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The business issueThe Chamber's lifeblood is its members and it is therefore essential to the business that detailed information can be collated and delivered to them in a fast, productive and efficient manner. The contact database in use was extremely elementary and made the creation of listings and reports a lengthy and difficult process. With all the Chamber's activities being based around their membership, this is a common problem. Working with a number of different unlinked databases made the most basic of routine tasks, such as mailshots, scheduling and keeping track of the contact histories of members, both cumbersome and time consuming. With an ever increasing and active membership, the installation of a system which could be easily linked to remote stations and that could exchange and update information in one pass was essential. The business solution The Chamber chose GoldMine 4.0, the award winning contact management package, purchased from GoldMine solution provider Archon Computer Services to fulfil its requirements. "The decision to purchase GoldMine was only taken after having researched its suitability for the tasks required, reviewing value for money and receiving personal recommendations," explains Gay Laight, information manager at the Essex Chambers of Commerce. The cost of the package, its flexibility, speed of implementation and the ability to customise the software to suit specific required tasks were all important factors. "Our expectations were high," says Laight. "And we have not been disappointed with our choice." Implementation The implementation of the system was very smooth and started with an analysis of the Chamber's business requirements, this included a needs analysis for all departments. A plan was then drawn up to enable the installation to be carried out with the minimum of fuss and delay. Configuration of the screens and installation on the Chamber's machines was carried out in a single day. This included loading in current data, which had been previously converted into a suitable format. Included in the installation were the additional products GoldSync and SageLink for GoldMine. GoldSync allows automated synchronisation of data between the Chamber's three main sites, essential in keeping the data up to date. SageLink for GoldMine provides access to information from the Sage Line 50 accounts program within the GoldMine main screen, allowing account details to be made available while dealing with members within GoldMine. Archon then commenced staff training, quickly enabling staff to start utilising the new system. There is an ongoing program of training to allow the staff to utilise more of GoldMine's functionality over time. "The Chamber's requirements for its systems were varied," says Gareth Jones of Archon Computer Services. "But GoldMine, together with SageLink and GoldSync, easily fulfilled them." The business impact The use of GoldMine has already shown impressive improvements to the Chamber's productivity and efficiency. It has eliminated problems relating to the updating of several databases, has given the ability to record and identify members, non-members, affiliates, exporters and suppliers and provided a central point for all contact information. "The system's filters, groups, label production, quick and flexible searching capabilities and calendar are some of the outstanding features that are making an impact on office efficiency," comments Laight. GoldMine has allowed the Chamber to rationalise many of its day-to-day activities. It has streamlined the handling of contact information and allowed the Chamber to improve performance in many areas, including the dissemination of information to members, access to member information, diary production, members directory, administrative tasks and account status checks. In addition, GoldMine's full integration with MS Word and Excel has dramatically reduced the time spent producing correspondence and mailshots. The system enables more productive use of staff time, has allowed staff to become more effective when dealing with members, has improved teamwork, shown a reduction in data entry errors and diminished the time spent extracting data and producing reports. GoldMine has been well received by users who are becoming increasingly aware of its benefits. "We have found the software to be user-friendly, fast and trouble-free, all at a reasonable cost. We have a very good relationship with our supplier who is readily accessible and provides excellent service," observes Laight. The future The benefits of GoldMine 4.0 are already proving a tangible asset to the Chamber. GoldMine enables links to be established with the remote sites at Westcliff and Chelmsford and the sharing of up-to-date membership information on a daily basis, thus improving the services provided to members and staff efficiency at these locations. "We are pleased to have been able to supply GoldMine as a cost-effective, off-the-shelf solution to the Essex Chambers' contact management requirements," says Gareth Jones. The Chamber is also presently considering the implementation of the Goldmine faxing solution, Faxrush, which will provide the means for information distribution to be carried out more effectively and cheaply. The company intends to make more use of advanced reporting tool, Crystal Reports, for the extraction of information. In addition, the Chamber is also investigating the potential of Computer Telephony Integration which would provide a link between its central GoldMine database and telephone system to enable further productivity gains to be achieved from activities such as Caller ID and screen popping. Gay Laight believes that this powerful technology will enable staff to deal more effectively with members enquiries and further the Chamber's advance towards its goal of unparalleled service to its members. ( 1999, GoldMine Software Corporation Compiled by Mike Burkitt