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We recently interviewed our client Angela Silbernagel, marketing director at The Silbernagel Group (SG). 

Here’s what Angela had to say about her company’s Challenge, the CTC Solution, and the Results. 

  

Challenge: 

At SG, we service over four hundred clients every year—and each client has varying needs, and we’re on target for major growth. We knew that we needed to streamline our client review process and simplify our complex technical environment to best support our workflow. 

We had tried creating a client review process in our CRM system, but it didn’t meet our needs. Our CRM was not adequately tracking review intervals—especially since some clients have annual reviews, while others request meetings multiple times a year. We needed the ability to easily monitor target outreach to get people scheduled in advance without falling behind. Our CRM lacked the automation features to support scheduling outreach, and we needed a clearly defined process around how many rounds of follow-up to include. 

Because our CRM didn’t have a reminder feature to easily review tasks that needed to be addressed, our staff primarily relied on e-mail notifications that clogged up inboxes. And while we had a clear process, it was rigid—anytime a client didn’t require a specific action in the process, the system would be stuck on that step until a team member manually moved it along. Limited reporting options also made oversight difficult, since there wasn’t a consolidated dashboard for managers to review status without clicking through individual client listings. 

Finally, we were using six CRMs—and had many companion spreadsheets! We relied on industry-specific software to support our many different business areas, which required a very manually intensive system to keep our data accurate. If something was updated in the CRM, it was critical that it was also updated in the related spreadsheets. This was not only time-consuming for our team to execute, but specific tasks—like pulling marketing lists—required gathering content from multiple locations which had us moving slowly and never quite able to trust our own reports because someone might have missed a step in the process 

We knew that our document management process was archaic—we wanted to “move to the cloud,” but needed help understanding how to set it up properly to best leverage its impact in our workflow. Our overall technical environment was complex, and we wanted to streamline and simplify to support our company’s time management goals. 

 

Solution 

CTC Productivity came highly recommended to us because they were experts in helping companies not just leverage Microsoft 365 to solve business issues, but train teams on how to use those tools for continuous process improvement.   

SharePoint Lists

CTC recommended using Microsoft 365’s SharePoint Lists as a dashboard for effective document management. Because SharePoint Lists is a “no code” software, you don’t need to be a programmer to use it, making it a powerful skill for anyone in a process improvement role. 

Without proper training, onboarding new technology can be a struggle and result in not taking full advantage of the platform. CTC made no assumptions about our technical skills and started with foundational training, so it wasn’t overwhelming. This baseline understanding meant that the project was delivered far earlier than expected because our team was able to pick up the concepts quickly. 

One of our goals was to continually look for process improvement opportunities. While CTC executed the design and development, they also trained us along the way. Our team received an intimate understanding of how the software worked and learned effective no-code skills to best maintain it. CTC also educated us about which features to avoid because they are buggy or can easily break. This insight from an expert was invaluable and will surely save us much time and frustration as we move forward. 

CTC also helped us understand the best way to structure our team to support the system—including managing permissions and how to decide who should have access. This was historically managed by our IT group, but it makes sense for us to have this responsibility and knowledge so we can easily onboard new team members and not have to wait for a 3rd party to complete our request.  

We are now fully confident in maintaining the system and are excited to improve workflow processes as we move forward. 

Leveraging Existing Microsoft 365 Apps 

In addition to building the SharePoint solution, CTC helped us understand how to integrate it into the Microsoft 365 environment to streamline the way we work with various other systems and workflows. 

The CTC team explained how the various business applications worked and recommended we eliminate third-party software to save money and take advantage of integration abilities. We were able to eliminate Calendly, Trello, and Bloomgrowth (our previous EOS® management tool), as well as downgrade our Zoom plan for a total annual savings of over $7,500. We also now use supportive Microsoft 365 applications like Stream for onboarding videos, saving valuable data storage space. 

This solution fits perfectly with our philosophy of continuous improvement and eliminating duplicate systems. We appreciated the insight about how to leverage existing Microsoft 365 applications to consolidate software and save time and money. 

 

Results 

Moving our data from the network drive to the cloud and leveraging all the Microsoft 365 features alone was well worth the cost of consulting (and in fact, paid for itself in under six months!). And this is just the tip of the iceberg with the benefits we received working with CTC. 

SharePoint Document Storage

  • Money saved by removing duplicate cloud software. 
  • Time saved by avoiding logging in to separate software, having to track passwords, and updating passwords every three months for security. 
  • Simplified workflow by eliminating confusion about when to store on the cloud vs. local computer. 

Centralized Dashboard

  • Time saved by avoiding updating information in multiple locations. 
  • Improved oversight for leadership with a bird’s eye view of all projects. 
  • Versatile project views, where you can pull specific documents instead of the full list of 400 projects or what a rigid system says you need. This versatility for projects that are “exceptions to the rule” makes it much easier to pull the information needed to complete a task. The ease of retrieving customer data has also greatly supported our marketing efforts. 
  • Reduced risk of user error and critical steps being missed because of a manually intensive process. 

