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Why we pulled the engine apart while driving the car

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Our engine (core business systems)

D6 has grown organically over its past 5 years in business, starting with a small, agile and eager team in a tiny office, we’ve expanded rapidly to our current crew spread across Hamilton, Auckland and the UK. In the beginning there was no need for any major internal business management systems, Xero was chosen for finances and projects/sales/customer information was able to be tracked somewhat manually.

 

Zendesk was added as the helpdesk software pretty early and then Harvest was chosen as a nice simple app to keep track of time spent on various tasks and projects. As the team grew a CRM was needed and we chose Zoho to help manage the sales side of the business. Once D6 was dealing with a busy schedule of customer visits and projects a tool was needed to manage who needed to be where and when. TeamUp was selected as the internal team scheduling tool. We also eventually needed a future view into team utilisation, to plan resources optimally – Harvest Forecast was added in to the mix. We started to use Slack along the way for internal comms, and have always used the G Suite heavily for email, document management and video conferencing.

 

Phew… that’s a long list of systems and tools. As you can probably imagine (and may have experienced yourself), while it’s awesome to leverage the great SaaS products out there, it means your data gets quite separated. We found the implication of this was getting a clear overview of the business, it became either very manual, difficult, or in some areas – impossible. Taking a step towards solving that problem around 18 months ago we switched from Zoho to Salesforce. We were looking to leverage it’s integration capabilities and start to bring some of the information from these systems together in a central hub. Just Salesforce wasn’t going to be enough to bring the systems together though. Additionally for the whole team to gain the desired overview we would have had to buy everyone a licence, and have people be able to easily navigate in a tool that isn’t part of their day to day role.

 

We had already been planning for this eventuality and since we have some talented integration experts we had been building a cloud integration platform (Tuttio) that unifies data across disparate cloud systems. However that is a complex product in itself and it only solves part of the problem. Like any business our day to day workflow moves across numerous applications to get the job done. More than just syncing data, we needed our business processes automated as well to get the efficiency we were looking for in terms of user experience. At the end of 2017 the disparate systems were getting to the point where we felt it was no longer an option to continue this way, we needed to make a change in order to scale and continue to operate smoothly.

 

Our engine upgrade

We quickly realised we had two options, either heads down and do the custom integration work with Salesforce and continue using our full suite of SaaS products, or purchase a broader SaaS product to reduce the number of tools in use. We carefully analysed the pros and cons of each option…. How much time was it really going to take to do all the integration? What would be the user experience once all the custom work was done? How much does it cost to subscribe to all these SaaS products when you add it all up? What broader options were out there? What would the user experience be like? How would the cost compare to our current subscriptions? What would be the internal time needed to migrate from our current systems?… etc. etc.

 

On balance it was clearly worth pursuing a broader solution so we embarked on a system selection process. We could give up some depth to give us breadth in functionality. We selected ~100 things that we needed the system to do and gave each a priority weighting, this gave us a clear matrix to assess the systems against. We then scoured the internet, discovering a multitude of options, from the far too simple, to the scarily complex and everything between. We giggled at some amazingly 1998 interfaces and oohed and aahed at some beautifully designed ones.

 

It’s about more than just looks though and in the end we chose 3 systems, plus our current suite and assessed them closely using our matrix. It sounds easy in writing but to truly assess a system you need to really roll up your sleeves and get intimate with all its moving parts. We sat through sales pitches from Estonia, San Francisco and the UK and gently let down a few keen sales people along the way. In the end there were two clear leaders that made sense for our business needs – Scoro and Accelo ….how do they come up with these names! We also once more carefully considered using our internal tool we are building, however with a tool like Tuttio there is still technical debt that comes with the management of complex custom integrations, we decided the less tools we needed to integrate the better. Minimising our team’s time in managing this internal technical complexity would allow us to spend more time solving customers problems instead.

 

After this full-on assessment Accelo won in the end, due mainly to its superior contract management functionality. We were also impressed by their thorough sounding on-boarding process and easily accessible, Aussie-based support. The upshot is that we will be replacing five separate SaaS apps (Salesforce, TeamUp, Harvest, Harvest Forecast and Zendesk) into one – Accelo. We will continue to leverage a suite of tools to run our business (Jira, Xero, Slack, G Suite etc.) and use Tuttio to integrate these but we have significantly reduced the number of integrations required with this decision.

 

We are currently in the peak intensity of implementation, which essentially means we are mid way through pulling apart our company engine whilst still driving the car. Minimising impact on our customers and our team are top priority, but there is inevitably going to be some impact of completely turning the way you operate on its head! We will update our thoughts on Accelo and the impact it has had on D6, once the new engine has been running for a few months. Wish us luck…