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Wireless Palm Service Engineering A Hit

Holliday Group Limited

15-Jan-01

Wireless Palm Service Engineering Application A Hit With Infinity And Its Customers

Five years of searching for the best mobile wireless solution has led Infinity Solutions, New Zealand’s largest independent IT services company, to the Holliday Group.

Many of Infinity Solutions’ most demanding customers operate mission-critical online transaction systems for managing reservations, airport travel and field services. These customers, who are dispersed all over New Zealand, demand 24 hour, 7-day coverage, a service that is provided by the company’s 60 support engineers operating from 15 branches nationwide.

Until recently details of service jobs would be related to field engineers at Infinity Solutions by “pager” communication. When a service job came in, the call management staff in Auckland would then allocate a call to an engineer based on location and the availability of the engineer. At the client’s site, any computer parts that needed ordering for the client or messages that needed conveying, would be done by mobile phone. And finally, after a full days work, the engineers would return to the office to complete their daily work sheet for approval by their branch manager and invoice processing.

A year ago Geoff Trask, General Manager of Support Services at Infinity Solutions, recognised that the call management system was lacking. It needed mobility. “While the system allows us to recall customers job requests for billing,“ he explained, “we felt that it would be a great business benefit for engineers to complete their work sheet online and on site to enable us to accurately measure our performance against key performance indicators (KPI’s).”

At first Infinity Solutions considered notebook and Psion solutions, but decided against those due to high investment costs per device. The Palm computing platform, however, was more attractive, plus it could be developed to support Infinity’s call management system.

“We wanted a reliable network that would support the Palm platform,” said Mr Trask “So we enquired about a Palm CDPD solution with Telecom. It was they who introduced us to the Holliday Group and we haven’t looked back since.”

The Solution
Holliday Group’s solution was to develop a Palm application that is essentially a downsized version of Infinity’s almost bespoke Informix call management system (Concord). It includes dispatch, call logging and update processes. This application rests on Holliday’s own Jade-built communications server, which provides a gateway link between the Palm computers and Infinity’s back office computer system over Telecom’s CDPD wireless network.

The HGL communications server was first developed by the Holliday Group to simplify the task of matching various mobile networks with office applications. Holliday Group’s Application Programming Interface allows firms like Infinity Solutions to customise any mobile platform to each application without having to start from scratch.

“We recognised the need for a system that provided network independence,” said Phil Holliday, managing director of the Holliday Group, “We thought such a generic facility must exist somewhere in the world, but we couldn’t find one so we wrote it ourselves. Now it is the cornerstone of the work we do as a mobile application provider.”

Infinity’s HGL communications server is located at the customer services desk in Auckland and sits alongside the management console – a PDA administration tool developed by Infinity’s transport division – to manage the allocation of PDAs and monitor when calls are allocated to the Palm units, the time the call arrived and when the engineer acknowledged them. This information has become an invaluable tool for keeping staff and customers up to date with progress.

As an example, EDS is one of Infinity Solutions’ customers. Faults logged at the EDS help desk are allocated a trouble ticket. This is then sent to Infinity Solutions by e-interface and allocated to an engineer or branch by Infinity’s customer service desk. Now, with the Palm and the CDPD network, when a call comes in engineers can choose to accept, reject or refer the work on to another engineer. Every action is monitored and updated throughout the day.

The Benefits
“The Palm solution provided by the Holliday Group has been a success,” said Mr Trask, “The biggest benefit of all is the shear simplicity of it. Everything went really well during September’s roll out and training, with big acceptance of the Palm units by the staff. Our customers have not only noticed a faster response, they have also been admiring the Palm and CDPD solution with considerable interest. Without a doubt this technology has created a very favourable impression for us.”

“We’ve also had fantastic interest and numerous enquiries from customers and business associates both here and overseas about the technology,” he continued. “We’re quite advanced compared to others because we have taken the back office system and made it available to our engineers at their place of work.”

Holliday Group’s Palm solution has enabled simple and more efficient allocation of customer calls, increased the speed of data processing and the customer response time, and provided an almost real time ability (network coverage dependent) of tracking job progress. It has also provided the ability to analyse times and actions and, in turn, provide a more accurate account of work conducted for each customer enquiry. The end of day task of filling in a daily worksheet has been simplified and the job of billing customers has become more automatic and precise.

Furthermore, the number of customer calls requesting service updates has reduced because the information - which is accessible by EDS through e-interfaces - is constantly updated on Infinity Solution’s call management system.

Where to from here?
To date 35 Palm IIIx and modem units have been allocated to staff nationwide. The strategy has been to deploy the units with the Engineers who work on customer accounts that require updates on progress and have the ability to receive these updates electronically.

“We are learning as we go,” explained Mr Trask. “We have found that each region has subtle differences determined by their customers such as local variations on the type of information the customer requires to monitor our performance. Engineer feedback helps us to establish what improvements or additional functionalities are required. On the immediate agenda are more work categories for the pull down menus and the ability for customers to sign for jobs on the Palm device. We also realise that the product has to move forward, which is why we are very interested in CDMA.”

Infinity Solutions and Holliday Group recognise the commercial opportunities of a cross-platform wireless call management solution. “There is much potential for future development of wireless technology,” said Mr Trask. “Infinity Solutions is working together with the Holliday Group to try to develop these opportunities.”
About Infinity Group www.infinity.co.nz
Infinity Group is a full spectrum Information Technology services, software and online group, which brings together a number of companies operating in the IT services and business enablement sectors in New Zealand and Australia.

In addition to well-established profitable businesses, Infinity Group actively seeks to develop some higher growth companies and a small number of targeted venture capital opportunities.

The Group has partnerships with leading global technology product suppliers as well as a significant commitment to locally develop IT solutions. Its 560 people include many of New Zealand's most experienced and talented IT practitioners servicing a diverse base of over 1000 public and private sector clients.

In addition to Infinity Solutions, the Group also operates Infinity Systems, a family of similar but separate intellectual property businesses, and Infinity Ventures, which covers new and emerging technology companies that will meet client needs in the future.

Infinity Solutions brings a strong mix of custom developed products and processes together with the best offerings from the most advanced IT companies in the world. Our partnering policy is aimed at delivering state-of-the-art solutions to enhance your business performance.

About the Holliday Group www.holliday.co.nz

The Holliday Group is the largest Palm application provider in Australasia and one of the top 100 Palm application developers in the world. They are at the forefront of the mobile wireless technology industry and excel in the provision of innovative mobile communication solutions on the Palm computing platform. Holliday Group is also one of the few companies that deliver WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) Applications in Australia and New Zealand.

From its head-office in Christchurch, the company develops a wide range of custom software solutions that streamlines time-to-market production and minimises administrative costs. The Holliday Group's expertise spans development of custom made Microsoft OS desktop applications, Internet Web authoring, man-machine interfaces to back office systems, communications and remote control systems.

With expertise in the development of mobile workforce systems, the Holliday Group has extended their product offering to include their own Jade-built communication server that links back-end systems to the mobile environment. The HGL Communications Server introduces a new level of capability for wireless hand held systems and is the product that won the company highly commended honours for the Hi Tech 2000 Software Excellence Award.


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