Can’t Teach an Old Database New Tricks
At Bandwave Systems, we’re the front line for any updates or support related issues for our customers. After installation, we function as the customer’s internet service provider though we have hundreds of carriers behind us. We proactively monitor services, and if a service goes down, we contact the internet service provider directly, work with them to troubleshoot any issues on the connection, and then report back to the customer’s IT team and make sure that the services are up and running. Essentially, we’re an extension of the enterprise customer’s IT department.
When I joined in 2007, my main responsibilities were on the support desk and also on provisioning. So, we would receive an order, it would go through me to provision the service to ensure proper installation, and after that, I would also work on the support desk to manage that customer’s connection and services.
I was promoted to operations manager to oversee the different departments within Bandwave, including the support team, parts of the quoting team, as well as the provisioning team. In this new role, I was in charge of looking at deficiencies within our systems and figuring out what we could do to fix any problems that we had with our current internal systems and database.
I could see immediately that there were issues with our database and processes. There were no checks and balances—no way to track order lifecycle efficiencies and milestones—so there was never any way to go back and check if there were any errors within any of those processes. The system we were running on was an old Microsoft Access system, which was great for data entry, but not ideal to go back and look for any user errors made along the way. It was really easy to miss things.
It was also difficult to gauge if people just had too much on their plate. Did we need to bring someone from the quote team over to the provisioning team? Would this be a good time to do it? There was just no way to measure these things for us.
We needed to find something better. But when something is that integrated into your processes, adoption of something new is very difficult. I needed to be able to show that this change was going to be worth it.
Testing Database Solutions: A Goldilocks Story
Our first change was to revise our Microsoft Access database into an SQL database, which worked for a couple years. It was better than what we had initially, but we’d have to reach out to the developer for any changes that we needed to make. Any modifications to the existing SQL database would require a whole new project to go around it. We’d have to get the developers involved, and the timeline on getting everything rolled out and implemented took months. It just wasn’t efficient, and wasn’t keeping pace for how fast our business was growing. We were spending so much time, energy, and money trying to fix or improve our system, which clearly wasn’t working for us.
We then started looking into a custom developed application which would use Java and SQL. Because we’re in a niche industry, we were looking to develop a whole new system from the ground up, more customized to our business. About 10 months later, we figured out that this was not the right direction because now we were seeing issues that we didn’t see before when we switched from Microsoft Access to SQL. We were now finding new issues trying to switch from SQL over to our new custom database, which kept pushing us over budget. We hadn’t even had anything developed yet, so at this point, we had to figure out if we wanted to continue with this process and pay basically double what we had budgeted or go in a completely different direction.
I started looking into alternatives to a custom developed solution. One option I looked at was Salesforce’s CRM and custom database package, which I reviewed alongside Kintone. When I found Kintone, I thought it looked great, but was a little skeptical because of all that work we had put into our custom database and the issues that had come up.
Kintone seemed to make the most sense because after seeing the demo, I felt that I could build it myself with support from someone more experienced in databases. I just needed to get the foundation going. With Kintone’s visual programming tools, an admin without any coding skills could log in and say, “You know what, I need to add this new field. I need this action to happen when I select this option.”
The most attractive part was that we didn’t need to hire a team of people to work on this. It was definitely a step in the right direction.
Benefits of Kintone: Real-Time Customization, Saving Time and Money
Because we have a niche business, our systems are so integrated into what we do as a company. In order to support our company’s growth, it’s been really important to make each department’s processes run more efficiently. The people working in those departments know better than anyone what the system’s deficiencies are that we need to fix, so internal input has been crucial. Being able to see improvements and test them out without having to spend time and resources on external developers or consultation fees has been game-changing.
I’m able to go into Kintone and look at exactly what I want to roll out and test it out right then and there. As soon as I make the change, I can see if it works for us. The results are right there. If it doesn’t work, we revert back to a previous version and we look into alternative options. We are able to do these things so quickly now, which means we can keep pace with our day-to-day operations while still moving forward and improving.
Kintone’s pricing also let us develop parts of the application with just a minimal subscription fee before adding more users, which was really enticing as well. We had compared it to other software as service applications, but felt that Kintone was better priced for growth. It allowed us to add more users later on without breaking the bank. We could focus on building out what we needed with a low upfront cost, and then quickly add users later on when we were ready.
The integrations have also been a huge benefit for us. The way Kintone is able to integrate with other applications, like Zapier and MailChimp, has been very helpful as well. Setup was extremely easy, and now everything is automated—if any new leads go into our database, they are zapped over to MailChimp and added to a particular email campaign.
We’ve now revamped nearly every system within the company to have some connection with Kintone at this point. In addition to the cost savings associated with moving away from our previous database systems and external developers, the biggest savings has been on our time. I’ve cut down the amount of time I spend in meetings figuring out how to improve our systems by 75%. Now, we can quickly deploy something, test it, and then implement or kill it. That process takes a week instead of several months.
We’ve been able to pass the savings onto our customers as well. For example, our billing team asked us to set a notification when the customer’s contract was up, so now we can check with the carrier to see if we can find the customer some cost savings. That was a great suggestion that we rolled out quickly and didn’t require much additional work.
For the past five years, Bandwave Systems has been ranked in Inc.’s 5000, an annual guide to the 5,000 fastest-growing, privately held companies in the U.S. Our success is driven by three things: speed, process and people. Speed is crucial for us in terms of how quickly we deliver our services, how quickly we turn around our quotes to our customers, install services and how quickly we respond to any issues on our connections. Process refers to the way we make things easier for our customers, and a key part of this is communication.
Last but not least, the people we hire—we want to make sure that these three things are at max potential. As long as we keep those three aspects of our business to a higher standard, then we know our company will continue to grow. Kintone has been a major support of this growth, letting us do our jobs more efficiently and much more quickly.