Next Level Integration GmbH

IT consulting company - Case study - Cologne / Germany

Next Level Integration GmbH

Next Level Integration (NLI), headquartered in Cologne, is a software manufacturer and solution provider for the utility industry. The solution portfolio focuses on applications in the regulatory environment, integration solutions, portals and complete solutions based on the energy industry Fast Lane technology platform developed by NLI itself. With more than 60 employees, the company currently serves more than 250 customers in Germany and Europe. In the process, energy supply processes affecting more than 25 million end customers in Germany are handled on a daily basis. Next Level Integration has been relying on the ZEP solution from provantis IT Solutions for time recording, project control and billing of project services since 2011.

Time recording and project control at Next Level Integration: Automated processes instead of manual data entry thanks to ZEP

Continuous company growth: Manual time recording reaches its limits

"From five employees onwards, time recording with Microsoft Excel means a disproportionately high effort; moreover, keeping track of the project work done is very time-consuming."explains Dr Stefan Klose, Managing Director of NLI. The software expert knows from his own experience what he is talking about. Already in 2011 - two years after its foundation - the NLI team had grown to almost 20 employees. The continuously growing project volume, consisting of software implementation projects and support projects following the implementation, showed the limits of time recording via Excel.

As part of a comprehensive evaluation of solutions available on the market, in which more than fifteen software solutions - including corresponding offers from market giants such as SAP and Microsoft - were checked for their use at NLI, the company finally decided on the ZEP solution from the company provantis IT Solutions, which they came across through an Internet search.

ZEP stands for Time Recording for Projects. The web-based solution has been on the market since 2000 and offers project-oriented companies a complete solution for time recording and verification, travel expenses, project management and controlling as well as invoicing.

"ZEP is the most important system for our employees, alongside our specialist applications and Office 365."

Dr Stefan Klose, Managing Director

This comprehensive range of functions was ultimately also one of the main reasons for NLI's decision to use ZEP. Dr Klose explains: "During our evaluation process, we found that ZEP's feature set best met our requirements." As part of the implementation of ZEP, not only was the previous manual time recording via MS Excel replaced, but also the invoicing process, which had previously been carried out manually. In addition, travel expense accounting and holiday administration are carried out via the system. The ticket system for support requests was also converted to the corresponding function in ZEP. Despite the implementation and conversion work involved, Dr. Klose estimates the complete implementation effort at less than five man-days.

User-friendly working even with complex projects

Another decision criterion for the use of ZEP at NLI was user-friendliness. "The usability of the solution is really super, the user interface extremely intuitive. All project information is presented in a way that is optimal for the user, this even applies to the presentation of complex views of ongoing projects," Dr Klose confirms.

Closely linked to user-friendliness and usability is acceptance by the user. And this in turn is a central prerequisite for the efficient and thus successful use of a software solution in the company. Dr Klose explains: "As a line manager and consultant, I have had insight into numerous companies in the past. Time recording usually meets with little approval from employees. With ZEP this is fundamentally different. The system was accepted immediately, because all employees recognised the advantages that the solution offers for their daily work right from the start. Especially the possibility of integrated work across the different areas of application - time recording, travel expenses, leave, ticket processing and invoicing - is well received by the team." In addition, integration into other solutions is possible via corresponding interfaces. Dr Klose: "We have coupled ZEP in the ticket system area with our development planning system JIRA." In addition, NLI maps the bonus scheme for its employees via ZEP. Project controlling is also carried out via the solution.

Cloud computing: flexibility AND data protection/data security

One question that NLI also dealt with very intensively was the choice of the operating form of ZEP: on-premise or in the provantis cloud. "Generally speaking, we could have run ZEP in-house on our own IT infrastructure, as provantis also offers this option.explains Dr Klose. "In the end, however, we opted for the cloud variant for reasons of flexibility and price/performance ratio." The topic of data protection and data security, which is always discussed in connection with cloud computing, was also an important aspect for NLI to clarify. Dr Klose confirms: "Data protection and data security play a central role in our projects. For this reason, we subjected the contracts and operating model to an intensive review in advance. In the end, however, we were able to give the 'green light' for cloud operation without any restrictions."

So far, NLI has not regretted this decision. ZEP is characterised by very good performance, speed and availability. The employees are able to access the system and the projects managed there and enter the corresponding data regardless of location and time - in the office, on site at the customer or on the road. Since the introduction of the system in 2011, the number of users has grown from initially less than 20 to now more than 60. Thanks to the scalability of the system, this growth could be easily mapped in the application.

And so it is no wonder when Dr Klose puts on record as a conclusion for the use so far: "ZEP is the most important system for our employees, alongside our specialist applications and Office 365."

Next Level Integration GmbH

Nattermannallee 1
D-50829 Cologne