allows users a reliable and steady connection to their email account from anywhere in the world. The performance in our Outlook clients has not been affected by the move to a hosted solution.

Any other comments?

As IT Manager the move to a hosted email solution has allowed me to concentrate my efforts in other projects within the business. All support issues are dealt with quickly and effectively by Technology Management including the set up of email accounts and groups.