Sage soothes Dixon Advisory's growing pains - featured in the esteemed The Australian newspaper

DIXON Advisory had built a loyal client base but a dramatic expansion strategy meant its software systems were no longer capable of meeting its needs.

The independently owned financial advisory firm, established in 1986, grew from three people to more than 350 employees after a management change in early 2000.

The company's expansion was built around the delivery of family and self-managed superannuation services, financial planning, property and mortgage advice, estate planning and other related services.

"We got to the stage where we needed to boost some of our core systems and CRM (customer relationship management) is pretty key to our face-to-face and personalised service model," Dixon Advisory chief technology officer Andrew McPhillips says.

"It was important that we had something that was scalable for us and would allow us to keep the highly personalised contact with all the clients no matter how big we got."

Dixon now has a client base of more than 15,000 families with a combined asset base in excess of $4 billion. It has offices in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as an international office in New York. All offices are connected via a private network.

"We had more of a small-business software package, which was not designed for the numbers that we were getting so we had to go to the next level," McPhillips says.

With numerous databases, there was also no easy way to achieve a single view of the customer or to quickly understand all recent interactions.

As client relationships are the backbone of the business, the ability to have all communications in one place as well as "one source of truth" for key client information was paramount.

After researching alternative CRM solutions, McPhillips concluded that Sage CRM had the capacity, document management and workflow capabilities required. It is available through the cloud or for deployment as a traditional in-house solution.

"At the time, it got down to Sage and a well-known cloud provider of CRM," McPhillips says. "We certainly favoured the on-premise solution at that stage."

The ability to build in workflows was a key attraction as was Sage CRM’s document management functionality, which could manage 95 per cent of what was required without the need for a separate piece of software.

The technology included a foundation for SQL server, which was familiar to the technology team, and a web front-end which ensured the application was accessible from all offices.

Local consulting firm and Sage business partner Accsys helped design and develop the CRM solution, which included workflows to automate common processes. Several million documents associated with client records were imported from the previous document-management system.

Sage CRM is now the repository for all client information and is used across the firm. "The main thing that we have tried to concentrate on is no matter how many clients we get, the service level we have always given is that very much personalised approach to our clients," McPhillips says.

The level of personalised attention each client receives includes direct lines to all their advisers. Dixon added CommuniGator, an integrated, third-party email marketing solution, in the past year.

The firm upgraded its finance software using Sage 300 ERP, an enterprise resource planning software solution that could integrate with the CRM to streamline data flows and maintain client visibility across the firm.

When Dixon invested in payroll and human resources software, consistency was maintained by using Sage MicrOpay and ConnX, an integrated HR self-service portal.

The company now has software systems capable of supporting current and projected business needs, with reduced duplication and inconsistencies as a result of removing multiple client databases.

McPhillips says the "six-figure" investment created significant efficiency gains.

"When you are talking close to 20 million communications - emails, documents, letters - all that filed within the system, if you are dramatically improving efficiency in that sort of area it certainly adds up."

Originally published in The Australian, 20 August 2013 by Jennifer Foreshew

For further information, please visit The Australian's website.