Powerful software is often the key to business success. For office supplies and services company Futurform, that has meant adding ECi e-automate to ECi Horizon and ECi Acsellerate. Futurform can now manage service contracts more effectively and is driving down costs for greater profitability.
Futurform Limited provides office supplies, furniture, creative services and IT services. It employs 45 people and has a turnover of £4.5 million. Based in Somerset, the company serves customers in Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Dorset. Its newest venture, Futurform IT Services, offers IT support for schools.
ECi Horizon was introduced for office supplies in 2009 and ECi Acsellerate added in 2012. Although everything worked well, a new managed print service for photocopier users saw a heavy reliance on spreadsheets for administration. In September 2013, a new IT services business was launched.
“We knew then that we were going to need software for both sides of the business. We wanted a system that allowed our services sales and purchases to punch out to ECi Horizon,” says managing director David Oliver.
ECi’s e-automate was quickly identified as a strong contender for service-led activities. Knowing of ECi’s plans to launch the software in Europe, a decision was taken to go live in April 2014.
“ECi Software Solutions had a proven track record with Futurform and e-automate was used by over 1350 companies in the US, so it was natural that we decided to go with e-automate to meet our new business needs.” says Oliver.
A “brilliant” ECi implementation manager was provided as a single point of contact and an online training programme began immediately.
“Training was carried out over eight weeks with two hours per day web sessions. It was split into modules. ECi has also got this phenomenal online resource including videos, training manuals and examples.”
ECi then supplied an Excel workbook with multiple sheets to capture details of suppliers, customers, contracts, stock, general ledger codes and other details.
“Using spreadsheets was a great way of doing it. We wanted to be sure that the data was spot-on in the first place. ECi was there to help.”
As soon as the software was available, Futurform installed it and imported the captured data. A bespoke link to ECi Horizon was developed by ECi for services billing and, in April 2014, Futurform became the UK’s first user.
e-automate now provides sales, service, purchasing, inventory, contract management and accounting tools. It handles photocopier service, supplies replenishment and transactional orders in one solution. Monthly billing takes hours rather than days with customers receiving a single statement for office supplies and services.
The software supports daily tasks from taking in new stock to sending out consumables. All service visits are tightly managed too.
“e-automate is the best system I have ever seen for workflow. It has to be done properly first time round, the only time around,” says Oliver. “We also have a dispatch console. We can see any service task that has been raised including what stage they’re at and whether they need a re-visit. We can see it in one snapshot view.”
All events and associated costs are carefully recorded. Whether an individual task or a contract is profitable are therefore easy questions to answer. It’s all helping drive costs out of managed print services.
“We now have complete accountability of all our support contracts, including the travel time/cost, parts and labour. We are able to pull out a detailed profit and loss through e-automate,” says Oliver.
Having so much detail is an extremely useful management tool. For example, the costs of site visits may be compared and alternative strategies considered.
“This is the thing that we have found the most use out of and the most fascinating. It has enabled us to put key performance indicators—traffic lights—in place.”
Futurform’s latest venture for schools is also benefitting from e-automate as IT support contracts are added in. ECi RemoteTech is being considered to allow technicians to manage service calls from smartphones. With help from new software, Futurform is finding great business success.