2017: A year of firsts with the aim of deeper connections with customers
You can’t start a fire without a spark… and 2017 was on fire at Sparkrock! The year kicked off with the corporate rebrand from Altus Dynamics to Sparkrock, representing the foundational “rock” of ERP and CRM technology, and the combustive “spark” between the vertical expertise of Sparkrock employees and the passion and commitment of customers. “We wanted to underline the focus on customers - what do we do for them?... We spark their technology transformation, which matters, a lot,” says Colin Dickinson, president.
“We built on the theme of ‘together for the greater good,’ realizing that we’re better together,” says Sparkrock cofounder Nicola Dickinson. That togetherness included: the new Customer Success Center, a road show through Toronto, Ottawa and Red Deer, a bigger Customer Advisory Board; expansion into social and human services through our partnerships in the United States; and the largest ever school board user event in Sparkrock’s history.
Significant customer gains in 2017 have made Sparkrock imminently the number-one provider of HR, payroll and financial resources solutions to the K12 school boards in Ontario and more than 60% growth in the province. Sparkrock also grew its presence in the public health sector substantially. A 2017 Sparkrock webinar drew attendees from 87% of public health units in Ontario - indicating the need for transformative technology to help deal with the impending legislative changes in that sector which will greatly impact payroll transactions across the health units.
“We are so excited about our growing ability to tell great customer experiences, and to share solutions within our communities from vital organizations helping people in need,” says Mark Knill, VP, Sales, Sparkrock. “After all, status quo is the enemy for nonprofits,” he notes. “Digital technology for performance management is what it’s all about.”
“The investments we make into the Microsoft technology stack provides our customers with both peace of mind and technological innovation,” says James Faw, VP, Product Innovation. By partnering with Microsoft, we can leverage a powerful ERP and CRM platform while building meaningful capabilities for nonprofits, ultimately lowering their technological risk by including fewer customizations, options to get to the cloud, and the ability to stay current through the year. 2017 was the year of many exciting features in HR and Payroll, procurement and reporting in our solutions. “We doubled the size of our product team in 2017 and advanced our skill set in mobility and user interfaces giving our customers highly intuitive solutions,” James notes.
To that end, Sparkrock held its first ever Digital Transformation Summit in fall 2017, with more than 40 executive directors, finance directors, and HR directors at leading nonprofits across North America coming together in Toronto with great industry experts, moderated by restructuring strategy consultant, Betty Ferreira, to discuss leveraging technology to better deliver on their mission. “It was so popular an ‘encore summit’ was held online to reach even wider circles of our community,” says James Faw, VP, Product Innovation.
“This year was also all about lowering the hurdles for customers to get answers,” says Nicola who championed the Customer Success Center launched in 2017. Sparkrock has fully committed to easy, digestible online learning content - both on demand and live e-learning sessions - about Manage (ERP) and Engage (CRM) solutions to gives customers the extra support needed in critical applications.
Sparkrock’s customer base surpassed 29,000 users in 2017, and learning opportunities such as live webcasts regularly more than 50 users. Users’ hunger for learning also drove Sparkrock ‘on the road’ in 2017, holding its first ever regionalized meetups - in Toronto, Ottawa, and Red Deer, Alberta - for customers to get together and share solutions.
Ten professionals from the nonprofit sector were added to Sparkrock’s Customer Advisory Board (almost doubling its size) whose members provide ideas for product features and their thought leadership in digital transformation for nonprofits, school boards and human and social services. For example, an executive director of a refugee settlement agency gives regular talks, including webcasts, about the reporting improvements they’ve made with Sparkrock’s help.
"The community approach is also how Sparkrock reached out in 2017 to the U.S. market, providing benchmarking reports to regional and state associations to help them assess how their nonprofit member agencies can improve operationally", says Colin Dickinson, Sparkrock’s president. Several formal partnerships were announced in 2017 between Sparkrock and U.S. associations, including the Providers Council, a Massachusetts association of health and human service agencies, and the Rehabilitation & Community Providers Association based in Philadelphia.
Nicola shares a favorite memory from 2017, when a Sparkrock customer - a nonprofit in Alberta that provides community programs and services to disabled adults - faced challenges scheduling their staff over a weekend. “The Sparkrock team quickly mobilized and, by the end of the weekend, their scheduling system was running smoothly. The customer was so happy they created an award for the key employee, Peggy,” says Nicola. “As well as cheering her on, I felt so proud of our team.”
Mark Knill sums up the year that was 2017 at Sparkrock. “We’re big on the concept of stewardship - leaving the world a better place than how we found it, and in that conviction, we reflect the same values as the nonprofit and school board organizations we serve.”