The KORN CONSULT GROUP, headquartered in Jossgrund near Frankfurt, is an international management consultancy with locations in Southern and Eastern Europe, USA and Canada, Central and South America, South Africa and the Far East. The company with more than 150 consulting experts supports large international companies in the areas of management consulting, interim management and engineering services. The main focus is on the automotive industry. For time recording, accounting and controlling of international projects, the KORN CONSULT GROUP relies on the cloud-based solution ZEP - Time Recording for Projects - from the company provantis IT Solutions.
When the company was founded in 2006, the KORN CONSULT GROUP decided to develop its own software solution for recording project times. "This solution was already browser-based and operated in the cloud"recalls Christian Korn, Partner and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at KORN CONSULT GROUP. The main reason for the cloud operating model was the company's international approach right from the start - the first foreign office was opened in Romania just one year after its foundation.
In the course of the company's rapid growth and the rapid expansion of its foreign branches, however, the in-house development soon reached its limits.
"Continuous modernisation and further development, e.g. adding apps for mobile use, became increasingly difficult and eventually impossible with our own capacities."
Christian Korn explains: "In addition, the project volume increased continuously. "Today, the KORN CONSULT GROUP handles up to 100 different international projects with 100 to 150 project staff per month. Mapping this project volume would simply no longer have been possible using our own software solution."
And that is why one of the first instructions to Mr Korn when he joined the company in 2014 was: "We need something new in time recording." On the basis of an internet search, several products then made it to the shortlist at KORN CONSULT GROUP, including the solution ZEP - Time Recording for Projects, which has been available on the market since 2000.
However, the KORN CONSULT GROUP decided against using ZEP in the "first selection round". "We found that ZEP did not meet all the requirements we had for a time recording system."Christian Korn explains the decision at that time. Subsequently, however, and with the testing of other solutions, it became clear that the KORN CONSULT GROUP had "set the bar a little too high" in its requirements for a time recording solution. Christian Korn confirms: "At some point it became clear to us that we were looking for something like the 'eierlegende Wollmilchsau' with our specifications, which did not exist on the market. In a second step, we therefore focused on the 'basics', i.e. the basic functions and performance features that the solution should offer from our point of view."
With this new approach and requirement profile, ZEP was then also back in the running. "The solution scored particularly well with its focus on project-oriented companies and its truly intuitive use."Christian Korn confirms. "Working with ZEP is possible without much training or comprehensive instruction. This is especially important for us as an internationally active and fast-growing consulting company, because every employee - regardless of their location - is immediately able to work with ZEP."
Furthermore, the company provantis IT Solutions showed itself to be very cooperative right from the start.
"In the end, we had the feeling that we couldn't really go wrong with the product and the impression that the supplier was a good match for us.
In the meantime, the KORN CONSULT GROUP also uses the invoicing module for the settlement of the project times worked, in addition to the pure time recording. "The accounting method originally used in the early years with Microsoft Excel/Word soon proved to be no longer up to date. Furthermore, with ZEP we were able to integrate time recording and accounting into one platform."explains Christian Korn. The module Departments, Locations, Branches, with which the company structure can be mapped in ZEP, also contributes to the integration. The individual clients of the KORN CONSULT GROUP, for which separate, isolated instances of the software were set up in the previous solution, are managed as "departments" in ZEP, so that all data are available on a central platform.
ZEP's mobile apps, which are available for all common mobile operating systems (Android, iOS), are also used. The offer module is currently in the test phase in the Mexican branch of the KORN CONSULT GROUP. "The aim is to ultimately map the complete life cycle of a project from quotation to invoicing via ZEP."Christian Korn explains the further strategy and approach.
In addition to using the existing standard modules of ZEP as comprehensively as possible, the KORN CONSULT GROUP is pursuing the goal of mapping its own operating processes in the solution via extensive customising. For this reason, customer-specific adaptations have already been carried out together with the ZEP manufacturer.
Christian Korn gives some examples: "Our international business naturally requires that different country-specific specifications, e.g. kilometres or miles, can also be specified in ZEP. In addition, a uniform activity record for all our consultants has been implemented in ZEP. Budget planning by days is now also possible."
The latest customising project aims to be able to call up a status dashboard in ZEP that clearly displays all aspects of the project - budget/billing/staffing - and their current status - green, yellow red - on a single screen, drawing on the data available in ZEP.
When deciding on the operating model - ZEP can be used both in cloud and in-house operation - there were initial discussions. Christian Korn sees himself as a "cloud driver"; on the part of the management, in-house operation was also considered.
Ultimately, the excessive effort that would have been required for an available and secure in-house operation tipped the scales in favour of using ZEP in the cloud computing model.
However, more important for the KORN CONSULT GROUP than the pure operating model was the premise "data centre in Germany". Christan Korn explains: "This requirement is important both to meet the specifications of our own ISO 27001 certification, as well as the compliance and data protection requirements of our clients."
As a "Cloud Service Made in Germany", ZEP is operated in a certified (ISO 27001, IT basic protection) high-performance data centre on a fully redundant, highly available server cluster in Germany. The internet connection to the ZEP servers is provided at 1000 Mbit/s via redundant fibre optic lines. The usage contract concluded between ZEP customers and provantis naturally also includes the contract for order processing that has been mandatory since the EU Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO) came into force.
Christian Korn's final conclusion on the use of ZEP at the KORN CONSULT GROUP:
"The intuitive operation and flexible use via mobile apps clearly speak for the use of ZEP in an international consulting company like the KORN CONSULT GROUP. The numerous additional modules, which go far beyond the actual time recording, make it possible to expand ZEP into an integrated platform for project controlling - from the offer to the billing. Thanks to the high flexibility and readiness of the provider, customising is possible at any time, but also necessary for a company of our size and orientation. It is interesting to see that our change requests flow into the overall platform within the framework of updates and thus also benefit other ZEP users. Conversely, we also benefit from the suggestions of other ZEP users.
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