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The Great Plains Edition is Staging Connections' biggest show yet

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Company Profile
Specialising in technical, creative and strategic services for the corporate event market, Staging Connections has more than 80 locations around Australia (with offices in all states) and New Zealand. The company has 650 staff with an annual turnover close to $100 million.

Business Scenario
Rapid growth creates as many challenges as it does excitement for businesses, particularly if they are burdened with outdated IT systems that are unable to cope with increased demands on information management processes.

With 100 percent growth over the past five years, Australia's leading event staging and services provider, Staging Connections, had the foresight to implement a financial management system that has successfully supported their expansion since July 1997.

Specialising in technical, creative and strategic services for the corporate event market, Staging Connections has more than 80 locations around Australia and New Zealand, including offices in major five-star hotels and other conference venues.

Their business is aimed at maximising live communication, through providing the equipment and the specialists, for companies who use events as an integral part of their marketing and communications calendar.

By implementing the Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains Edition, Staging Connections has been able to formulate tailored system procedures and financial reports to support key management decisions.

"We've gone from a small business to a medium-sized company in Australia which we could not have done without an accounting system that has this much grunt," said Staging Connections Director of Finance, Graeme Kearns.

"Our expansion has been well-managed with a lot fewer mistakes by having a financial system that allows us to understand the financial machinations of our business and to use those financial reports to assist in our decision-making."

Mr Kearns said the flexibility of the Great Plains Edition has meant they can alter financial processes as the business grows and changes.

"Our business has changed dramatically from what it was five years ago. It has doubled in size, for a start. As our business grows, Great Plains has made it very easy for us to change our financial reporting and analysis," he said.

Before selecting Great Plains in 1996, Staging Connections had been using a customised program that was attached to their service delivery logistics system.

Mr Kearns said that it simply did not have the reporting flexibility or reporting requirements necessary for a growing business.

"The financial system basically had a trial balance, accounts receivable and accounts payable reporting system," he said. "Our reporting requirements were significant and very specific."

Mr Kearns: "We chose a Microsoft Business Solution primarily because it would be able to grow with our operation but also for its integration strengths which meant that it would work well with our other software systems."

After an eight-month implementation process, Staging Connections went live with Great Plains in July 1997 where they hit a few teething problems.

"We were fairly inexperienced and naive when embarking on this project, because it is not just the installation of a new software system; it is a whole review of business approaches and procedures," Mr Kearns said.

"Many processes needed to be rewritten, reorganised and refined and that's what takes the time."

About eight months after going live in early 1998, Staging Connections approached Phil Clarke, Managing Director of Apex Solutions, a Microsoft Business Solutions Partner, to take them to the next level with the Great Plains Edition.

"Phil came to us with a lot of experience in the Great Plains product and was able to help us to resolve fairly rapidly all the problems we had experienced in the first six months," Mr Kearns said.

"Apex Solutions has developed an intimate understanding of the way our system works with our business needs," he said. "That has been a critical part of the way we do business."

Phil Clarke states that the close relationship developed with Staging Connections was an important factor in realising the potential of Great Plains.

"The outcome means that Staging Connections are able to make better business decisions and to continue to expand with confidence," Mr Clarke said.

Staging Connections runs the Great Plains Edition for each of their 80 business units around Australia and New Zealand which, according to Mr Kearns, allows for effective assessment of performance.

In an average month, the company manages over 5,000 events out of offices in Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra, the Whitsundays, the Gold Coast and Auckland with each also running departments within five star hotels and venues.

In Sydney, for example, the base office accounts for 55 percent of the events with the remainder being generated from teams located at 14 hotels and other venues such as Sheraton on the Park Hotel.

"Great Plains gives us the ability to report the contribution of each of those business units to the business as a whole which means we can establish key performance indicators," Mr Kearns said. "This allows us to identify those units that need our management attention and those that are running well."

Apart from reporting for 80 separate business units, the Great Plains Edition provides a FRX drill down facility, a useful tool for general managers to access reports easily and understand how the numbers are put together.

Meanwhile, Staging Connections is continuing to expand other functionalities of the Great Plains product within their business.

As a business with extensive assets - including more than 45,000 separate rental items such as lighting and audiovisual equipment - Staging Connections required an assets register. In 2002, the fixed assets module was implemented which itemises, depreciates and accounts for each asset.

The migration from the existing asset register to Great Plains will be completed mid 2003.

The company is also currently beta testing a new logistics management system that will allow them to better schedule people, equipment and resources. Great Plains will be totally integrated into the new system when it goes live in July this year.

Mr Kearns said that each time Staging Connections needs to do something new, the Great Plains Edition allows them flexibility.

"When we opened our office in Auckland last year, it was very simple to add another module for multicurrency. When we wanted to move from reporting based on the type of revenue stream to a different revenue stream, it was an easy process through our report writer."

"I have always been confident that the Great Plains Edition will keep up with the pace of our business."

"When we implemented Great Plains, we were only scratching the surface of its potential. As we've become more experienced in using it and exploiting its capabilities, we discover there is more to find,"
Mr Kearns said.

"Initially, we costed this project to support us for ten years. We're now five years into it and I believe that it will continue to grow with our business beyond another ten years," he said.

Flemming Beisner, Managing Director of Microsoft Business Solutions Australasia, said Staging Connections was one of a growing number of organisations in Australia who were realising the benefits of purchasing a Microsoft Business Solution.

"Because the Great Plains Edition is so flexible, it empowers organisations to run their business the way they want. It is well-suited to companies wanting to expand," Mr Beisner said.

About Apex Solutions
Apex Solutions is a certified Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains Edition Partner based in Sydney. Their mission is to provide service, quality and experience in the delivery and support of the Great Plains business solution for medium-sized organisations.

About Microsoft Business Solutions
Microsoft Business Solutions, which includes the businesses of Great Plains and Navision, offers a wide range of business applications designed to help mid-market businesses become more connected with customers, employees, partners and suppliers. The Microsoft Business Solutions applications automate end-to-end business processes across financials, distribution, project accounting, e-commerce, human resources and payroll, manufacturing, supply chain management, business intelligence, sales and marketing management and customer service and support. More information about Microsoft Business Solutions can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/businesssolutions


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Last modified: Tuesday September 14, 2010.