Peter Miller, Bayer’s group purchasing manager, says: “Mobile communications have established themselves as a vital part of our day-to-day business. Cost savings and account management from Vodafone were factors that helped us decide to continue the contract.”
The new handsets – including Nokia 5110s, 6110s, 6081s and Motorola 2700 fixed carphones – are being supplied to managers, sales staff and other employees whose work takes them away from the office. Many of these remote workers will be using the infrared link on their handsets to connect to their laptops, as well as facilities such as SMS text messaging and Vodafone’s Recall voicemail service.
Bayer’s mobile phones are linked to its own VPN (virtual private network), making each mobile operable as an extension number on the company’s own private number plan. This reduces the cost of calls between fixed and mobile extensions, and mobile communications have become a seamless part of the Bayer’s communications network.
It is also benefiting from reduced call costs with the improved Vodafone Volume Tariff (VVT), a tariff designed for organisations with a significant number of mobile phones and a high monthly spend. VVT offers one tariff for an entire handset fleet, with discounted airtime as usage increases.
To ease the administration of billing processes, 700 employees are now billed directly to their corporate credit cards. In addition, Bayer uses Vodafone’s Vision billing analysis package to assess usage details such as spend per handset.
“We have maintained an excellent working relationship with Bayer over the years, and this has helped us to build a good understanding of the company and its business requirements,” explains Graham Ward, managing director of Vodafone Corporate.
Of the phones supplied to Bayer, the most basic is the Nokia 5110, which has up to 11 days of stand-by time and around five hours of talk time.
Rory Maher, Vodafone Corporate’s general manager of strategic accounts, comments: “The world of mobile telephony is certainly very different now to how it was 10 years ago when our relationship with Bayer started. Improved service, competition and innovation have changed everything.”
He cites the particular example of tariffs. “Phone tariffs for the corporate market have generally been far too complex. We have simplified tariff options now, so that Bayer has the Vodafone Volume Tariff which delivers great savings through things like VPNs.”
He says that the Bayer relationship has been centred until now around voice services, but that data options are now under active consideration.
“They have been staying away from things like WAP, because they think it’s a bit hyped. But the GPRS and WAP option is now being looked at. Bayer is a purely digital company, and very forward looking technically.”
The world of the mobile Internet has been slow to take off, in spite of high profile advertising and PR blitzes. One of the problems has been bringing together compelling content and an appropriate medium.
One of the more successful answers has been the collaboration between Motorola and BT Cellnet’s Genie Internet division to deliver Sports.com, currently Europe’s leading sports content service, over web phones via a WAP-enabled website.
Sports fans can use the service, which was launched at the beginning of March, to access Sports.com sites with the simple press of a button. Motorola and Genie Internet, the UK’s biggest mobile Internet service provider, have designed the service so that those users can personalise their phones to access specific Sports.com information, such as live scores.
The content supplied by Sports.com includes up-to-the-minute information about football, rugby, cricket and Formula One. Initially this content was in English but has now been extended to several other European languages.
Tom Jessiman, managing director of Sports.com, says: “These deals mark a significant milestone in Sports.com’s expansion. We have become the most-visited European sports website on the traditional desktop, but we also are the leader in mobile Internet sports. The launch of our new wireless sports service with companies like Motorola and BT Cellnet shows we are serious about mobile Internet.”
He continues: “Because we own our content we can provide the most comprehensive service to global mobile partners who want the best European sports content. Sports.com is the only web service to provide live scoring for 18 of the great football leagues in Europe, and clearly that is attractive to mobile web users who demand scoring updates.”
Rick Darnaby, senior vice president of Motorola’s Personal Communications Sector, says: “Our Web W/O Wires Alliance Programme is an exciting opportunity for any provider of Internet-based content, applications and services. The programme is able to give Sports.com an instant audience of millions of Motorola WAP-enabled phone users worldwide.”
Brian Greasley, general manager of Genie Internet, says: “Deals with content partners like Sports.com will help Genie Internet to cement its position as the UK’s top mobile Internet portal.”
Sports.com became the most visited European sports site within its first 100 days. It is the official Internet media partner of Manchester United and is the primary sports content provider for Netscape Online UK, The Financial Times’ FT.com, and France Telecom’s Voila and Wanadoo.
BT Cellnet is currently market leader in the fledgling mobile Internet space, with over 500,000 mobile Internet users compared with around seven million customers using its voice services. The company is currently re-focusing itself into three businesses – a voice business, a high-speed data business focused on GPRS and a mobile Internet business.
In 1997, Genie was the first service in the world to send information from the Internet direct to a mobile phone, and in March last year, it became the UK’s first mobile ISP. In November, BT Cellnet and Barclaycard completed the UK’s first Internet purchase via a WAP mobile phone running on the BT Cellnet network.
In January, BT Cellnet’s Genie Internet launched the UK’s first fully operational commercially available WAP services and also announced the Infotouch and Mmail data services, the first mobile Internet services available to digital customers based on existing SMS text messaging.
BT Cellnet is currently trialling its GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) network, which will deliver information to mobile phones at speeds of up to five times faster than today.
Banner Business Supplies is the largest independent supplier of office products and services in the UK. Its offerings range from the supply of office stationery, computers, peripherals and IT consumables to space planning and the design and installation of bespoke furniture.
