Baby Steps

By Carol Hildebrand  |  Posted 2006-07-06 Print this article Print

Shuffle Master, a casino equipment maker, found a quick way to get more from its customer relationship management and planning systems—and avoid a full-blown integration project.

Baby Steps

In developing a solution, Greene says he was mindful that he was working with the resources of a midsize company, including I.T. budget, which he declines to disclose, and a 16-person staff. He also wanted to adhere to the I.T. strategy of standardizing on Microsoft products. Why? Because using one standard vendor gives his company economies of scale and generally makes it easier to get products to interact, he explains.

In 2005, Greene says his group initially experimented with SharePoint Services, a free entry-level tool included in Microsoft Windows Server 2003. SharePoint Services gives I.T. managers or designated employees the ability to create Web sites to store and share documents, calendars, contacts and announcements. Greene's team used these features to pull together a proof-of-concept for an internal central repository of information.

After developing the prototype, Greene retained Phoenix-based InterZnet to help build the portal, dubbed Radar, in honor of M*A*S*H's famously all-knowing Corp. O'Reilly. "He was the guy who everybody went to [for answers], and that's what we wanted this intranet to be," Greene says. The portal went live in October 2005.

Shuffle Master's sales force spends a lot of time in casinos, giving in-person demonstrations of its games and products. As such, the sales team is far more comfortable shuffling a deck than clicking a mouse, Greene says. "About 75% call in their orders to their administrative assistants, who take care of logging them into CRM, while the rest do the work themselves," he adds. As a result, Shuffle Master's order processing and service team takes over the data automation once a sale is made, according to Al Hathy, Shuffle Master's director of operations.

Once a sale is made, information—such as customer name, address and equipment purchased—is recorded in the Microsoft CRM and is eventually transferred manually into Great Plains' ERP software, which comprises the financial, distribution, manufacturing and service modules.

Certain steps automatically trigger the generation of custom reports. For example, once a purchase order for a shuffler or table game has been entered into CRM, Radar automatically sends a notice that the order must be input into the ERP. Because the two systems are not integrated, the portal serves as an inexpensive workaround.

At various stages in the workflow, Radar will automatically notify service and installation technicians via e-mail that it has created customized instructions, such as installation orders, so a technician knows he has to check with the casino to do things like ensure electrical service is easily available from the table.

"Reminders come off the system to alert employees [via e-mail] to look at information on Radar at certain points in the process," Greene says. "It cuts quite a bit of time off the service environment, and that increases customer satisfaction. Reducing the disruption to the casino floor from an installation means we get things up and running and creating revenue for our client faster."

The automated report system replaced a static system in which the order processing team downloaded work order data into spreadsheets and e-mail, an arrangement that had more margin for error. With multiple people working on the process and updating their own separate spreadsheets, it was easy for someone's data to not reflect the collective reality. With its live data, Radar maintains its accuracy, and users know they can access it immediately.

"When those alerts come through, they link to live reports with real-time information," Greene points out. "It's like a virtual assembly line."


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