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Outdated case management system and the perils of starting from scratch

A Boston based investment advisory firm’s outdated case management system thwarts company performance undetected — until a fresh pair of eyes arrived on the scene to ask: Why?

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Buggy system blocks initiative

Ellen, a newly hired consultant at this Boston based investment advisory firm, felt disempowered. She lacked the ability to leverage data collected from past cases to win future business for her firm. Her investment firm owned an outdated case management database created years ago in Microsoft Access.

Their existing database’s intended purpose was to act as a catalogue of case information.  Data collected for each case included: industry, keywords, competitors, team members, status and a case summary. The database would be searched when a new case came in. Searching allowed consultants to take advantage of past research on similar cases when writing their proposals. But gugs and quirky behavior in the system made it impossible to use; and so it wasn’t used.

Frustrated, Ellen embarked on a mission to find a new system that was user friendly so that people would use it, and incentivized so that people had to use it.

Past performance prevents future results

Immediately Ellen encountered her biggest obstacle — past failures. Being new to the investment firm, she soon learned that several previous attempts to fix the system failed. Now she understandably faced strong resistance to anything resembling another time sink and worse, a hit to morale.

Starting from scratch

Ellen’s colleagues accustomed themselves to every case being brand new. Each new case required a fresh set of research in order to learn about the industry, competition and landscape for their prospective new client. Given that each case took an average of six weeks to complete, a significant amount of consultant time stood to be recouped if less research time was involved. Management remained committed to pressing forward with things as they were rather than suffer the impacts of another failure.

Finding a better way

Undeterred, Ellen decided to find a case management system that would successfully replace the old, broken system. She knew the new case management database needed to be simple and easy to use. She also wanted it to incentivize people so that they had to enter data for their cases.

Ellen asked around her professional network and heard that FileMaker Pro would be a good alternative to Microsoft Access. Knowing that she wouldn’t have the time to build the database herself, Ellen searched Google for local FileMaker developers in Boston and found several including PowerFiles, located only blocks from her office in downtown Boston.

A brighter future

A round of phone calls to the FileMaker developers on Ellen’s list led to a series of left messages with one exception. When Ellen called PowerFiles she was greeted by, “PowerFiles, Allison speaking, how may I help you?”

Ellen described her situation to me on the phone asking would it be possible to create a case management database in FileMaker that would be simple to operate, easy to change and include email reminders and an outstanding cases report to incentivize consultants to record their case information in the database. I asked her a few questions and we agreed, that yes it would totally be possible to build a case management database in FileMaker.

Confident in our understanding of the requirements and aware of the costs, Ellen presented her findings and my FileMaker database proposal to the management team. They deliberated for a bit and returned to Ellen with an enthusiastic approval for the new Case Management Database System in FileMaker.

A new way forward paved with ease and simplicity

Within several weeks, Ellen launched the new Case Management database to the whole office. Reluctant at first, her colleagues soon understood what they were missing by not having firm wide database of all the cases they handled, both current and past. Six months later, with the help of email reminders and an outstanding cases report, everyone is on the same page and proposals for winning new client cases are completed in a fraction of the time they used to take when starting from scratch.

Over to you

How are buggy systems and past failures impacting your future performance? Share your response in the comments below.


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About Allison

About Allison

ALLISON, Partner & Software Development Director

I am here to make your work clear and predictable. When your most complex processes are elegantly handled by the push of a button your mind is free to do more of what you excel at. When your custom software application is well constructed, it handles the heavy lifting in the background so the goal remains clear and in focus. Your own unique work style is now the norm. Your custom software is an extension of you, a faithful, smart and powerful application that's easy and open to evolve if/when the time comes.

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