In reality, Datamail has been part of the e-business world for some time, as both an ASP and outsourcing bureau. It just hadn’t thought of itself that way. For Bone, the task was to get the management team to see the organisation as an e-business and to recognise that the internet is just another transport medium — but with special security issues surrounding it. Work is already being kept in electronic form for distribution and other information is archived for electronic access by outside organisations. “We are already doing things like hosting archived repositories for large financial institutions and supplying the data back on demand via a private network to their helpdesk,” says Bone. “It was just a matter of expanding our thinking, saying this is what the internet is about. It’s got a whole bunch of new dimensions that we needed to manage because of the security exposure we now have.”
Bone says that two or three years ago there was a great fear within New Zealand Post about the impact that email would have on “snail mail”. The impact has been huge but, at the same time, Datamail recently had its biggest month ever — by 15% — and even New Zealand Post mail is up in terms of total volume.
Bone acknowledges that Datamail played a role in convincing New Zealand Post to offer its e-bill payment options. Has it worked? “Not really. It hasn’t worked for anyone. The reality is that most people still write cheques or use direct debits. For a lot of people, that’s managing the bills.”
Under the new contract, Datamail has standardised its server hardware environment. In the past, staff would buy from their own choice of supplier. Bone stopped that by insisting that all buying is done through Compaq, once again leveraging the New Zealand Post supplier relationship. The result was an easing of maintenance issues.
Bone operates what he describes as a hot-swap approach. Having a single brand means that only a small store of spares needs to be kept. And, when a machine breaks down, it is easy to arrange a substitute. By standardising, the server life cycle has been extended.
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