Founded in 1996, Audio Visual Design Group is a leading design-build firm specializing in audiovisual systems for conference, presentation, education and collaboration spaces worldwide. The company was recently awarded the Samsung Smart Signage Award for Education Installation of the Year for a project at the Stanford Bioengineering Department that involved syncing 50 screens for academic presentations.
Creating Consistency and Transparency
Like many maturing businesses, AVDG’s rapid growth demanded processes evolution, better forecasting and accountability.
During its formative years, AVDG initially used Microsoft applications to manage customer information via spreadsheets and emails. As the company grew, the inherent problems with this approach became apparent: spreadsheet files didn’t get updated or shared widely, and emails got waylaid in individuals’ inboxes. Management couldn’t be certain that all customer-facing employees had the current version of the contract, installation agreement or specifications.
Setting out to find a CRM to solve its basic contact management concerns, AVDG first decided on Salesforce. But, high licensing costs and a lack of flexibility drove Tom to seek another, more enterprise-ready solution. In addition, he wanted an on-premise hosting option – either in-house or with a partner — instead of being tied to a cloud-based platform, as dictated by Salesforce.
“With Sugar, we can host and make any modifications based on business needs,” Tom says. “Salesforce doesn’t allow that: it pigeonholes you into a mass application.”
Tom needed an enterprise platform that worked for all his teams, one that provided the transparency and process management to drive the entire business efficiently.
“There is a whole host of information we have to share – sales, financial, technical services and implementation. That was the key indicator for us in choosing Sugar,” Tom says.
“In Excel, we might have had a document with 2,000 line items and if someone made a change, it got sent out to everybody. But if somebody was working on a different version, the update could be easily missed. Sugar was our solution,” he says.
In addition, AVDG wanted to standardize the company image and processes among customer-facing departments. Using Sugar to automatically generate quotes enabled AVDG to create uniform proposals, track them through approvals and log the customer’s acceptance via DocuSign, an electronic signature application.
“With Sugar, we show we are a substantial and professional company, because we are able to present standard proposals, standard language, and the same layout. We wanted a branded look that showed we knew what we were doing,” Tom says.
Today, the sales team uses Sugar to track the entire customer journey.
“They’re finding leads, entering information; tracking their contacts, tracking their leads, tracking opportunities; looking at their pipeline. We have the whole sales front end,” says Tom. “Once we produce that proposal and get an agreement in place, we are off and running with the financial side and the account management piece, both in Sugar.”
But it didn’t start that way in sales when AVDG first implemented Sugar.
As in many businesses, the sales team was typically overburdened and moving too quickly to set aside time for introducing new processes and record-keeping. For them, Tom created an effective and clever solution:
“We started calculating sales commissions in Sugar. The sales team then led the way to adoption.”
AVDG’s technical staff, which includes programmers, engineering teams, project managers and audio-video technicians, uses Sugar and integrated applications to design custom room installations.
When developing a proposal for a new installation, a custom Rooms Module gives engineers and technicians the ability to create scaled drawings of the project rooms and overlay all components via an integration between Sugar and a design application called D-Tools. This integration then creates a materials list for the job that runs from full wall-width video screens down to the exact number of cable ties.
That document becomes the proposal the sales staff presents to the client. Once approved, the document shifts to become the work list through which the technical staff taps into the Sugar-loaded product catalog to fulfill the job’s materials requirements.
“We’ve been doing it this way for so long now, I know it saves us time and ensures accuracy in our proposals. That means a lot,” Tom says.
Sugar provides consistency across departments and throughout a customer lifecycle that lasts years.
and jobs, it works its way through Sugar until the project is completed. There isn’t a department that doesn’t use Sugar heavily,” says Tom. “When you come on board, you get a Sugar account.”
Using Sugar’s functionality, AVDG also has improved revenue forecasting: it draws on sales in the pipeline, overlays its close rate and factors in its 90-day close cycle.
“Our Sugar forecasting is so detailed and accurate, even our investors were impressed,” Tom says.
Planning for More With Sugar
The more Tom finds ways to use Sugar, the more staff embraces the possibilities.
“We’re about 75 percent there, and the adoption level has been going up and up. With every new user, we keep showing that Sugar makes everybody’s job easier and makes them more effective. Each time we get one more person on board, it brings everybody else up another notch,” Tom says.
Among his plans: Integrating the company’s document archiving software; creating a customer portal, so customers can file service requests and self-service for common issues; and implementing a customer service case management system.
“My goal is to have Sugar drive the business,” he says.” The intelligence we gain from the system can help drive smart decisions across our organization.”
- D-Tools: Industry-specific tool to design and audio-visual systems and specify materials and components drawn from Sugar- incorporated hardware and materials catalog; can be used to generate multiple rooms from a single input file.
- QuickBooks: Integrated with Quotes Module for invoicing.
- Docusign: Electronic signature application for contracts.