How many processes or programs around your business require the participation of multiple players, be they employees, partners or customers? Probably quite a few. Even processes that are automated often require human intervention somewhere along the way.
For the most part, the key processes of a company exist in the familiar operating cycles like quote-to-cash, purchase-to-pay, plan-to-inventory, design-to-production, and so on. Also, every company has processes and programs that are unique to them. Whether unique or not, it is still the case in the year 2021 that some or all parts of many processes are still burdened with decentralized and manual ways (paper, fax, email, spreadsheets, etc.) of accessing, sharing. and processing information. All of which happens out of sync with core systems of record like an ERP or CRM system.
These are speedbumps to growing a business. Some companies turn to apps to digitalize these processes. These usually require expensive customization to satisfy the requirements of unique processes and don’t often extend to cover multiple operating scenarios. This can get complicated for a business.
Digitalizing is of course the answer, the question is, what type of solution can most efficiently address human-to-data interaction needs across numerous, varied processes and programs?
OGI Eyewear in Minneapolis, MN is an optical design company, a worldwide leader in affordable luxury eyewear, specifically eyeglass frames. Their customers are retail optometrists. Like any other company, OGI has both traditional and unique processes and programs. And like most other companies, it is often the unique programs that can be the difference-maker in achieving greater market penetration. This makes it all the more important that such programs run efficiently.
A few years ago OGI decided to go into the Canadian market directly, not through a distributor. In doing so, they were looking for ways to increase brand visibility there. An opportunity came up for OGI to work within a charitable program called Eye See…Eye Learn (or ESEL) a program that runs under the Provincial Professional Association for Optometrists. ESEL’s mission is: “To detect, diagnose, and treat vision problems in kindergarten students so that they can see, learn, and play to the best of their ability”. ESEL is a province-wide program, the largest of its type.
As it turns out, for the program to get a pair of eyeglasses to a child in need, four players are required, they are the provincial association, an eye doctor to perform the exam, a lab to cut and grind the lenses, and a frame-maker like OGI Eyeware to provide the frames.
Working with ESEL would provide OGI efficient access to optometrists, accelerating their direct marketing strategy in Canada, while at the same time making a meaningful contribution to the public.
In participating in the program each player has the following needs or concerns:
Provincial Associations are concerned with growing the program and tracking activity.
The Lab needs to prepare lenses according to prescriptions.
OGI Eyeware needs to know which frames to send to the lab for which of their optometrist customers.
Optometrists need to initiate and track the order status on behalf of their patient and be aware of any problems.
As the program advanced it became complicated to administer. For optometrists, it required a different kind of workflow, one where a network of partners simultaneously required visibility and the ability to provide updates against a backlog of orders. This was different from the typical linear flow of taking eyeglass frames off the wall and sending them to the lens maker.
Managing the process with the tools at hand looked like this: Optometrists had to fax a form off to the professional association to meet their needs, then fax another form to OGI, and another one to the lab. When faxes didn’t go through, people from the different organizations would call each other trying to track things down. The lab might call OGI saying “Hey, we just got this frame but we never got the lens order.” But OGI was unable to tell the lab who the frame was for.
“It got to the point where people were maintaining large spreadsheets of jobs and status and then faxing the spreadsheets to each other and marking them up.”, said Luke Brown, Manager of Operations at OGI.
One might chuckle at the archaic manner in which the process was being handled, but this is not uncommon. The reflex or muscle memory to solve digitally is still not entirely present in small and midsized businesses. The 2019 Deloitte study, “The Performance of Small and Medium-Sized Business in a Digital World” found that 25% of SMEs are at a basic level in their digital journey, and 41% at an intermediate level.
At one point, Luke spoke to an OGI customer service manager who was in the middle of managing the ESEL program for OGI. She told him about the number of person-hours required each week to manage ESEL. It was enough to require most of an FTE. If she weren’t able to recoup the hours, she would need to add a headcount, and at the time, that wasn’t an option.
As fate would have it, Luke had been using Third Wave Business System’s Versago configurable web portal platform to simplify information flows in other parts of OGI’s business. As he shared those use-cases in conversations internally, it didn’t take long for OGI to see how Versago could be put to use in managing the ESEL program, not just for OGI Eyewear but for all the players involved!
Versago provides a very easy to use but powerful capability to configure and deploy web portals for any use a business can think of. Creating web pages integrated with their ERP to present forms for data collection or to present lists of records that users can interact with is a simple point-and-click process with Versago. No coding or code compilation is required. One can create and interlink pages, assign roles and users and then immediately log in and experience it as an end-user. Integration with SAP Business One is simple and comprehensive so users are able to perform whatever task they need in perfect sync with SAP Business One.
Using Versago, the solution for ESEL was quite simple. It was comprised of a web page with a form for order entry and a page listing existing orders with status and the ability to make updates. Each player in the network was given role-based access to see and do what they needed to do.
Orders are filled out by optometrists participating in ESEL. All information that all players in the network need is captured on one form:
When the optometrist submits the form an email is sent to all players in the process and the order is automatically created in SAP.
OGI was able to easily create a second form for the Professional Assoc. that captured information about kids who were examined but would not need glasses. The program still wants to know the patient has been seen.
All players in the process can log in and check and update the order status depending on their role in the process and where the order is in the workflow. For example, OGI can prepare the frame and ship it to the Lab at the appropriate time.
In the end, emails stopped, faxing stopped, and all the “who’s on first?” stopped. The entire process and participants can provide and access all the information they need on one simple website from any device. And remember, OGI was already and continues to use the one Versago application, not multiple different apps, to connect people with the information they need in different processes around the company, not just the ESEL program.
Luke Brown sums it up like this: “The ESEL program was a slam dunk Versago use-case because you’ve got multiple constituents inside and outside the organization. If we hadn’t done this we would have probably had to have given up. This is good for us as a business and good for thousands of kids who can now see the chalkboard.”
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