ACT is a rural and community development charity specialising in supporting and advising local groups, community buildings and the people involved in them. They support 50 groups and 200 community projects across Cumbria each year

The Brief

ACT is a rural and community development charity specialising in supporting and advising local groups, community buildings and the people involved in them. They previously kept an Access database containing a list of all their ongoing projects and enquiries, contacts and all the community buildings in Cumbria. This functioned as a basic CRM system for them.

This served them reasonably well when everyone worked in the same location - a quick shout of "i'm in the database" across the room would warn other staff members to avoid trying to access the system, preventing work being overwritten.

However with the switch to home working as a result of COVID, this was very quickly becoming unmaintainable. Data was often being overwritten, and staff were often hitting the dreaded "This file is in use by XYZ" warnings. They were also paying a lot of money to host their own server, plus a VPN connection to allow remote access to it.

Additionally, their IT provider, David Allen, had identified that the on-premisis server used to host the Access database was in need of replacement.

ACTion faced a dilemma - either pay thousands of pounds to replace the server with a more modern machine, along with the cost of setting it up and installing it - or switch to a new cloud based system.

Our Approach

Nighthawk Software was approached to design a new replacement CRM system for ACTion, replacing the existing Access database with something far more modern and easier to use - and crucially - multi-user.

It was decided to develop a web-based system that would be cloud hosted - thereby removing the need for ACTion to have their own on premises server. This lead to a reduction in IT costs associated with the system.

Switching to a web based system would also allow the creation of a multi-user system - something they had previously struggled with. Previously only one user could access the system at a time, which was becoming difficult to co-ordinate now that they had switched to home working

The system was then rebuilt using more modern web techniques, to create an easy to use, responsive web interface that worked well on both desktop and mobile devices.

Data entry screens were laid out in a similar format to the previous system so that users were instantly familiar with how everything worked.

We then looked at parts of the system which we felt were badly designed and overly complicated, replacing these with a simpler design.

For example - the database contained an extraordinary amount of detail for every community building - from number of parking spaces to number of knives and forks held. It was quickly discovered that none of this information was used, and had not been updated for many years. All of this could be removed to simplify the system.

Additionally, there was no link between data - it was separate lookup tables for each building tracked, and each enquiry received. These tables were re-designed to map to each other - allowing enquiries to be quickly found, and key contacts for buildings to be identified easily.

A new dashboard was then produced to give an instant overview of all ongoing enquiries.

The Outcome

ACTion have now rolled out the software across their various stakeholders, and are now using it on a day to day basis.
They continue to evaluate and change the software to meet their evolving needs

Dashboard  - Quick overview of all recent enquiries, broken down by region Enquiries - Search and view all open enquiries Enquiries - View conversation between parties Building - View details on all tracked community buildings, and search for ones meeting requirements.