BACKGROUND: Bell & Howell Financial Services is a full- service captive leasing company that funds 5,000 to 6,000 medium-to-small lease transactions per year. The company has been in business for 25 years and offers equipment acquisition solutions and strategically designed financing packages.
PLATFORMS: All of our workstations are running Windows NT with the FoxPro database server.
PROBLEM SOLVED: The main issue was that we had an informational database for our lease portfolio that was not Y2K compliant and was no longer being supported by the manufacturer. In addition, we had several different manual systems in place, none of which communicated with one another. We needed a system that could automate and control every phase of the leasing process, including contact management, database tracking, credit approval, UCC filing and processing, documentation generation, approval and lease management. We looked at a number of systems within the leasing industry and from other CRM solution providers and found that their offerings gave us only a piece of what we needed. Visual Elk version 8.0 from StayinFront, Inc. was the only solution that could control the entire process. Since the system was implemented in mid-December 1999, we have been able to significantly reduce the time required to generate a lease as well the cost.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The way the product has been working for us has made it an easy sell to our people. Automating our processes with Visual Elk has enabled our people to input more information into the system than ever before and receive so much more out of it. The reliability of the system has been excellent. After completing the in-house deployment of Visual Elk, we have begun rolling out the system to our regional finance managers. This will provide them with contact-management and opportunity-tracking capabilities not previously available. Visual Elk's synchronization will ensure that our remote users have complete and up-to-the-minute information and that information generated in the field will auto-matically be entered into the home office database. In addition, we will Web enable our procedures, allowing input of information into our front-end system using the Internet.
STRENGTHS: The key factors in the selection of Visual Elk were its flexibility which allowed us to configure a solution to meet Bell & Howell's unique needs and that it could be modified easily as our business requirements change. Any change that we want to make to our procedures can be quickly replicated into Visual Elk. Another major consideration was its ability to interface with a number of other operations. In addition, Panorama, StayinFront's powerful data analysis tool, provides excellent reporting capabilities.
WEAKNESSES: Every aspect of Visual Elk had to be created from scratch, as there were no pre- written or packaged components. We have many departments that use the solution, and each person and department had different ideas as to what is important to list within the contact management piece.
SELECTION CRITERIA: The primary reason for selecting Visual Elk was that it was the only product that we evaluated that could give us all of the functionality that we needed immediately. StayinFront was able to deliver an impressive working model in one week. We could see what our system was going to look like. No one else could do this.
DELIVERABLES: By automating the workflow, Visual Elk has reduced the time and cost of lease generation, provided us with status reports not previously available and put far more information in the hands of our people at the home office and, soon to be, in the field.
VENDOR SUPPORT: We received outstanding support from StayinFront. We gave them a short timetable to develop and implement the product. Our first contact was in mid- October, and after flowcharting our procedures, they delivered a working model in one week. Deployment of the system began in mid-November, and by December 16 Visual Elk had been installed.
DOCUMENTATION: We received complete documentation for our training program. As we made changes to the system, the documentation changed. By the time we had completed training, we had a full set of documentation for everyone that was using the system. That documentation is now being used to train new employees.
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