Electronic marketplace SupplyNet is demonstrating faith in the ASP model by renting its customer relationship management (CRM) software over the internet from Unisys.
Through its parent company GSB Supplycorp, SupplyNet also rents general ledger software Abel over the internet from Tasman Computing. “And of course our own e-procurement application is browser-based, so it’s a model that we’re comfortable with,” says newly appointed chief Garry Fissenden.
Analysts are expecting a shakeout in the application service provider market this year as ASPs rethink their business models and the previous hype dissipates.
Describing SupplyNet as a start-up, Fissenden says the organisation is ideally suited to being an ASP customer. “If you’re a start-up you don’t have a big swag of people or a big IT team; money is sparingly spent and you are looking for ways to avoid shelling out a lot of money up-front. Speed is also very important.”
Fissenden evaluated the CRM software, StayInFront's Wildfire, over the web. A sales person from Unisys, which hosts the software, walked him through the demo, during which he could, among other things, download dummy data into mailing lists.
He then signed up on the web and was later given log-on details by a Unisys support person by phone.
“From my old days [as IT director at the ASB Bank] I know that if you put something on the net and leave other processes off, you’re going to have problems. You have to have everything on the net. With this, even the contract is on the web. I’ve never, in fact, met anyone from Unisys,” he says.
Fissenden says SupplyNet’s CRM requirements are basic at this stage, and are mainly to do with mailing lists and keeping track of customers. This suits the ASP version of Wildfire, which has been trimmed down to run over the internet and through a browser at the client end.
“It’s like they’ve taken a V8 and turned it into a four-cylinder family sedan. It’s speedy and you can get it up and running very quickly,” he says.
The software has interfaces for Microsoft desktop applications so that data from the CRM system can be downloaded to MS Word or Excel. Wildfire costs about $90 a month a user and SupplyNet has had five staff using it since January.
“The alternative would have been to buy the software and buy a server. Then we would have had to maintain and tune a database.”
As far as security, up-time and scalability go, Fissenden says he has no concerns.
“Having come from a bank I know you can secure it. [Unisys] has all the bumf you need. Up-time is not a big issue as it is not a critical application like a transactional system, and I’m sure it will scale.”