Banner was formerly part of The Stationery Office, which used to be HMSO before being privatised in 1996. Since then it has streamlined its business, implementing refinements in procurement, storage and logistics as well as rationalising and enhancing supplier relationships.
Banner chief executive Mark Cashman says: “We’ve elevated customer service and support standards to new heights, introducing a culture of ‘right first time’.”
Banner’s history of trading electronically has followed a natural progression, says Cashman. “In the early ’90s we were trading electronically using EDI with a DOS-based interface. Coming forward, electronic catalogues were introduced so if the customer knew the item number, they could order from us electronically. This evolved into the various electronic trading mechanisms we use now.”
Banner found that an increasing number of organisations were choosing to place orders via EDI. A point was reached where it seemed well worth adopting a more modern electronic procurement approach, and so the company chose Infobank InTrade, a business-to-business e-procurement system, as the backbone of its Internet e-commerce strategy. BT SupplyCentre, also powered by InTrade, provides the hosted managed service.
Cashman says: “We don’t want to be just another electronic catalogue over the web and call that e-commerce. We want to have full dual communication with the customer every day – every minute if they want.”
The Infobank choice was the result of a year’s trial, but the results have been worth the wait, says Cashman. “We realised that we had to have a universally applicable system to link with the variety of customer systems.
In Banner’s case, having come out of HMSO and with the preponderance of our customers being government, we needed to be able to facilitate procurement via the Government Secure Intranet while maintaining integrity and security.
Equally, we can do business with our corporate clients whether it’s through the Internet or their intranet.”
Take up among suppliers has been good, he says. “We’ve had ample communication with our suppliers and generally speaking they’re very keen. They vary in terms of their capacity to trade electronically. Some of them are up to speed, others haven’t even thought about it. But they’re all very happy to get engaged in this process. The long-term message to suppliers is very clear: trade electronically with us or don’t trade with us at all.”
Cashman says that benefits of e-procurement are obvious. “There’s no question that trading electronically is less costly than trading in any other form. If a client on the 10th floor of a building in London places an order for 20 items for next day delivery, it’s very expensive for us to get that package from our warehouse to that client in a timeframe, so there’s no margin for error. Giving the power to the consumer through easy pictures to point and click at reduces the mistakes in the front end. Banner’s back end benefit is lower costs as a result of less mistakes, less duplicate orders and so on.”
He says InTrade has proved a success both in time saved and ease of use. “Our customers made it very clear they didn’t want a system that took a lot of training and a lot of time to use. Using the system has to be as easy as pointing and clicking.”
Cashman is convinced that e-procurement is the future of all trade. “Whether it takes six months or six years for the technology to become universal, I don’t know, but my impression is that it will be sooner rather than later. If you get it right, warp speed is wonderful, if you don’t you’re in trouble very quickly.”
Virgin Trains operates two rail franchises, West Coast Trains and CrossCountry Trains. As part of creating economies in a tough market, Virgin Trains has recently moved procurement of its IT online with the PECOS electronic procurement system from elcom.com. It says that doing this will mean cost savings on its current budget for desktop business systems.
PECOS, one of elcom’s suite of electronic procurement systems, provides Virgin Trains with a new method of purchasing IT products. It includes an online catalogue of more than 13,000 products from leading manufacturers, with personalised prices based on the customer’s purchasing history.
“This is one of our best deals to date in the UK,” comments Michael Templeman, managing director of elcom.com. “Overall, the Virgin group of companies has a reputation as one of the UK’s most effective buying organisations, so for Virgin Trains to adopt our model of IT procurement is good news.
It demonstrates the efficiencies that can be delivered with the right e-procurement model.” Templeman hopes the deal will result in other Virgin businesses adopting the technology.
Glenn Compton, technical procurement manager at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, which handles IT procurement for Virgin Trains, says: “PECOS streamlines the procurement process, with online information about prices, specifications, availability, delivery times and order status. By using it for supplier comparisons and benchmarking exercises, I am able to achieve the best pricing structures and terms for Virgin Trains.”
Virgin implemented PECOS in February 2000 following a thorough evaluation of the marketplace. Initially, GE Capital was to be the company’s integration partner, and Lotus the supplier of e-procurement software. But elcom and Cap Gemini were the eventual choice. Says Compton: “PECOS was faster and more user friendly than the other systems we evaluated. We are always looking for ways to upgrade the procurement process, and PECOS was the best way to achieve our objectives.”
The system is accessed using a standard web browser, enabling the customer to view the catalogue and place electronic orders from any computer at any time. The use of user names and passwords enables a customised service to be offered, with prices specific to each customer.
Single products or customised configurations can be ordered with one mouse-click, and the order tracked through the supply chain. A customer can set up several different users, each with a defined level of authority.
For more detailed discussion of requirements, each customer also has an identified account manager. PECOS is integrated with elcom.com’s automated systems for sales order processing, inventory, warehousing and despatch. This ensures rapid, accurate order fulfilment.
The system is shortly to be upgraded to elcom’s new flagship system, Starbuyer Gold, says Paul Sheppard, elcom’s corporate account manager for Virgin Trains. “It has a load of new features and is more user friendly.”