Thoughts on what businesses actually need from the Cloud, not what vendors wish they needed.

Chris Bliss

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Client Case Study: When Business Tools Break

Turns out that pushing 1000’s of rows into spreadsheet functions isn’t fast, cloud-based or not

I got a call a few weeks ago from a NYC-based foreign language school that was looking for a software makeover. They were using Google Spreadsheets to manage their student, class, and payment information, and for the previous year were happy as can be. After all, Google Spreadsheets offers some awesome collaborative capabilities: simultaneous spreadsheet viewing and editing, universal accessibility, and powerful Excel-like analytics and reporting.

Still, as the business grew, the sheer size of the spreadsheet made it more of a headache than anything. As is so often the case, they had outgrown their tools – the hacksaw wasn’t doing the job they needed it to. Documents took forever to load, redundant copies were lost and confused, key reports went missing. It was a mess.

Clearly, they needed something new. At that point, they had no idea what a “CRM” could do; for them, best case scenario was re-creating the same spreadsheet in a faster, and easier, interface (Microsoft365 was the logical next step in their minds). They feared that a CRM to replace what they have now would be super expensive and time consuming. Turns out, the tools are readily available – you just have to find the one that matches your business, then fit your workflows in. That’s where we came in.

After several conversations and a detailed “discovery” session, we decided to setup the client on the contact management tool, Solve360. We set the system up with a host of custom fields and category tags to help the client sort and filter their student data with the click of a button (or two!). They are now able to easily isolate contact types (“Active French students in Brooklyn”, for example), push lists to email marketing tools, update contact information quickly, and add new students to the system and immediately categorize for future sorting/filtering.

Solve360’s tight integration with Google Apps was also a huge win for the client. We setup a feed from Solve360 into a custom report in Google Spreadsheets that allows the client to simply click a “refresh” button to see up-to-the-minute reports on their student and class information. Reporting is now faster, easier, and scalable, and the client hasn’t missed a beat

(Editor’s note: Truth be told, we’re actually struggling to make Google Docs process the data quickly. Turns out that pushing 1000’s of rows into spreadsheet functions isn’t fast, cloud-based or not. Still, the framework is there for this to be awesome, and we’re working on it….)

We used Solve360’s “company” pages to track payment and class information; now every student has a contact page that is related to his/her class and payment history, so at a glance, the client is able to view the key contact information, as well as their payment and academic history. It’s an easy to use, relatable web of student information. In other words, a huge upgrade from the multiple spreadsheet Google document.

I love clients like this. Their business was flourishing before we met, and continues to flourish now that the project has completed. The main thing we did was change technology from a necessary evil to an added perk, which is a big deal. Sure, things look a little different, and we had to do some training, but the convenience and efficiency of the right software is a huge win.

Software transitions aren’t easy, but with the right tools, the right plan, and the right team guiding you (hint, hint), it’s a whole lot easier than struggling with inadequate tools.

What do you think? How have software transitions made your life easier (or, gasp, more hectic)?

VM Associates is a New York City cloud computing consulting firm. We help companies transition into newer, better, smarter software. Contact us to talk about your business, the cloud, and how we might help.

More Stories By Chris Bliss

Chris Bliss works at VM Associates, an end-user consultancy for businesses looking to move to the cloud from pre-existing legacy systems.

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