HealthSource Plus boosts its workflow

For HealthSource Plus, new customer relationship management (CRM) software was more about improving business processes than about acquiring a shiny new piece of technology. The SMB-sized third-party administrator offers management services such as group health benefit plans to Canadian companies.

The firm has sales and support offices in Toronto, Montreal and St. Catherines, Ont., and manages approximately 30,000 users and $80 million in premiums. Eric Shulman, president of HealthSource, said the firm wanted to improve the customer view. The three offices had disparate systems on which customer information resided. The old environment comprised point contact solutions including Best Software Inc.’s ACT! and a offering. “To get a 360 picture of a client was very time consuming,” Shulman said. The firm ran its proprietary administration system on DOS, which made it difficult for staff to collect and track customer information at the desired level. The goal was to standardize on a single system, Shulman said.

Jeff Stinchcombe, vice-president, corporate development of HealthSource, said the firm also sought to migrate to an ISO-9000 operating environment and streamline business processes. HealthSource recently implemented Microsoft Corp.’s CRM. While the firm did investigate other CRM solutions, HealthSource is a Microsoft shop and preferred to stick with a Microsoft offering, Stinchcombe said.

With the Microsoft CRM offering, “[the ability] to track workflow was appealing,” Shulman said. The project began in June 2004. HealthSource implemented the solution with the help of integrator 3Peaks. “Here you have a relational database that you can make any kind of relationship you want. It was a case of understanding and figuring out what information was important to us.” It took about a month to decide what types of relationships had to be there, he said, adding that this information was transformed into templates and fields for the CRM software.

The pain points were around refreshing the IT architecture so Microsoft CRM would “play nicely” with the rest of the network, Shulman said. The firm had to update its hardware and remove the older point solutions to ensure the CRM tool would work in a stable environment. With a relatively small IT department, the firm decided to let 3Peaks manage the entire project. HealthSource continues to tweak the system for optimum performance.

Maryann Brabers, HealthSource Plus senior account executive, said the biggest training challenge was getting staff used to a new way of doing things. For example, staff can now run reports to see where issues are, track past history and refer back to it. The staff had to integrate the application into their workflow, Brabers said. According to Julie Van Der Lugt, a client service associate at HealthSource, the new system has improved overall productivity and efficiency. Previously, “there was no way of tracking what calls were coming in,” she said. Now users can see, from a single interface, which client issues must be addressed.

Microsoft has said the major update of its CRM application is slated for release later this year. The new version (the actual product name has alternated between Microsoft CRM 2.0 and Microsoft CRM 2005) is expected to address user concerns, such as software synchronization issues and limited integration with

Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail and information management client. Users will be able to add “entities,” customizable records that carry throughout the system, according to Yankee Group Inc. software analyst Sheryl Kingstone. She expects the forthcoming improvements to put Microsoft CRM on par with its rivals.

Microsoft announced in March that version 2.0 will feature enhanced process workflows; simplified installation procedures; and component services enabling easier integration with other applications and data sources. In future versions, HealthSource would like to see more customization with the reporting tool. “It’s a bit complicated right now,” Brabers said. Drop down selections to generate reports would be a useful addition, she said.

The streamlined workflow enables HealthSource to determine where inefficiencies lie within the firm, and to “benchmark things to get a good feel on what exactly what is our capacity, sales targets and the resources that we are going to need,” Stinchcombe said.

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