I didn’t think it would be this good. It has improved my working experience and it will make life so much easier for everyone in the team.”
Gary Thomas, CEO Hunters
Established in 1990, Hunters is now one of the UK’s leading, commercial furniture suppliers. Rapid growth for the furniture dealer has resulted in increased pressure on outdated, manual processes. It has also created a paper-heavy admin bottleneck. Leading Hunters’ business change project, Greg Bettis describes its aims: “We had two goals: to enhance customer experience, and to streamline internal processes. Working with the Ziptech team to implement Microsoft SharePoint, OneDrive and Teams, we have achieved both in a short space of time and with a very smooth transition.”
No sooner was the decision taken to go digital when pandemic lockdown measures were put in place. With over half of the staff on furlough and the business focusing on fewer projects, Managing Director Gary Thomas decided there was no better time to begin the project. Gary says, “We decided to just get on with it. It was an ideal time to do it. Even though Ziptech would normally have been working in our offices, they managed the entire project remotely and it was amazing. It was seamless.”
Having attended one of Ziptech’s Directors Briefing Sessions on Digital Transformation, Gary quickly recognised that a digital infrastructure could be a business tool that creates a more modern and productive environment. The project team at Hunters set about identifying the areas in which a Cloud-based IT infrastructure would make immediate and significant improvements.
A vital project which Hunters undertook during lockdown was to supply home office furniture to one company’s 600 staff. Describing his experience managing this project in SharePoint, Gary says,
“Everyone working on the project goes into one document and updates it. It is a single, living, up-to-date document at all times which we can share with the client daily as a progress report. I didn’t think it would be this good. It has improved my working experience and it will make life so much easier for everyone in the team.”
Additionally, Hunters has developed a complex, bespoke spreadsheet system for invoicing and order processing. Being able to work collaboratively on this avoids the need for constant sharing of documents and checking that staff have the most recent version. SharePoint is also playing a crucial role in ensuring tender documents are well-managed and completed in good time.
The business has a heavy sales and purchase ordering process. Currently no less than 19 employees are involved in processing paperwork. Gary said, “We want to be the best that we can be. We have a great team, we have great customer retention but our processes get in the way of us delivering the best possible experience. It is a pressure point in the business that had to be removed.”
During lockdown, Hunters had no choice but to go paperless, replacing physical delivery notes with iPads and DocuSign, and proactively talking to customers to ensure receipt of goods. Gary explains, “I’m glad we continued with the project in spite of the timing with COVID-19. It meant we could continue to operate as efficiently as possible and demonstrated that we could do without paper processes.”
Having implemented Teams, Hunters has been able to introduce an internal comms policy which will greatly reduce email. The short term goal is for all internal communications to be done via Teams, ring-fencing the inbox for external communications with clients and suppliers. Gary adds,
“Our administrators can receive a hundred emails a day whereas Teams allows us to very quickly communicate internally to keep projects moving along. Our Teams experience has been great.”
Now that Hunters has tasted the benefits of the Cloud, they hope to explore further ways in which the business can take advantage of the new infrastructure. Greg admits, “We focussed on the ‘must haves’ when we began this project. Now that the initial transition is complete, we can begin to work with Ziptech on future-proofing the business, further increasing productivity, and improving the experience for staff, suppliers and customers.”
Ziptech’s CEO Jim Simpson adds, “Implementing an infrastructure like this under the extraordinary conditions of lockdown was a first for us, although it absolutely proves the capabilities of Microsoft’s remote-working technology, not just from the user’s perspective but as system designers and engineers. It may be some time before office-working resumes for many businesses and we know we have a tried and tested solution for businesses operating through crises.”
Already aware that the business needed to move to Microsoft SharePoint, OneDrive and Teams, Hunters began looking around for the right service provider to deliver the project. Hunters’ project manager Greg Bettis said, “We had an IT company which we worked with for years and they were very good at reacting to problems, but we needed a proactive approach to instigate the level of change the company required.
Everyone at Ziptech speaks in a language we can understand. We explained what we wanted to do and their portrayal of the next step for Hunters was far better than anyone else’s. It was very simplistic and down to earth and provided a lot of clarity about the process and what the benefits would be.”