PADI Dives Into E-Synergy

 
 
By Debra Donston  |  Posted 2003-07-28
 
 
 

PADI Dives Into E-Synergy


With more than 100,000 individual members, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors decided it needed to plunge deeper into CRM waters.

The $70 million global association, known as PADI, is a scuba diving certification agency. Instructors and member dive centers and resorts agree to teach the PADI method of scuba diving, which includes specialties such as ice, deep sea and night diving. There are also different levels of membership, from dive master all the way up to course director, someone who teaches instructors.

About a year ago, PADI had stretched the limits of the tool it was using for customer relationship management, Interact Commerce Corp.s Act contact management system, according to Sharon Dill, director of IT at PADI, in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.

Only the sales team was using Act, said Dill, and the process in place for synchronizing information was cumbersome. "The syncing process worked well, as long as we had one person who knew how to do it," she said. "But it took a lot of time and effort, and it was only in one department. There was a real struggle—we knew something on that scope didnt meet our needs."

Dill said one of PADIs most critical needs was for members of each department to have access to information about other departments customer interactions.

PADI was using a midmarket enterprise resource planning product from Exact Software called Macola ES. When Dill described PADIs business challenge to Exact officials, they suggested that the Exact e-Synergy program might meet PADI needs.

Dill was, to put it mildly, impressed with the product and evaluated no others. "I was floored," she said. "I wrote down 11 different apps I could use e-Synergy for."

Web-based e-Synergy is a suite of business applications that includes CRM, document management, logistics, human resource management, financial and workflow capabilities. The suite is based on Exacts One-X architecture, which uses one database (Microsoft Corp.s SQL Server is required) and one transaction table, easing administration.

Click here to see eWEEK Labs review of another all-in-one e-business suite, Icode Inc.s Everest.

The e-Synergy product is designed for small- to-medium-size businesses ranging from five to 500 users. In addition to SQL Server, e-Synergy requires Microsofts Windows 2000 Server with IIS (Internet Information Services) enabled. The system, which costs $1,000 per named user plus 20 percent of the total cost annually for maintenance and support, can be accessed via Microsofts Internet Explorer 5.01 or above.

PADI has initially focused on the e-Synergy e-CRM module, which has been tied into the e-Documents module, Dill said. Any communication that is considered significant is now entered into the e-Synergy system, she said.

"It gives [PADI staff] the information they need and a reason to call customers," said Dill. "If we see that a member has completed a particular course, we can then suggest to them that they take another one. The idea is if youre going to call a member, before you make the call, check e-Synergy. It allows people to be front-end-loaded with information. And if they see something they cant understand, they can see who the originator was and talk to them."

Dills team has also set up a template that lets e-Synergy users view activity for the week.

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E-Synergy provides 500 "function points" out of the box to help companies granularly provide user rights to reports and various applications, but PADI so far has not leveraged this capability. "We have four levels of rights—staff, manager, director and VP level—but have not taken advantage of them yet," said Dill. "So far, everything weve implemented has been at the lowest level of security."

About 100 PADI employees now use the e-Synergy system, and Dill said she expects that number to grow to 400 within one year.

Dills group provides 2 hours of hands-on e-Synergy training as an introduction. She said people tend to get up and running relatively quickly. "Because its browser-based, its pretty intuitive," she said.

But one of the challenges of any CRM application is getting people to abandon their old—and usually closely guarded—ways and use it. Dill is overcoming this challenge by tapping early and eager adopters, who act as champions of the system.

"What we found is a bell-shaped curve," said Dill: "Early adopters who say, This is great—we can do this and this and this with the system. And then you have the ones who say, Yeah, this could work, and then you have the ones who say they have their Excel spreadsheets and arent about to give them up."

Dill has identified an e-Synergy champion from every PADI department and meets weekly with them to discuss tips and tricks and ways the system can be further exploited.

Dill said that the most complicated thing about e-Synergy is deciding how to use it. "Its such a simple product to use, but in terms of all the things you can do with it, its kind of overwhelming," she said.

Within 18 to 24 months, Dill plans to replace the existing company intranet and customer extranet with e-Synergy and get all 100,000 individual members and 4,800 dive centers and resorts on the system. To do this, she plans to increase the number of servers running e-Synergy and add an external IIS server.

Security is easy right now, Dill said, because e-Synergy is running in just one office. As e-Synergy is deployed more widely across PADI offices, the system will be secured with virtual private networks and firewalls.

Dill expects the return on e-Synergy to be greater as more people start using it. "One challenge I had was that only half of my employees were on it," she said. "They had to contend with a number of applications. E-Synergy can replace all that, streamlining everything into fewer places to look."

Executive Editor Debra Donston can be reached at debra_donston@ziffdavis.com.

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