Web-enabled workflow: Synergy solution simplifies collaboration in smaller organizations

Collaboration technology isn’t just for big companies anymore. Today it’s just as important—and readily accessible—to small and midsize businesses.


Harry Merkin, a VP with enterprise systems vendor Exact Software , wants you to know collaboration technology isn’t just for big companies anymore. Today it’s just as important—and readily accessible—to small and midsize businesses.

While enterprise systems contain vital company data, only a small number of employees typically work with those systems, says Merkin.

“There’s another group of customer-facing people—sales staff, marketing types, and financial and business analysts—and they’re usually isolated from that information,” Merkin adds. “They don’t have access [to ERP]. And typically they’ll have their own systems, but they’re different, and the groups might sit in a different building. They speak a different language, and as a result, they’re creating islands of information in their everyday work.”

That argument resonates with Bruce Wright, director of IT at Georgetown, Mass.-based UFP Technologies ,

To kick-start that collaboration in November 2006, UFP deployed Exact Synergy, a Web-based application that incorporates elements of CRM, and workflow, project, and document management in a single tool. UFP started using Exact Synergy to support its CRM needs, and then Wright began looking at ways to incorporate more business processes.

The first one he chose was the sales opportunity process.

Salespeople offered the perfect opportunity for testing out a collaborative tool since they tend to work in silos, even though they need involvement with people from different groups—e.g., customer service, engineering, and estimating. Wright and his team built the sales opportunity process into Synergy as a four-step workflow.

“Everyone who needed to collaborate in this [workflow] was involved, and it kind of took off from there,” he says. “We started looking at a lot of business processes, and different ways of using Synergy workflows.”

UFP Technologies, a designer and custom converter of foams, plastics, and natural fiber products, is using Exact Synergy—a Web-based application that incorporates elements of CRM, and workflow, project, and document management in a single tool—to refine its business processes ( photo courtesy UFP Technologies ).

Another workflow UFP Technologies implemented early on was already built into the Synergy system. The company added a link to its Web site that allows users to submit a request for information, or a request for quote. When that happens, the request is routed through Synergy, where an account is automatically created and a three-step workflow is kicked off.

Since implementing that workflow, UFP—which gets approximately 200-250 requests a month through its Web site—has been converting approximately 15 percent of those leads into customers.

According to Wright, one of the key benefits of the system is the way it builds in accountability. Everyone involved in a process can see who is responsible for which tasks, and who is or isn’t fulfilling those tasks.

UFP also uses Synergy to share documents that are attached to particular workflows, or information created and captured through the workflow itself—such as when a salesperson creates a new account card. This means all users of the system have access to the same information, and that always makes a big difference in the bottom line.

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