In their own words...
Read on below for some quotes from the podcast.
[00: 34] Sean Bushell (FlowForma): Sergio, thank you very much for your time today, and just to get started, can you tell us a little bit about Vestergaard and what you do in your role there?
[00:53] Sergio Ferraz (Vestergaard): Vestergaard is a global health company, that works with local governments and it is basically dedicated to improving the health of vulnerable people. It's a small company, about 130 people. Most of us are working in either sales or operations. The company originally started in Denmark, but now today its Headquarter's in Switzerland, and has small offices in the US, Kenya, India and Vietnam.
Basically we have three different types of products:
- the most popular, important product that we have is the insecticidal treated mosquito nets, and those we use for people to fight against malaria (PermaNet®)
- We also have water filter products that we sell in the same geographies, and those allow children and families in Africa and Asia to have clean water, that they can drink straight away (LifeStraw®)
- And finally, we have a small division that produces food storage bags. Those are also treated with chemicals like the mosquito nets, and those allow people working in agriculture to protect the grains and maize from insects., so they can keep them longer (ZeroFly®)
[02:24] Sergio: My role in Vestergaard - I'm responsible for internal audit and compliance. I am the only person working this function, so very important for me is time and looking for efficient business processes. And this is when FlowForma comes into place.
[02:43] Sean: Very good. And I know that you Contracts Management Process was key for you - can you give us a quick overview of what that involves, and also what were the main pain points you were experiencing?
[02:54] Sergio: We have clients in those geographies that I mentioned before and those are mainly distributors. We also have agents, who help us with our sales. So, for all those third parties, we need to have contracts. And before having FlowForma, we didn't have a structured process, so basically the sales people would request to Compliance or to Legal a contract, and then everything would be going through emails, and in a very unstructured way. So we never knew who had to do what, when or where the information was stored. At best, the information was duplicated in thousands of emails and people were to some extend frustrated, because they didn't see that their requests were being treated timely. So basically, a lack of a process, duplicated information.
[03:53] Sergio: The other disadvantage that we had was that we didn't have really a database repository, where we could look at for information, where we could report on and have statistics. So it was really, really very difficult. Ultimately, from my point of view, compliance requirements were very difficult to meet. Compliance is about documenting and proving things and making sure that we have the right information and we follow the right steps. It was very very difficult to prove all that.
From the business point of view, the business was suffering, because the contracts were delayed. It took longer than expected to have the contract finally approved. As soon as I joined the company, I saw immediately that it was not a sustainable process.
[04:43] Sean: Just to follow on from that, what did you identify as the key requirements that you wanted from the solution to digitize your processes?
[04:53] Sergio: I had to leverage on a couple of things - first is, a company has a strategy to implement SharePoint, so I have to stay as much as possible with a solution that was SharePoint compatible. Secondly, budget was really constrained for that, so I had to look for a solution that was not so expensive. And then, I needed to fix all the issues that I just mentioned before. So, I wanted to have a workflow, structured process, and a database that we could report on, and pull statistic for management. And because I'm the only person working in this function, because of the budget constraints and because of not having a huge IT department, I was also happy to look and find a solution that would be easy to use, easy to maintain and to configure - so-called code free.
So, I started looking in the App Source and I came across FlowForma. I decided to contact them and then we had several phone calls and they introduced me to the application, the functionalities. And I immediately saw the benefits for us, that we could achieve very easily. So we decided to buy the licences and start with three different processes, all related to the contracts for agents and distributes.
[06:41] Sergio: We structure our processes in the way that, first we created a contract and then subsequently we would have either a renewal or a termination. We wanted to separate the three processes, to make sure that each request would have one contract, one record in the database, so it would be easier to report on and extract the data
[07:08] Sean: And Vestergaard has a number of staff in various locations around the world, so I presume the mobile app's a nice feature for you as well?
[07:15] Sergio: It is because the sales people are always on the move, travelling, and so the fact that we have a cloud-base application on SharePoint allows them to access the app from anywhere. Of course, internet connection is always a challenge in the geographies that we work, but provided the internet is there, then it's very easy to access.
