Innovative Computing Systems

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ChannelOnline™ Plays Significant Role in Realizing Innovative Computing Systems' 772% Growth

  • Overview:Innovative Computing Systems (ICS) is a full-service systems integrator supporting the technology needs of California's legal community since 1988. ICS sells and integrates technology for legal systems, networking, and telecommunications, as well as providing consulting, security and product support services.

  • Challenge: ICS sought to offer products and services to a growing clientele without increasing its overhead or sacrificing quality of customer service.

  • Solutions:Using CNET Content Solutions's Web-based ChannelOnline solution for sales cycle automation, ICS has put extensive product data at sales staff's fingertips for fast generation of accurate, customized proposals without the need for additional staff to gather and maintain this content. Going forward, ChannelOnline will help ICS expand its operations into new markets like Phoenix and Las Vegas.

For nearly two decades, Innovative Computing Systems, Inc. ("ICS") has served the technology needs of California's legal sector, providing IT products and services to lawyers, law firms, and corporate law departments. From firms to some of the region's best-known names in litigation, ICS's clients rely on the growing company for a wide range of firms typically outsource their entire IT operations to the California-based company, including network technology, hardware, software and even IT support staffing. For larger firms, ICS may supplement clients' IT capabilities and provide support for a specific project, such as document management, IP communications, or an e-mail server upgrade.

Judging from its growth and the shrinking competition, ICS has hit on a strategy for success. But CEO Michael Kemps's verdict was that the company needed to examine its ability to scale operations on every front, from recruiting staff more efficiently to systematic execution against the company's own standards for quality service for competitive advantage.

Sales Cycle automation Supports Full-Service Capabilities
By partnering with CNET Content Solutions, ICS has managed to scale its customer service without huge investments in resources. The IT reseller and services provider chose CNET Content Solutions's ChannelOnline solution to automate aspects of the proposal process, starting with a central repository for detailed product information. ChannelOnline enables ICS staff to quickly respond to requests - and offer a compelling value proposition to customers without sacrificing breadth or quality of service.

ChannelOnline serves as the primary work environment for ICS sales staff, who produce a proposal tailored to each request the company receives. Once sales personnel have evaluated a customer's needs and prepared a recommended solution and price quote, an ICS purchasing executive reviews the proposal in order to compare and select suppliers to fulfill the order. ChannelOnline is integrated with ICS's financial application, so that approved customer quotes are automatically transferred for transaction and fulfillment.

However, for the first decade of ICS's operation, these tasks were completed entirely by hand, using paper ledgers and electronic spreadsheets that Kemps says were fine for a young company, but a hindrance to growth. At the same time, he observes that "the quoting process for communications networks was getting more and more competitive in terms of sourcing." Manual collection of data for a prolifer-ating range of products would prove impossible for the company's staff and resources.

Company executives chose the latter path, and began to evaluate prospective automation technologies for their ability to connect ICS to its primary suppliers, and integrate with the company's accounting software. The company selected Quote Desk, an application later acquired by CNET Content Solutions. "Other solutions simply weren't as advanced, as fast, or nearly as well integrated," says Kemps. "ChannelOnline was the best choice then and we believe it still is today."

Now, ChannelOnline enables sales personnel to respond to clients quickly with up-to-date, accurate pricing and availability. "In the face of increasing competition and shrinking margins, ChannelOnline gives our team the ability to cross-compare distributors and provide solid quotes with complete confidence," says Kemps.

Kemps adds, "While cost accuracy is significant, so is insight into availability by warehouse for each distributor. This level of detail helps us quickly locate products that are available in a limited selection from a specific source — whereas in the past, we would have had to contact multiple sources manually."

Although most ICS clients prefer to have sales staff prepare proposals including detailed product information, the company provides all of its customers with the flexibility to access ChannelOnline content to submit orders and make changes.

Fueling 772% Growth Without Increasing Overhead
Kemps credits ChannelOnline with a significant role in the 772% growth that ICS has enjoyed over the past four years. According to Kemps, ChannelOnline provided the crucial, scalable foundation that his team required in order to expand their capacity to serve more clients - without the time- and labor-intensive manual data gathering that characterized the first decade of ICS's business operations.

As a result, ICS has achieved significant gains in productivity. "Without CNET Content Solutions's help, we could not have grown our top-line sales to the extent that we have without significantly increasing our administrative staff and our overhead," notes Kemps. "Thanks to the incredibly accurate data and content we can access with ChannelOnline, we can anticipate and count on consistent margins and profitability."

He acknowledges that the CNET Content Solutions brand also gave ICS executives added confidence in the viability of the ChannelOnline solution. "In fact, many of the staff who worked on the Quote Desk application went to CNET Content Solutions after the acquisition - and that assured us that CNET Content Solutions was committed to fulfilling the vision for a robust sales cycle automation solution."

Future Geographic Expansion Based on Proven Capabilities
Moving forward, ICS will replace its third-party application integration tool with forthcoming direct integration of ChannelOnline with QuickBooks, the application that the IT solution provider uses to process transactions. Most importantly, Kemps says that ChannelOnline offers the capabilities that ICS had hoped for, and more. The company plans to take advantage of the sales cycle automation solution as it expands operations to new markets.

"ChannelOnline supports our existing operations in Los Angeles and San Francisco by enabling any of our staff anywhere to access very powerful tools," notes Kemps. "We'll partner with CNET Content Solutions to support our expansion into Phoenix and Las Vegas - and from there, continued measured growth."

About Innovative Computing Systems, Inc.
Innovative Computing Systems, Inc. (ICS) is a full-service systems integrator supporting the technology needs of California's legal community since 1988. ICS sells and integrates technology for legal systems, networking, and telecommunications, as well as providing consulting, security and product support services.

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