Hot of the press: this story about Robust Details Ltd is our latest UK small business case study and features a brilliant combination of Azure, Dynamics and Siverlight.
Read the case study in full below. And don't forget you can find plenty more case studies in the resources section of our site!
Product Certification Firm Boosts Efficiency and Delivers Customer Self-Service
Robust Details Limited (RDL) found it challenging to expand the business and add new services for customers because of the limitations of its manual systems. It wanted to give customers the ability to complete assessments and get certificates online. Microsoft Partner Black Marble built a solution using Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Windows Azure, and Microsoft Silverlight to keep track of customer records, automate processes, and store documents online. With the secure, scalable solution, processes are now more efficient and customers can access services online.
Through its Robust Details Certification Scheme, RDL offers house builders a means of demonstrating compliance with minimum sound insulation standards. This is the firm’s core business and it applies to separating walls and floors between dwellings. It certifies about 50,000 dwellings a year, which is about 60 per cent of the available market.
RDL was piloting a new certification service under the government’s Code for Sustainable Homes scheme, which involved checking and certifying assessments carried out by RDL-licensed assessors. It was a heavily paper-based process that also relied on spreadsheets and databases. John Thompson, Finance Manager, Robust Details Limited, says: “We’d dug ourselves into a hole. We just couldn’t scale the business to offer new products and services without increasing bureaucracy. The system was holding the business back.”
Thompson wanted to give his customers the tools to interact with the company digitally, cutting out the paperwork. However, the nine-person organisation didn’t have a large IT infrastructure or in-house IT staff, so any computer-based solution had to be easy to maintain.
Black Marble—a Windows Azure Circle member—with Gold and Silver Standard competencies in the Microsoft Partner Network, recommended a solution that combined:
On-premises Microsoft Dynamics CRM, with workflow and reporting services
A website hosted on Windows Azure with a shopping cart and authentication using Access Control so customers can pay for the services online
Blob storage to store customers’ PDF documents—for example, specifications and certificates, which when printed can run to hundreds of pages per site
A secure web service to allow communication between the Windows Azure hosted website and Microsoft Dynamics CRM using the Service Bus
A Microsoft Silverlight interface that lets customers self-serve on their PCs
This combination of on-premises Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Windows Azure gives RDL customers the information they need to work effectively and allows them to interact with the company directly through their computers, with fewer paper-based processes and data rekeying.
Hosting the solution using Windows Azure has helped RDL improve security, scalability, and simplicity. In addition, not only has it boosted customer service, streamlined business operations, and established the foundations for future growth, but it has done so without adding a lot of expensive on-site hardware. With Microsoft Dynamics CRM, the company now has a cutting-edge customer relationship management tool. “It’ll help me target customers and build my business,” says Thompson. “I can see exactly what’s going on. I’m very happy—very happy indeed.”
Enhanced security. Access Control allows RDL customers easy access to their secure online storage to download certificates and other documents, but it helps ensure that unauthorised users can’t get in. “We need a secure system because we use a subscription model to sell our services,” says Thompson.
Better scalability. Windows Azure is designed to cope with the very largest databases and document libraries. For example, it can easily store hundreds of pages of documentation for each of the 50,000 dwelling registrations a year certified by RDL. With cloud-based services, the company doesn’t have to buy any extra hardware as it grows and adds new services. According to Thompson, it’s no longer a challenge to add new services—in fact, he has just launched a third service using the system.
Increased simplicity. Because Windows Azure is a cloud service accessed over the Internet, there’s less IT infrastructure to buy, install, and support. Steve Spencer, Development Director at Black Marble, says: “With minimal support overheads, the solution was more cost-effective than the firm’s existing hosted service.”