The Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) is an organisation that aims to connect, support, and grow local Birmingham businesses.
Shakir Whayeb, Director of IT & Central Services at the Greater Birmingham Chambers of
Commerce, operates from the heart of their group of six Midlands-based Chambers.
The technology Shakir and his team oversee has to allow all six local Chambers to engage effectively with more than 3000 member businesses and to promote over 250 events throughoutthe year.
Back in 2015, their previous CRM system, based on outdated, clunky technology that had been in
place for more than ten years, was struggling to cope. A change of direction saw the team move to a Microsoft Dynamics solution, but the system still wasn’t working in a way the highly collaborative teams of GBCC were 100% happy with.
Shakir explained: “No business wants to work in silos. You don’t want a CRM system that’s different from the finance system, for example, or not effectively integrated to your website or your internal business processes.”
Shakir Whayeb - Director of IT & Central Services at the GBCC
With this in mind, Shakir decided to re-tender for a CRM service provider who could deliver greater systems integration, while also displaying the creativity and flexibility that could underpin a long-term relationship.
“In our previous set-up, there were a lot of manual interventions required between our different
systems – membership, events and billing. We would get something from the website, an enquiry
or a booking, for example, but instead of it going straight into the CRM system, somebody had to
type it in or copy and paste. That’s a time-consuming process and one that brings with it the
possibility of human error. Now, our systems are far more integrated and are talking to each other
“Instead of someone spending half a day every day doing something manually between systems,
that work is now happening automatically. As well as cost savings and workflow efficiencies, what
we now have is a complete view of what everyone in the organisation is doing with each individual
member. I think our customers appreciate this – because they can see that we’re offering them a
more coherent, efficient service as a result.”
GBCC’s journey to this level of system achievement has clearly been a worthwhile and thoughtful
process of continuous improvement.
“There was a drive to change the structure of the business and review most of our business
processes, so it was essential to align the CRM system to support that kind of internal change.
It was a fairly rigorous process, but it wasn’t just an IT decision, it was a business decision. Our
first step was to liaise with our stakeholders, then we looked for a solutions partner to build a close
working relationship with. We wanted a partner to collaborate and listen as well as advise, and
most importantly be creative and flexible throughout the relationship.”
Formus Professional Software, affectionately known as Formus Pro to clients, started work on the project with The Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce in October 2017. Technical Director, Glenn Powell worked on the project himself together with his team of technical hybrid consultants, hired for their relationship building skills alongside their technical expertise.
Glenn explains: “We don’t believe in having people who are consultants and people who are
developers. We believe in having people who can be both at the same time. In the case of GBCC it
was a clear fit. Shakir and the team are highly collaborative. They were clear on the areas they
wanted to improve on and eager to take the time with us to properly explore the solutions we could
offer. It’s not just the software requirements – but the broader business context within which that
software will operate”
Glenn Powell - Technical Director at FormusPro
Sometimes, looking into changing an underperforming legacy or first phase system that no longer lives up to expectations can seem daunting to tackle, but as we’ve seen, it clearly pays to be patient and work with the right people internally as well as externally.
“This project required more than the standard approach offered by typical consultants. Often, we
see a better or different way, not only to improve the system further but to enhance a workflow or
approach at little or no extra effort. That’s what we had here.”
“Working alongside GBCC we were able to identify and implement efficiencies surrounding
workflows that went beyond what we initially had been asked for. Streamlining a current 9-step
user process for membership renewal to a 3-step process, which actually took less time for us to
implement and saved GBCC staff several manual tasks.”
hakir’s final words on the project reflected this, demonstrating how communication, collaboration and flexibility are key when making improvements like these to an existing system. He explains…
“I would advise anyone looking for a membership software provider to firstly work with your
stakeholders. Understand your business requirements and processes really, really well. Brainstorm
with your chosen software development partner, they have insights into the system that you may
not have even considered then work collaboratively. There’s no point in you building a fantastic
system that’s based on flawed processes.”
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