Action Computer Supplies

Company: Ability CorporationCustomer: Action Computer SuppliesSubmitted by: Media LinkAction Computer Supplies Plc, the UK’s largest direct supplier of IT products, has made a significant investment to replace its primary I.T. systems with a solution from Ability Corporation. Action turns over £270m with nearly £60m coming directly from its web-site. Supporting over 150,000 active customers, the system must fulfil a demanding role for the company, handling the breadth of its day-to-day operations, and underpinning its future growth. In 1999, the company implemented a full 450 user ERP system within 6 months.

Action operates in perhaps the most fiercely competitive market in the UK, and has grown to lead the market for direct sales of IT products. The company has an enviable record for customer retention – over 96%, and grows this by 150 new customers per day. Customers expect to choose from a wide range of products and services with low prices, reliable delivery and simple, effective order placing.Action Computer Supplies Case StudyThe business is fast moving and highly competitive.

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Its primary business is mail order, with over 18,000 leading brand stock items and over 200 services from consulting to on-site PC repairs. These account for daily sales of over a £1 million, of which over 25% are via Action’s web site.The company operates from three main sites, with over 700 primary users of its core IT systems. Action’s massive 70,000 square foot warehouse in Wembley contains in excess of £12 million worth of IT equipment. Average daily shipments have increased dramatically year on year, and at peak times the company has successfully shipped over 3,500 orders in a single day. This incredible turnover allows Action to keep a large, continually renewed stock of IT products.

In 1997 the company identified significant shortcomings in its IT systems, with poor performance and a lack of integration leading to inefficiencies. The company was using a bespoke system, developed over the years with Tetra Chameleon handling the accounts, and B-Trieve processing the sales orders. Typical of this type of home-grown system were duplicate data entry, inefficient call handling support and a lack of overall control of operations. In order to continue to prosper over the long term, an efficient and growing company needs to build and develop its infrastructure. None more so than Action.Initially, Action considered replacing the sales and distribution software with a system that would provide tighter integration with the account package.

The directors reviewed a number of offerings on the market, and soon discovered the best route would be wholesale replacement of the entire IT infrastructure. But such a bold move would require determination, and careful choice of the right partner.Rashpal Gill IS Director of Action, commented, “Action knew that by implementing a complete system, to handle everything end to end made sense, but were anxious as such radical change would impact all areas within the company and of the demands such an implementation would place on the company. One of the suppliers reviewed, Ability, specialised in complete systems for high-tech distribution companies, and had a proven track record in project management in meeting such tight time-scales”After exhaustive consultation with the board, the users and Ability, the decision in favour of Ability was taken in August 1998. An aggressive implementation schedule was set, with Phase 1 implementation set for the end of the year. A project team was formed as a joint venture between Action and Ability, kicking off with the analysis phase.

In January, 1999, with development nearing completion, Ability started to roll out the training. Action nominated a team of “super users” who were to receive “train the trainer” sessions, and the staff were given hands-on experience of the new system. The aim was to have the staff fully trained by the go-live date, so Action could hit the ground running. To this end, Action put in place evaluation procedures to test every member of staff, and their efficiency with the new system.Meanwhile, the Ability team was perfecting the data take-on. All the existing data from the old systems was to be converted, including full sales histories going back to year 0.

A trial, including a year’s data take-on was completed in early February. This included a full run-through of system capabilities with 100 sales staff in a conference room pilot. This was repeated later in the month.”Action could leave nothing to chance,” commented Gill . “Once the switch to the new systems was made, Action knew there would be no turning back.

Everything was tested and then tested again.””It reflected great credit on the implementation team of Action and Ability staff who were totally focused on the task in hand and who controlled the scope of the project extremely well, he added.”Go-live was Monday, March 1st and was an instant hit, serving 450 users with a full set of financials, purchasing, sales and logistics.”For example, our telesales team were now more empowered to perform their tasks, equipped with their own catalogues, ”pink” pricing, together with substitute and companion items,” explains Gill.”Action is now reaping the benefits of having a completely integrated ERP system,” says Gill.

“The system will further support the growth in Action as transactional volume increase. This might not be the world’s most glamorous system, but it does what it is supposed to do; that is, it keeps Action in business and growing”