BCC Launches Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011
Located on the shores of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania, The Bayfront Convention Center, (BCC) is a state-of-the art banquet venue that is the largest in the Northwestern PA area. Developed in April of 2008, the center is used to provide world class facilities and meeting planning services for large conventions, trade shows and events. BCC is under the sponsorship of the Erie County Convention Center Authority (ECCCA) and is one of four world-class convention facilities and entertainment venues in the area including the Warner Theater, which hosts a wide range of lectures and entertainment shows, Louis J. Tullio Arena, a multipurpose facility, and Jerry Uht Park, a 6,952-seat baseball-only stadium. The center is noted as being a piece of the rebirth of the downtown area and represents the emergence of Erie as being a major contender for the ideal destination spot for meetings and conventions.
The Bayfront Convention Center is noted as being the largest banquet facility in the area with the ability to hold intimate gatherings of 20 to full-scale events for over 2,000 guests. Based on the high banquet demand and interest, it was vital for the center to integrate a strong business tracking process which focused on their main service, event booking. Previous programs had been sought but the desired results were not being achieved. BCC contacted Distributed Network Software, LLC (DNS) to provide a software solution that allows them to manage and market their events. The center’s main business needs and concerns were ease of use and developing a visualization tool for service and event booking. Other requirements included generating client documents, integrating the system with their existing website and tracking event and non-event processes.
After a thorough review of the BCC’s process, DNS recommended a solution built within Microsoft Dynamics CRM. DNS, a Microsoft Partner for over ten years, was able to design and implement a solution that is flexible and scalable and easily extends the next generation of customer relationship software. This model provides the Bayfront Convention Center with the proper tools and framework needed to conduct current business as well as expand the solution to include multiple venues, effectively uniting the business entities of ECCCA under a single banner.
The Event Management solution was designed to incorporate BCC’s customer service-spirit and take advantage of new development features available in Dynamics CRM. Most noteworthy of these features are the Windows Communication Foundation data services endpoint (oData), free form relationships (Connections), client side code framework (Web Resources), and server side .NET assemblies (plugins) which are all features of this hybrid solution. The solution was designed to facilitate event management, allowing BCC to sell services in a floor space at a specific time. DNS implemented this requirement by creating three new entities; Events which group Functions wherein Services are sold.
Figure 1 Events and Lists of Services
Each of the new entities fits seamlessly into the CRM Sales and Services module processes. Events can be created from Opportunities and in turn Quotes can be created from Events, all from the ribbon control of the source entity. This behavior was achieved by using Web Resources to introduce client code and the oData service endpoint to perform the creation of the target entity which provided a bootstrap for plugins that handled validation and the “heavy lifting” associated with populating destination entities. Functions represent the idea that many activities can happen during an Event, for this reason they occur during a specified time and are related to the Equipment entity. This allows a Function to be represented by a Service Appointment and thereby visually recognized on the Dynamics CRM Service Calendar. The Service entity was created to allow products to be sold to a Function; they connect to the existing Dynamics CRM products and represent line items on the Sales Documents.
While visualization of current booking was a key requirement, DNS also developed business logic, in the form of plugins, to outright prevent overbooking a facility. This presented a unique challenge in that some rooms are considered break-out rooms which can be sold in partitions or as a single unit. DNS employed the use of Connections to define the parent-sibling relationships between break-out rooms and their constituents. Various web resources and plugins were developed to enhance usability, enforce business logic, and maintain synchronization between related entities.
Figure 2 Break-Out rooms in the Service Calendar
DNS also configured a copy functionality to enhance BCC’s solution. When working in the event planning industry it is common to have repeating events, functions, or to provide the same services within multiple functions. To eliminate the process of manually re-entering the desired data, DNS configured a copy functionality, providing an automated option for the client. The functionality was configured to provide BCC with the option of copying events, functions of the events and the included services to another account. An event can be copied by clicking the Copy Event option found within the opened event form. A form is then displayed, providing fields for the new name, account, start date and end date. Include all functions and service options are also listed, providing BCC with the capability to include or exclude data. The functions can then be scheduled for a specific time and place.
Figure 3 Event Copy Form
DNS configured the functionality to only include the rooms that are open for booking, displaying an error message if the room is not available, excluding any chance of double booking. Functions can also be copied to an existing event within the solution. The dates, times, and services associated with the event can be changed and configured to meet their specific needs. Lastly, services can be copied from an existing function to another function, eliminating the need to re-enter data that was already input within the solution.
Various web resources and plugins were developed to enhance usability, enforce business logic, and maintain synchronization between related entities. DNS also advised BCC in implementing additional features such as Entity Auditing, Microsoft SharePoint integration as a Document Management tool, and SQL Server Reporting Services, (SSRS), for dynamic reports and Dashboards. Entity Auditing was added to Events and Functions to provide traceability and accountability of the sales metrics. Document management was a priority requirement which DNS provided with ease thanks to the native SharePoint integration within Dynamics CRM 2011. Banquet Event Order, BEO, and Invoice reports were designed with SSRS to provide the BCC’s internal staff and clients with a content rich document summarizing their event.
The Dynamics CRM 2011 solution integrated opportunities with events; while providing functionality and organizational features that met all of their business needs. By using Dynamics CRM the center handles all tasks related to managing an event from planning to completion. BCC can run a template of tasks associated with their events, and have the tasks automatically sent to the appropriate resource with timelines for completion. After the event is set up, the center is able to create a campaign to contact target attendees through different channels including mail merges and mass emails. This Workflow feature can be used to send informative material such as invitations to a large quantity of guests in a time efficient manner.
BCC now has a single fully integrated management solution that combines all of the elements of planning and managing events into one platform. With Dynamics CRM integrated into the center’s existing Outlook program, BCC’s team is able to view their Outlook emails, contacts and appointments in addition to being able to view a list of the CRM features in the navigation pane such as information on their client contacts. Dynamics CRM provided BCC with a solution that includes a complete view of the event from start to finish, improving both efficiency and productivity within their event booking business. With their Dynamics CRM solution, the Bayfront Convetion Center has gained a competitive advantage within the event planning industry allowing them to provide exceptional services to their vendors and guests.