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November 26, 2009

Regus builds global customer view

Client data from 1,000 offices centralised

By Vinod

Office provider Regus has centralised its booking, billing and customer information across its 1,000 offices worldwide with a bespoke in-house development.

Until the software, dubbed Titan, was rolled out, each of the Regus offices effectively worked as a separate business, using its own billing and booking system. So if customers in London wanted to use a Regus office in Paris, there would be no record that they were existing clients.

“It was a series of small businesses and that gave us quite a few challenges. As a business we wanted customers to be able to book centrally and online and we wanted a clear view, for example, of how much a company like IBM spends with us. The answer was at that time in 700 different systems,” explained Adrian Roscoe, Regus director of systems.

Without a single view of the 50,000 people who rent a meeting room or office space, it was difficult to create new products across all locations. Employees were also spending a lot of time manually keying in data. Rapid expansion – the company had added 300 new offices in just two years – meant that the situation was only going to become more complicated.

Regus also recognised that its customers were looking for more flexible arrangements as their staff became more mobile. “When you talk to these people what they want is agility. They want to be able to set up a project team close to their customers and realise cost savings by not having office buildings,” said Roscoe.

The company first looked for a commercial application, but finding a package to meet its global requirements proved illusive.

“When I came on board in late 06 I thought it would be relatively straightforward to find something, but when I did a review of packages what I realised was the customisation required to fit out business model would be so high that we would negate the advantages of using a commercial product,” Roscoe pointed out.

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So, Regus built its own Microsoft-based application that would centralise customer information, yet was flexible enough to cope with differences in local tax legislation and customer requirements.

“Our system not only houses our inventory, but all our contracts and customer details and invoices and statements. It also needs to manage tax complexities across 76 countries,” said Roscoe.

Titan is built on .NET with a web front-end together with SQL Server. Employees at each centre now have touch-screen POS terminals and suppliers are able to provide data feeds to Regus directly through Microsoft BizTalk.

The whole implementation took 10 months and was completed by the beginning of 2008. Migration of new and historical data to the new software was far from straightforward, however. As each centre had different systems, they had to be tackled as individual migration projects.

For customers, the biggest change today is that they can now book online, and if they use more than one facility, they will receive an integrated bill rather than individual invoices. Using its new Businesscard, customers can enter any office worldwide and their details, including any special discounts or requirements they may have, are automatically apparent to the local office.

Although cost savings were not the object of the project, reducing the back-office burden has enabled Regus to consolidate back-office services to four regional centres. This has liberated staff to be able to spend the majority of their time dealing directly with customers.

 

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