Digital Equipment has opened its new Business Link web-based information source, designed to cut costs both for itself and its business partners.
An Australian initiative, the new site gives Digital resellers access to current pricing, stock levels and product information, reducing the necessity for them to call-in to Digital's service facilities.
According to the manager of Digital's Internet Business Group, Hugh Macfarlane, the site will enable the company to maintain and enhance its level of support to resellers while reducing the cost involved. "Partners are everything we do," said Macfarlane. "Therefore we incur a lot of costs to support the partners - inform them, enthuse them, motivate them, take orders from them.
"We see that the benefit of implementing Internet commerce doesn't come from increasing our revenue - we're doing it to save money. We have a business model that the market is decreasingly prepared to pay for, but we want to add as much value as we can conceive of.
"The market will not pay a cent more for our products than we charge today. So if we want to increase service, we have to cut costs."
The most immediate costs Macfarlane hopes to cut are through the number of phone calls Digital receives. "Every order for us on average has eight phone calls, and that's a massive cost for us, when only one of those phone calls is actually an order." Macfarlane believes a reduction in time Digital people spend on the phone should logically mean less time on the phone for its resellers.
Users of the new site will gain the ability to track their orders once placed. Routine inquiries such as product code and availability can also be performed, and literature products can be ordered. But Macfarlane says there are a number of business policy issues that need to be thrashed out with resellers before full product ordering will be implemented.
"We're looking for some early benefits out of this, and we can cut down many of the seven phone calls quickly, so we're doing that," he said "Before we move to actually transacting with partners, which is only one of the eight phone calls, there are a couple of things that have to happen." This includes working out a suitable ordering protocol and authentication system with dealers," said Macfarlane. "We're talking about million dollar orders. What we cannot afford is them saying they didn't order something - that cannot be a conversation we have."
Macfarlane says the Digital Business Link was implemented in only eight weeks, using Oasis Internet commerce software from specialist developer InterWorld.
Digital expects to recover the cost of the systems implementation within a year.