Unisource Canada Inc. customers can look forward to increased accuracy and speedier order delivery thanks to the agreement the office supplies distributor has signed with Q9 Networks Inc.,

a company executive says.

Unisource, a direct order distributor of printing, imaging, packaging and maintenance supplies has announced that it has signed an outsourcing agreement with Q9. The agreement, which take effect immediately, includes a February 2003 launch of a new Web site for Unisource, transforming its existing static site into an e-business tool, says Unisource director of IT support services Kimberley Cordell.

As well as linking Unisource’s back-office and warehousing systems, Q9 will host a new Web-based order entry system, Cordell says. Unisource will use Q9 managed servers, tape back up and bandwidth services, says Q9 CEO Osama Arafat.

The change was driven by customer demand, according to Cordell. Many of Unisource’s customers need the flexibility a web-based order entry system allows.

“”Some customers are really looking for the ability to place orders directly electronically rather than having to phone or fax or fill something out,”” she says.

“”This also allows them to place an order 24/7, take inventory or check their stock in the middle of the night and they can just place an order then. “”

Unisource’s customers, who range from delicatessens to government agencies, have to wait until the order desk opens to request products. Automation will not only work to the benefit of the customer, Cordell says, but also order desk staff.

“”We probably get 10,000 calls a day,”” she says. “”Also, with the automation it probably takes us 20 per cent of the time to process an order.””

The company is looking forward to increased accuracy as well, she says. An order placed directly into the company’s system by a customer means no re-entry of data, reducing the chance of mistakes.

Cordell says that Unisource decided to go with Q9 after a months-long search and based its decision in part on the security features the host could offer.

The Mission Impossible-esque security features of the Q9 facilities are certainly impressive. The facility requires biometrics information to open any doors in the data storage areas, is outfitted with bulletproof glass and has security cameras monitoring every inch of the datacenter, says Q9 Networks CEO Osama Arafat.

“”From a network security (perspective) we have firewall experts onsite seven by 24. We have a network operations center that’s manned on a seven by 24 basis,”” he adds.

The service level agreement between the two companies guarantees Unisource 100 per cent up time for the data centers and network, Arafat says. He points out that Q9 network’s direct connection to the major service providers means the site will become the shortest path between the company and its customers.

“”The customers will see a very responsive site and they will have a minimum number of hops over the Internet from their customers to that Web site,”” he says.

The new site will also allow Unisource to offer new services like online look-up of past invoices, Cordell says.

“”We (will) have an online catalogue available for them and have our price book and price list available on there,”” she says.

Arafat adds that the company will also be able to provide its customer base with almost-real time notifications of price changes.

“”So they’ll see enormous business process improvement,”” he says.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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