Cincinnati Bell Invests in Tech to Reinvent ItselfBy Tony Kontzer Print
The telecommunications company needed to invest in technology that would support the services side of its business, which had been run on outdated applications.
Like many regional telecommunications providers, Cincinnati Bell finds itself in a state of flux. With industry-wide economics forcing it to shift from network-oriented products to a business model emphasizing services, the company, which generates annual revenue of $1.2 billion and employs 3,400 people, had to reinvent itself.
In fact, the seeds of that transformation were planted seven years ago, when the company moved its network business onto Salesforce.com, and began using the Salesforce cloud to manage relationships with customers who purchased hardware.
In recent years, it became clear that Cincinnati Bell needed to invest in technology that would support the services side of its business, which had been running on antiquated home-grown applications backed by on-premises software. In that environment, field engineers who wanted to enter their time on a job, for instance, had to use a VPN connection to get into the system. When the needed connectivity wasn't available, other employees had to manually enter the data.
"From an operations perspective, it was a nightmare," said Tyler Gau, citizen developer.
The company decided it was time to put ERP capabilities in place to support the services business, so it looked at the Salesforce ecosystem. That led the firm to FinancialForce, a cloud-based ERP provider whose solution is built on Salesforce's Force.com platform and is designed for services businesses. Cincinnati Bell deployed FinancialForce's professional services automation (PSA) application earlier this year, and it will soon add the vendor's revenue recognition module.
Achieving Numerous Efficiency Benefits
Since implementing the PSA piece, Cincinnati Bell has experienced a dramatic change. It has seen numerous efficiency benefits, and the resulting single source of data has empowered employees and brought them closer together.
"People feel more connected and more in control," said Sarah Norris, lead business analyst. "They know they have a say, and there's more collaboration within the company."
Anecdotal benefits have been visible everywhere. Field service engineers can use any connected device—theirs or one that belongs to someone else—to access customer data or enter their time, and manual re-entry is a thing of the past.
Gau reported that there's a lot more insight into project management, and that has resulted in better decision making. FinancialForce gives salespeople data that helps them sell what their customers actually need, rather than what they think their customers need.
More than anything, the technology has made Cincinnati Bell more responsive and able to react to business needs in real time. That includes enabling employees to work more efficiently, providing more effective support for existing customers, and closing sales with new customers.
"The agility speaks for itself," said Gau. "If you're not the first to make a bid on work, you're probably not going to win it."
Along those lines, Gau said he's seeing salespeople ask for project reports for the first time. They used to have to wait for spreadsheets to be sent around, but now salespeople have a customized dashboard that keeps them updated on their sales pipelines and histories. In this way, they can keep on top of tasks related to potential sales and effectively maintain existing relationships.
On the horizon, Gau said he's looking forward to shedding manual processes when the new revenue recognition capabilities come on line. He also expects employees to invent further process improvements as they discover the software's ability to automate tedious, low-value tasks.
"We'll see a lot of time opened up for more value-added activity," said Gau. "It will ultimately change the way our users think about their processes."
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