As a business which focuses on low overheads and high customer service, The Heating Company (THC) has a constant focus on seeking resources that enable efficiency and performance, without driving up the cost of doing business. With its ambition to do more business using the internet, the emergence of cloud computing solutions have proven increasingly indispensable; soon after Microsoft Office 365 became available, the company directors quickly assessed its suitability to drive its web ambitions forward.
As a services offering that combines the familiar functionality of the Office desktop suite with cloud-based versions of next-generation communications and collaboration services, Microsoft Office 365 supports THC’s ability to easily achieve one-to-many communication. Furthermore, the integration of Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online solution selected by THC into a single portal provides for seamless management of information between SharePoint Online, and Office Professional Plus applications such as Word and Excel, and Exchange Online.
Established in 1994 as a supplier of under-tile heating, THC has since gone on to be the largest supplier of heating, cooling, ventilation and accessory products with a nationwide chain of installers. It has expanded into Australia and Hong Kong, on the back of a commitment to high quality products and an efficient supply chain to keep costs down.
Director Clare Adams says the company has used cloud services for some time for its financial systems. “From a safety and security perspective, we have complete confidence in the cloud. Databases stored that way are never going to be lost, and more than that, everyone within our company who needs to access information can do so, regardless of where they might be located.”
But Adams says there was more to it, too. “We’re working on driving our electronic channels to market, with a fully functional ecommerce site in place. Driving web sales means having the ability to create and easily share communications with our email database, something which just wasn’t available in other online CRM and office packages we looked at,” she explains.
Making the leap to Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online services was a logical step for the company, especially given its distributed nature. “Since we are familiar with cloud computing, we like the predicable nature of the costs, and the fact that there is no need to maintain any hardware. It’s also a lot less expensive than owning software on traditional licensing models,” she says.
Since cloud software is updated on the server side, there is also no need for upgrades or patches to interrupt the flow of business.
An evaluation of Office365 and Dynamics CRM demonstrated that the combined solution was something of a knockout for accurately meeting its CRM and office productivity requirements. “It was clear that this solution would meet our needs, not only for producing and working on our office documents, but also in terms of the ability to collaborate with people located elsewhere in the country or even the world,” says Adams.
THC engaged with Microsoft partner P&L Consultants for the implementation and configuration of the solution in May 2012. While the project wasn’t without minor teething problems (“It was pretty much brand new at the time, to us as well as to P&L,” says Adams) owing to the need for some customisation to meet specific needs, she says the company has got just what it needed. “Probably the biggest issue we have is also quite a simple one,” she quips, “And that’s passwords. You have to get that right or the system won’t let you in.”
With Office 365 integrated with Dynamics CRM, THC has a central point at which its administrative users can leverage contact lists to create and execute marketing campaigns, while managing leads and opportunities through the online system. “All relationships with clients are under a single stack of software, while the cloud nature of it means it is accessible to any authorised parties, no matter where those individuals may be,” says James Warren, CRM Client Advisor at P&L Limited.
By moving to Office 365, Adams says THC has more flexibility in its business systems than ever before. “Adding or removing users is a simple process, allowing for the cost of our systems to accurately match the needs of the business,” she explains. “It’s also really easy to create and share information; we can quickly create categories of customers and then put together emarketing materials specific to each category and mail them out. Most important is the ability to create these categories; it was something we just didn’t see in other solutions,” she says.
Again, Adams makes the point that THC seeks to keep its overheads as low as possible to maintain price competitiveness. “That’s another area in which Microsoft really shone. While other systems initially looked to be in a similar price range, that was typically for base configurations. Once the features we required were added, they suddenly became very expensive compared to what we’re got with Microsoft’s online services.”
While it is relatively early days for THC in its use of the Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online services, Adams says it is already very satisfied with the solution. “We can see that it has a lot more functionality than we are presently using, but as we continue to use the services on a day to day basis, we are looking to take advantage of more advanced functionality. That’s especially relevant as we look to build our social media presence and integrate these activities into our CRM system.”
And while a businessperson and not a ‘techy’, Adams is adamant that cloud services are the way forward. “The benefits of low cost, the ability to collaborate even with remote workers and never having to worry about losing information makes doing business a lot easier than before,” she concludes.