It's not much good installing a spanking new network and desktop infrastructure if end users can't reap the benefits of the technology. With that in mind, integrator Netbridge took as much care over end-user training as it did over the technology rollout involved in an IT upgrade at dairy producer Murray Goulburn.
Netbridge knocked over incumbent NCR to win the $1.9 million IT upgrade, the centrepieces of which are a new LAN/WAN network and Lotus messaging infrastructure.
"We were looking to have some sort of differentiator and we placed an enormous amount of importance on education and training of Murray Goulburn's end-user staff. In a new environment it was critical that staff had confidence and could use the new system," said Lance Heather, Netbridge's business development manager in Victoria.
The new network links six dairy factories and a distribution centre to Murray Goulburn's head office in Melbourne via 64Kbps ISDN lines. IBM servers running Windows NT were installed at each site and Lotus Notes was installed as the messaging platform.
Paul Stancill, data processing manager at Murray Goulburn, said each site was progress-ively signed off and a Netbridge person stayed onsite for a month to iron out any remaining problems. However, it was the training that Netbridge provided which really made the difference.
"Netbridge performed application software training of users, with a follow-up of one day a week in each branch devoted to training. Netbridge really provided a one-stop shop for the complete job," he said.
"It's sometimes hard for integrators to differentiate themselves," said Heather. "But what a customer is looking for is not so much the hardware deliverable as it is the user environment and the confidence those users have in using a network.
"I guarantee that in a large number of network upgrades, the end users get very few of the real benefits that they could be getting, because they can't properly use the system," he said.
With the system now up and in place, Stancill said that electronic communication had largely replaced the fax machine as a means of communication between sites.
"With the implementation of the new network systems and the use of Lotus Mail, we are now carrying hundreds of messages a week. Users, under the guidance of Netbridge, have taken to electronic messaging, dramatically cutting down the use of fax machines," he said.
Information sharing has also improved dramatically with the use of Notes databases. Dairy intake, production output and other factory performance data is loaded onto Notes servers which replicate at each site.
Heather said the site would be a significant reference site for Netbridge.
"We were keen to demonstrate the business benefits of electronic messaging. The Murray Goulburn project is a showpiece for what can be achieved with messaging technology," he said.
Additionally, Netbridge installed HP OpenView which allows the integrator to remotely support the PC infrastucture from its head office in Melbourne.