“Live” Documents

  • Simultaneous updates allow multiple collaborators at once, avoiding wasted time from waiting for colleagues to complete work and risking creating a duplicate / overwriting someone’s work. 
  • Avoiding multiple document versions using features like “Change History” and “Catch Up” to easily see what others did since last opening a document. Our previous process of saving individual documents for each new meeting took up space, cost money, and slowed down our system. 
  • Improved file management with document links saves substantial time in advisor case review meetings. Previously, any reference to a document would note the file path (e.g. Advisory > Client Docs > Jim > Client Name > Investments > Account > Illustrations) and pulling up each income plan would take 3 – 5 minutes per client. Using document links, the agenda is now prepped in advance of the meeting, and income plans take two seconds because each advisor case review meeting involves four advisors (our highest-paid team members!) and saves an estimated 30 minutes per weekly meeting, totaling $1K / week in savings. We are now able to cover a lot more in those meetings and avoid having to “catch” our lead financial advisor outside of the meeting when we run out of time. With more efficient meetings our clients are served better, which results in more revenue for the firm. 

Eliminating Duplicate Apps

The simple act of eliminating duplicate software with existing Microsoft 365 apps resulted in huge savings—not to mention improving our time management by avoiding logging in to multiple systems. 

  • Replaced Bloomgrowth (for EOS management) with Planner for a savings of $280 / month or $3,360 / year. 
  • Replaced Calendly with Bookings for a savings of $150 /month or $1,800 / year. 
  • Replaced Trello with Planner for a savings of $100 / month or $1,200 / year. 
  • Downgraded Zoom plan by using Teams for a savings of $100 / month or $1,200 / year. 
  • Replaced RingCentral Chat with Teams Chat. While this didn’t result in cost savings since we still use RingCentral for phones, Teams Chat is much easier to manage, especially since compliance doesn’t allow Ring Central Chat. 

 

Here are some specific examples of how our workflow improved. 

Before: Previous Redtail workflows in our CRM were hard to filter, making it almost impossible to prioritize tasks so the biggest opportunities are served first. Our team was only notified when something happens—but when nothing is happening, who notices? Redtail also lacked transparency, which meant we relied on only one or two people to move a project through the workflow. 

After: In SharePoint, all tasks that are “stuck” or not moving forward are labeled in red and placed at the top of the list to ensure nothing is lost or forgotten. Now, every piece of information is filterable and searchable. This allows our team to complete all “like” assignments together, which is more efficient than jumping from task to task. This has particularly streamlined appointment scheduling—team members can now filter by “appointment needed” and make all necessary calls by 9:00 a.m. If something is backlogged, everyone can see and jump in to help—it is not “hidden” on one person’s list just because it was assigned to them. 

Before: All notes were taken in one combined location, which meant that anyone reviewing the information had to read through dense paragraphs of information to identify the data they needed. 

After: Client notes are now organized into columns for easy review. This also saves time with note-taking—for example, instead of typing “Transfer amount: $50,000” into the notes, our team can just type in the value.  

Before: When preparing for client reviews, our team had to track down their colleagues for information. Gathering client information took ~20 minutes to read the notes, check the workflows, and log in to our form submission system for our compliance department. 

After: We can gather client information in two clicks! Our advisors can now review relevant data without interrupting the team, which has increased productivity and lowered stress. 

Before: Cashflow management was in the review mirror and involved guesstimating. 

After: We now track commissions when we write the business, so we have an educated estimate of what to expect and manage our company money more efficiently. 

Before: Onboarding was time-consuming, requiring logging into multiple systems to add the new team member.  

After: What used to take three hours now takes twenty minutes! All we have to do is add a team member to a permission group and they are instantly added to all the right documents and Teams channels. The employee onboarding checklist in SharePoint makes it easy to “self-train” with videos linked in Microsoft 365’s Stream without downloading, buffering, or taking up data storage space. The checklist format makes it easy to monitor onboarding process and split up work, without having to meet with each person involved for an update or next steps. 

 

Summary 

The whole CTC Productivity team was lovely to work with and very responsive. We absolutely plan to continue working with them! We loved the experience, learned a lot, and even had fun. 

I love that I could pay CTC to educate us on everything with no ongoing cost commitment. They helped make sure we set things up correctly the first time which allowed us to implement what we built with them in less than a month.  

Since wrapping up the project with CTC we are now able to tackle simplifying our CRM environment. With our new no-code skills, we are building out a simple CRM in SharePoint to replace most of our other CRM’s, another huge cost and time savings effort 

Our centralized dashboard is so much easier to use, and along with productivity benefits, it has reduced our team’s stress level and made everyone much happier in their daily duties and job satisfaction. 

ROI: 

Total Investment: $6,250 

Ongoing Cost: $0 

Annual Hard Cost Savings: Eliminating duplicate software: $7,560  

Annual Time Savings: 1 headcount