Alpine is a privately owned business that contract with major commercial property owners and site managers to provide cleaning services at facilities across Canada. Work order management is the foundation of their business, with high volumes of cleaning requests coming in from their customer base that require timely and effective management.
Catapult has been Alpine’s Microsoft partner for many years, working with them to evolve their core ERP systems as their business grew. Alpine had been using Microsoft Dynamics NAV for almost a decade to run its operational and finance functions. As a service company, NAV offered many powerful features that streamlined processes and improved governance, but as Alpine grew and business needs changed, the Catapult team began to question whether some processes might be better suited to Dynamics 365 CRM for Customer Service. With the release of Dynamics 365, numerous new possibilities had emerged that weren’t conceivable in the on-premises ERP world of NAV.
The decision was made to move their business processes to the cloud with Dynamics 365. Catapult ran a pilot test with one of their newly acquired businesses, Cleanmax, to test a proof-of-concept before embarking upon a journey to roll out the new software to the wider business.
Limitations of a NAV On-Prem Solution
NAV was initially customized for Alpine over 10 years ago to support their work order management processes and handle the finance side of the business along with recurring sales and customer service.
Over the years, Alpine has kept building on NAVs Service Management module, customizing CRM capabilities to work with the system and effectively building a mini-CRM instance within NAV. However, the reality of NAV being a financial system and not optimal for building out CRM capabilities set in quickly. Although the team could use the system to manage work order requests, they would have to use a series of workarounds and heavy customizations to get NAV to do some of the things that a cloud CRM could do for them out-of-the-box.
At the heart of their business, Alpine has three different types of work orders that they need to manage. They have service contracts that list the cleaning requirements that need to be fulfilled each month and these agreements are the recurring revenue stream of Alpine’s business. Then they have projects and ad-hoc requests that require a new work order to be spun up each time a new request is made by a customer.
Although their financial data is stored entirely in NAV, only 75% of data related to work orders, resourcing, and customer service is stored on the system. The remaining 25% of this data is stored in multiple spreadsheets making it challenging for Alpine’s customer service team to access information they need. The process for managing the different types of work orders is cumbersome because they can’t easily track activities against various work order requests (i.e., cleaning supply budget and staffing costs for cleaners). This makes it hard to resource activities to the right work order to effectively get the job done, and difficult to track and monitor customer feedback.
Transitioning to the Cloud with Dynamics 365
Alpine knows that their version of NAV has a limited life and has been working closely with the team at Catapult to find a solution that will modernize their technology and better support their work order management process. When Dynamics 365 Business Central came to market in the Spring of 2018, Catapult saw an opportunity to suggest Alpine move away from their over-engineered NAV system to a seamless solution in the cloud.
Upon our recommendation, the decision has been made to decouple their work order and site management system from NAV, move to Business Central to manage the financial side of their business, and rebuild their work order management solution in Dynamics 365 CRM using the Customer Service application. Their work order management processes will live predominantly in CRM but have a deep integration with Business Central to surface critical billing information.
Nothing Is as Simple as It Seems
Moving Alpine’s whole business into a single seamless solution on the cloud is the end game, but the fact of the matter is that it’s a massive undertaking due to the complexity of their business model. Alpine has a large number of deals with property management companies and countless corresponding contracts for cleaning their locations that will need to be migrated.
With that considered, the decision was made to pump the brakes and begin this transformational journey with Alpine by first making a smaller investment in one of their newly acquired cleaning companies, Cleanmax. We used Cleanmax as a pilot to design and build a new work order management framework before rolling it out to Alpine’s wider business.
We often recommend this staggered approach to our on-prem customers that have complex business models. Hitting pause before jumping straight into an all-encompassing move to the cloud is a wise move with many benefits. It’s much more effective to take the time to find the best solutions for your business’ needs, and then integrate them so that they work together and perform effectively. If you are a slightly bigger organization with lots of processes and have a smaller entity that you can test a software design and build against then that’s a good strategy to ensure success, especially when there is uncertainty and lots of existing customizations in your current system.
"Piloting Cleanmax in the cloud provided a perfect opportunity to take a step back, take inventory of all the customizations, process glut, and inefficiencies, and dig into all the shadow systems to reassess, refit, and retool their solution. Cleanmax was a microcosm of Alpine proper and, as such, was simultaneously easier to deploy and entirely representative of their overall functional requirements."
Taking a Staggered Approach
And that’s exactly what the Catapult team did for Alpine. We used Cleanmax as a pilot, putting the small entity onto Business Central first and then tackling their work order management process afterwards. Once Cleanmax was live on Business Central, we freshly designed and built a centralized work order management solution in Dynamics 365 Customer Service.
In order to facilitate the work order process we built a system that tracks and manages contract and site information, giving the customer service team a central place to review contracts before going ahead and creating new work orders. We built a system that makes it very easy for the team to create work orders and manage customer queries with a case management solution.
Because there is a financial billing component tied to Alpine’s work order management process it was necessary for us to ensure that the framework we built in Dynamics 365 Customer Service integrated seamlessly with Business Central. This meant any invoices or new requests that need to be billed separately were surfaced in Business Central such as work orders for new projects and ad hoc requests.
A Framework for Future Success
Our team worked closely with Alpine to understand their requirements for work order management, and in turn successfully built a framework for Cleanmax that is getting applied to the wider business today. This Dynamics 365 solution will help Alpine scale the company more effectively, deliver an improved customer experience and empower employees.
Information can get stored in once centralized place in Dynamics 365 CRM. There will no longer be workarounds or heavy customizations needed as critical information such as site information and contracts will all live in CRM.
A new case management solution means that customer service representatives will be able to address customer queries in a structured manner with the right information, and service them accordingly.
Implementing role specific software for CRM and ERP users means that employees will be empowered to solve problems and serve customers more efficiently and effectively. The customer service team will have access to the information they need to address customer requests and will feel empowered to get things done.
After the successful pilot with Cleanmax, Catapult is working with Alpine to implement Dynamics 365 for the whole company, encompassing all of their business processes, from finance to work order management. The Catapult team are building upon the concepts and framework that was designed for Cleanmax and applying it to the wider business. We’re extremely excited to be embarking on this digital transformation journey with Alpine and are excited to transform their business with modern technology.