"With any outsource model you want to minimise your cost and an obvious way of doing that is to adopt a centralised virtualised infrastructure," Lowe says. "It's more efficient, we've got sites nationwide in 55 locations. The more infrastructure and technology you put on site, the higher your support costs are. With a virtualised infrastructure and desktop model, our site-support requirement for infrastructure is very low. The only infrastructure on each site is a switch and a router. Everything else is managed to run centrally."
Outsourcing may not be the preferred model for the long-term, he acknowledges. "If at any time the in-house offerings of Toll global are able to offer what we have today, we'd look at that. Right now there are a lot of changes in global ICT, so the gap will close and at that time we'll re-evaluate where we are."
Today, a team of seven, including Lowe look after Toll NZ's IT services across all the sites and seven businesses. They look after all applications and software as well. "We can do that because we have outsource partners."
That means the core capabilities within the in-house team are focused on business analysis and project management. "I have an infrastructure operations manager who works very closely on the site with a TelstraClear service delivery manager and a TelstraClear onsite support person, who works at our site. Toll also has a dedicated TelstraClear account director. So we have a very strong strategic relationship at all levels with TelstraClear.
Applications are, of course, chiefly concerned with the movement of freight. "All our owner-drivers use hand scanner technology -- Intermec CN3 devices -- to send and receive information. They operate on the Vodafone GPRS network. We also use the devices to track where our drivers are; we use that real-time information in quite an innovative way with parcel ticketing solutions."
When he joined, Toll in NZ didn't operate a parcels service. "Historically, Toll has tended to move larger palletised freight, but we wanted to launch a parcel product to complement the general freight business, as many of our freight customers also had parcels. We identified that we needed some point of differentiation in the market as a new entrant in this sector. All our competitors run a prepaid ticketing model. Customers buy books of tickets -- different colours depending on [destination] and weight of the parcel. Customers have to pick their green book for Auckland to Wellington; then pick a ticket appropriate to five kilograms and decide whether they want signature or non-signature [delivery]. "While it works well, it's not very customer friendly with all the different books; and customers have to pay for the books in advance, so it's effectively money on the warehouse floor that is open to abuse," says Lowe.
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