When Com Tech spun off its distribution business as a time-and-place operation called Express Data three years ago, managing director David Shein proclaimed value-added distribution was no longer a viable business model. However, with the launch of Express Data's Web site in August, the company once again claims it is leading the charge aimed at putting the value back into distribution.
"We are seeing the distribution model changing and it's technology that is driving it," said Ross Cochrane, Express Data general manager.
Express Data is hoping to provide enough resources and services for the channel through its Web site for resellers to treat the site as "their pri-mary resource for doing business".
"The site provides nearly all the day-to-day needs of a reseller in one convenient location," Cochrane added.
Resellers are able to get access to information in real time about recommended retail and customer-specific buy prices as well as availability.
This can be obtained live off the Web site or Express Data will e-mail the exact data a reseller requires in a format that allows it to be fed into a reseller's back-end systems.
"There are a lot of resellers that are still manually keying in part numbers. That's not necessary any more," Cochrane said.
Resellers can also track the status of their orders and receive return authorisations in real time. The site also has detailed product specifications and information and if resellers still need help they can click a button and an Express Data expert will call them back.
"We're currently averaging five minutes response time. This has to be just-in-time help," Cochrane said.
Express Data has also developed a Licensing Expert System, which aims to take the headache out of configuring software licences, said Peter Stein, ED's information systems coordinator.
"With nine software licence programs each with their different rules, the only way of guaranteeing a correct configuration was to contact Express Data salespeople. We now have a rules-based system set up on the Web and licensing is as easy as clicking your mouse and pointing to the products you need," Stein said.
Express Data also claims that rather than having single log-in details for an entire company, individuals have their own user names and password which enables a reseller to restrict what individual staff members can and can't do on the site.
"It also means if someone leaves the company, you don't have to change everyone's password," Stein added.
Cochrane said the aim of the site is to streamline the procurement process.
"At the moment the vendor has a Web site, the distributor has a Web site and the reseller has a Web site and they're all islands. We want to bring them together and have them all talking the same language."
As well as its Web site, Express Data is aiming to add value through its configuration services, which will come into operation when it moves into new premises in October.
Express Data is also offering its "drop ship" service where it will ship products directly to the customer in a plain box with all the correct paperwork including resellers' names and logos.