[07:46] Sean: I suppose, with implementation of FlowForma, how has that impacted on the process, and indeed the organization?
[07:54] Sergio: Well, I have to say that we managed to achieve what we wanted, and also we also we managed to create and implement a very structured process, where it was very clearly indicated who had to act and when.
So basically we had three or four different groups - the sales people who would put the request through, then it would go to the managing director of the business unit (one of the three, for the different products), then it would go to compliance, and then it would go to sales people to start putting the information that would be required to draft the contracts. After that it would go to the legal department, to finalize the contract.
And then, it would back and forth between sales and legal, for the different steps in having the signatures on the contracts. The signatures of the third parties, and our signatures. We wanted to have that in different steps, so we could easily identify where we were standing. And finally, going back to me, as a check point control, where I would make sure that all the data was properly inputted in the metadata fields that we have in different steps, and that the right documents were scanned and attached in the various steps. And then, a record would be created in the database, with the main information that we wanted, including links to the final full executed contract.
[10:11] Sergio: And finally, we managed to get rid of all these duplicated emails, and information that was hanging around. No need for storing contracts or due diligence records, or any other information. Everything is maintained in the system, either in the steps, or the main information extracted from the flows into a simple to use database, that we can actually open or download in Excel for further reporting purposes.
[10:45] Sean: Sergio, you mentioned the building of the process and the implementation and the interesting thing is, that was all you, wasn't it? I mean, how long did it take for you to train yourself up and do that process?
[10:58] Sergio: Literally, maybe a day or two days. After we had those first conversations with the FlowForma sales people and once we had the system up and running, then basically needed to spend a little time and literally in a day or two I managed to start creating the beginning of the flows, and then the FlowForma consultants were always available and they were helping me to find the best solution to resolve the business requirements that we had. Sometimes it was very difficult for me, because i'm not really a technical person but the consultants they always find a way and a solution for me, so really really happy of how things went.
[11:39] Sean: That's great to hear. Sergio, what was the reaction from staff to seeing their contracts management process go digital and were they bought in?
[11:48] Sergio: Well I think that the people in Vestergaard they saw with their own eyes what we did and they saw the advantages of using the structured process and workflow. So I think that they were happy. Of course, you know, there are always people who want more or less, and some people that take a bit longer to adjust, but overall, I think it was very satisfactory.
[12:20] Sean: Is your process flexible, so that if you need to make a change, it can be done easily?
[12:27] Sergio: Yes, the system allows us to make changes or improvements. In fact, we are now doing some enhancements. And I think that FlowForma has recently released a functionality that even allows to upgrade forms that had been created before you made some changes. That is also a good tool, in case you wanted to have the same functionality in previously created forms. But overall, yes you can do it very quickly. I think the most important thing that people need to have, or keep in mind, is to have a very clear idea of what they want to achieve and what the process looks like. I think the system can do a great deal of it, but more important is to structure the ideas that people want to resolve with FlowForma.
[13:27] Sean: Perfect, and one last questions - seeing as you've build and implemented your process yourself - what advice would you have to people looking to automate their processes? Do you have any tips?
[13:38] Sergio: Like I said before, the most important thing is to have clear ideas on what people want to achieve - first is to be clear of what needs to be done. And then, I guess, maybe leverage or balance it out with the times and resources that the company has and maybe the degree of maturity of the people involved. For instance, one of the things that we are thinking in doing is, we could create automatically the contracts the we use at the moment, so far we have templates in Word, but we are considering either attaching those templates directly in there, depending on the type of the customer, or creating a system-generated contract based on pre-populated fields in the different steps. So, that would save even more time, but again, it has to be balanced out with the level of maturity of the people and maybe doing it step by step.
[14:47] Sean: Thank you very much Sergio, that was very informative and it's really interesting to hear about your Digital Transformation journey at Vestergaard. So thank you all very much for listening, thank you Sergio for speaking and enjoy the rest of the your day.