ICS+ Streamlines Its Business with Salesforce.com
With fewer than 10 employees, Austin-based ICS+ is the epitome of a small business. Yet its size belies the scale of many of the firm’s projects—it specializes in automated control systems, designing, programming, and commissioning audio-video systems for commercial, educational, and large residential properties.
“When you look at a building you have the HVAC, the lighting, the video conferencing, the audio-visual equipment; we write software that allows you to control all those devices on one interface so that you can walk into a room and hit one button and it takes care of all these actions behind the scenes. [Also], from a maintenance standpoint, you can maintain a building from one spot,” explains Bernard Morgan, president of ICS+. “We develop custom software, but typically we go to market as a contractor because a lot of our work is around renovating or building new buildings—deploying software as a building is being built, which is a unique experience.”
Customization is key to ICS+’s business, as no two projects are the same. But the company’s previous CRM system couldn’t manage the complexity; it consisted of project management spreadsheets and custom billing reports, both of which were put together manually, and collaboration was mostly confined to email. These disparate systems proved clunky, making it challenging for the company to develop an integrated view of its clients and to adapt to changing needs over time. So the company turned to Salesforce.com, deploying a number of Salesforce solutions, including Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Community Cloud, Quip, and Inbox.
“We’re a very project-centric company…and a project can be anything from a two-hour, $300 service call to a full-blown hospital or convention center, which is a multiyear project with 10,000 hours. At any point we have 50 active projects going on [that are] on that scale, and…keeping that data up to date and keeping it in sync became overwhelming with the other CRM solution,” Morgan says. “We truly now use Salesforce for pretty much everything in the company: for sales; for project management, where we deploy projects and manage time; our servicing tickets.... Everything’s inside of Salesforce.”
Having a single, unified system has made coordination easier. Morgan notes that since the firm’s projects are generally deployed remotely, with a worker onsite testing a system or code, quick communication is critical. Under the old system, the employee would have to send an email every time an issue was encountered. “What we do now is we make a case and link a Quip document to that case, so instead of sending emails back and forth, [the person in the field] can make notes on that Quip document and then we can see it and we can comment on it,” Morgan says. “That reduces the traffic considerably on the deployment side.”
Stephanie Morgan, ICS+’s chief financial officer and owner, adds that the reduction in email traffic includes internal emails as well. “Through using Quip and starting to utilize Chatter more as well, we’ve been able to reduce a lot of our internal emails back and forth too, just updating each other on what the status of a project is or different internal administrative things. I hardly ever get emails from within our team anymore,” she says.
She notes that the Salesforce implementation has helped shorten the accounts receivable cycle by clarifying to everyone how much progress has been made on a project—so when a programmer has completed his part of a project, for instance, accounting knows to send an invoice for it.
“The other piece of that is getting our clients on board with acknowledging that we’ve accomplished that billable milestone,” she says. “Just by being able to organize a lot of our project data and project progress and streamline our communication with our clients in terms of those billable milestones, it’s really made those conversations a lot easier, [and] our clients are feeling more informed.”
All of this improved coordination has achieved measurable results: ICS+ has reduced its email traffic communications by 20 percent and shortened its accounts receivables cycle by 15 days.
The company has also increased sales with Salesforce. The ability to track opportunities within Salesforce has enabled ICS+ to better track and close jobs and allowed it to be more selective about the opportunities it pursues.
Since deploying a suite of Saleforce solutions, ICS+ has achieved the following results:
- reduced its email traffic by an average of 20 percent;
- shortened its accounts receivables cycle by 15 days; and
- become better at tracking and closing jobs.