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The hub of all knowledge

Small businesses don’t always have the luxury of replacing staff during short-term or temporary absences. It’s particularly hard for complex businesses like architecture and engineering firms that rely on relationships, unique document management and systems such as Synergy.

Consulting Engineering Solutions (CES) is one such business that has built hub of knowledge in Synergy that lets the business continue without missing a step when someone is out of the loop. A multi-faceted engineering firm in Caringbah, NSW, CES runs a paperless office and has very ‘strict’ procedures in place to ensure all documentation, emails and information for jobs and clients is carefully logged, stored and managed. It relies on Synergy as its business ‘hub’.

Responsible for managing, creating, implementing and policing CES’ system procedures is finance and practice manager Jessica Sjoblom.

“We use Synergy to cut down on administration work for our office staff,” Jessica says.

“Synergy means we can more effectively get our technical people to do lower level admin work without decreasing their efficiency… like filing emails to jobs.”

‚Äč“… what looked like a five-day-a-week admin role is only going to be two to three  days because of Synergy.”


MORE TIME

CES recently began using the revamped Synergy Outlook plugin. Being a paperless office means all emails are filed to Synergy. According to Jessica, email filing used to be managed by the office staff for all the consultants, taking up a huge amount of time.

“We file every email to Synergy… it doesn’t matter if it’s a simple two-liner, it goes to Synergy,” she says.

“We had been looking at adding staff to support this function as it takes up so much time, then we got the new Outlook plugin. Now what looked like a five-day-a-week admin role is only going to be two to three days because of Synergy.”

The outlook plugin has saved the company 16 to 24 hours of staff costs per week.

NO SUCH THING AS TMI (too much information)

The benefits of strict internal procedures were felt acutely when Jessica went on maternity leave recently.

Small businesses rarely have the luxury of replacing staff taking temporary leave – particularly when they’re integral to the structure of the business – given the cost and time of training replacements.

“We have documented all of our internal procedures with detailed notes in Synergy,” Jessica says.

“One of our favourite Synergy features is the notes and search engine – we can type-in part of a word, or whole word, and all of items selected for search come up.

“An example of how this worked well while I was away is in fee submissions. Often clients like submissions in a particular way – Synergy means someone can search for ‘fee submission [specific client]’ and find not only a set of detailed instructions for completing the fee submission itself, but also notes on how to deal with that specific client.

“We keep detailed notes to ensure the right information is retrieved from the client for the submission. All that information is then put into Synergy and added to templates in Synergy to complete the submission.”

These benefits were seen firsthand when Jessica went on leave. Jessica is the primary contact for CES’ bigger clients – she had been trying to get one of these clients to send information for a sizeable submission but it didn’t come in before she left. Despite this, the detailed instructions in Synergy meant her team was able to complete the submission correctly and win the job.

The importance of notes in Synergy for CES goes right down to the level of things like how to divert phones for lunch. Search for ‘divert’ and the answer is there.

The way these details are communicated internally has been made easy by making searching and using Synergy an organisational habit. If the answer isn’t in the system, it soon will be!

“Knowing all the different ways the time can be saved then translates through to invoicing, so we’re able to produce super accurate and easy to explain invoices… which helps us get paid!”

 

TRAINING TELLS

Jessica says one of the goals of this year (2014) is to integrate Synergy even more into the business.

“We all sit within about five metres of each other so it’s easy to adopt our own ways of using Synergy that are not necessarily best practice,” she says.

“It’s becoming more apparent we want to use Synergy more efficiently, particularly with more staff coming on.”

Late in 2013, Jessica got some additional training on budgets and financial reporting – elements of the system designed to make it easy to analyse charges versus cost amongst other things.

“The training I got from Anne really helped me feel confident about financial aspects of Synergy… not only in producing the reports, but in understanding and interpreting them as well” Jessica says.

“Knowing all the different ways the time can be saved then translates through to invoicing, so we’re able to produce super accurate and easy to explain invoices… which helps us get paid!”

TOP DOWN ADOPTION

Jessica says her boss loves Synergy. He “gets frustrated” if he can’t get into the system.

“We implemented a procedure recently that all emails have to be written using the email generator in Synergy… this is adopted from the top down.

“Everyone in our business uses Synergy and this year we plan to get everyone more involved, right through to budgeting and financial controls… We’re really keen to up the ante with Synergy.

“Synergy is the complete hub for our business.”

It’s fair to say Jessica is a fan.



JESSICA LOVES…

Document filing“When we job up a job, all the files automatically populate into the job folder.”

MYOB Connect “I do the bookkeeping as well. [MYOB Connect] is fantastic, everything syncs through to MYOB without a drama.”

Outlook plugin“Filing emails was one of the most time consuming factors for us. The Outlook plugin saves us two to three days of actual time.”

Notes “I don’t have to tell people things six times, it’s just in there and easy to find.”

Search function “Just type in part of a word and everything on that will appear – it’s easy to find anything.”

Contact“All of our contacts are in Synergy, it’s easy to find information on anyone and everyone involved with the business.”

“Oh, and all the financial reports are fantastic… I could say everything! It’s a bit of a hard question.”