Allied Carpets aims to increase its revenue by as much as £5m a year with a new IT architecture and a Microsoft customer relationship management system.
The business growth will come from improved customer services, the company said. In particular, it will help Allied Carpets to handle its many insurance industry customers, which often have more detailed needs than the firm's retail customers.
The company also aims to reduce the cost of managing its IT systems with the move to a centralised architecture. It previously held consumer and trading information on servers in each of it stores as well as running a PC-based point of sale system. The new centralised system is based on IBM Intel servers at Allied's Orpington headquarters.
Microsoft's Terminal Services and Remote Desktop Protocol allow the firm to run Windows applications from the head office servers to thin clients in its stores.
The project, managed by IBM business partner Panacea Services, began as a seven-store pilot in August 2005. It has now been rolled out to all of Allied's 222 UK stores.
The company will use Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 to manage relationships with customers. Although Microsoft is relatively new to the CRM market, Ken Moss, IT controller at Allied Carpets, said staff were happy with the feel of the product during piloting, largely because of its similarity to Outlook.
For the IT department, the system should make it easier to integrate CRM with other Microsoft products, including Active Directory, Windows 2003, SQL databases and Exchange 2000, Moss said.
Because thin clients use less power than previous in-store systems, Allied Carpets expects to save £70,000 a year on its electricity bill.
The choice of Microsoft-based systems initially raised some eye-brows among Allied Carpets' French owners. "There was some scepticism," Moss said. "They mainly run IBM AS/400s and open source software. But in the end we had a lot of support from them.
"For the next three to six months we will be bedding in, and then increase corporate business and retail sales. We have already had a lot of interest from insurance companies wanting to work with us on linking systems."
The new system also allowed sales reps to log on from any site, away from the home branch, and offered more up-to-date management reports, Moss said.
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This was first published in September 2006