PIM-Consult GmbH, based in Hamburg, is an independent and pragmatic consultancy specialising in product information management (PIM) for trade and industry. The portfolio of the company, founded in 2014, includes strategic consulting, selection and implementation management of PIM systems as well as the optimisation of processes and tools in purchasing, advertising, marketing and e-commerce. Accompanying and developing companies in the digital transformation process is always part of the work of the PIM-Consult consultants. For the recording of project times as well as holiday and absence times, PIM-Consult uses the web-based solution ZEP from the company provantis IT Solutions.
At the beginning of the business activity four years ago, PIM-Consult recorded and invoiced project times using the combination of an Excel list for entering the project times worked and a Word document for creating the invoices to the client, which is used in many project-oriented companies. "A separate new Excel list was created for each new project at the beginning".recalls Sandra Gröning, Executive Assistant at PIM-Consult, about the initial approach. As the "mistress" of the PIM-Consult back office, she is responsible for all administrative and organisational tasks in the company. Since every project was of course slightly different, every Excel list also looked slightly different, which made standardised recording and accounting of project times almost impossible. This led to more and more sources of error, more and more often project times were forgotten to be recorded precisely, the effort for time recording and the transfer of the recorded times into the accounting increased continuously. Ms Gröning confirms: "At one point, it took almost two full working days to settle just a handful of client projects." As the project volume increased continuously, PIM-Consult quickly realised that it needed to look for an alternative to the previous MS Word/Excel combination.
"Already in the demo phase with a test access on ZEP, we could see that the solution met all our requirements and eliminated the shortcomings of our previous approach to time recording and accounting."
Through an internet search, PIM-Consult Principal Julian Herzog, who is responsible for the IT equipment of the consultancy, came across the software solution ZEP from the company provantis IT Solutions from Ditzingen.
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.
After a somewhat lengthy selection process, which was mainly due to the rapid company growth and the associated numerous new project orders, PIM-Consult finally decided to use ZEP in February 2017.
Ms Gröning explains: "Already in the demo phase with a test access on ZEP, we could see that the solution met all our requirements and eliminated the shortcomings of our previous approach to time recording and accounting."
In addition to pure ZEP time recording, PIM-Consult uses the holiday and absence management module as well as the billing module for accounting.
As an operating model, PIM-CONSULT decided to operate ZEP in the cloud computing model. ZEP can be used both as a cloud service and as an on-premise solution. Sandra Gröning explains: "As a consultancy in the IT environment, we are now part of the 'Generation Cloud' and actually run all our software applications in the cloud." The topic of data protection and data security naturally plays a central role. 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.
"We are well aware of the fact that 100 % control is not possible, but feel that we are in good hands in the German ZEP Cloud. We have full confidence that provantis, as a professional cloud service provider, will do everything to ensure maximum security and availability".confirms Sandra Gröning. So far, this trust has not been disappointed.
As in many project-oriented companies, the consultants of PIM-Consult also work mostly on-site at the client's premises. To enter their project times, they therefore use the solution's mobile apps, which are available for Android and iOS, in addition to ZEP's web-based user interface. Sandra Gröning: "As a typical consulting company, our employees are usually on the road four days a week. For this reason, reporting must be as simple as possible. Using ZEP's mobile apps, for example, our employees can simply photograph their receipts with their mobile device (mobile phone or tablet/iPad) and record them that way."
As the person responsible for accounting, Ms Gröning is on the one hand pleased that with ZEP all project times are now recorded in a central place via a uniform interface and structure and that the annoying, error-prone and time-consuming "compilation" of data from different Excel lists is no longer necessary. In addition, the intuitive and user-friendly user interface facilitates the creation of the billing and thus leads to significantly less effort in this area as well.
And if there are ever any questions about how to use it, ZEP Support is there to help and advise. Ms Gröning explains: "ZEP has developed into a very powerful and efficient tool that goes far beyond what we as 'average users' need for our work. Often it's just a question of settings, and the ZEP support usually provides me with an answer within a very short time.