Hosted on-line services delivered to the courier industry

NetDespatch is an e-business enabler and vertical application service provider (VSP) for transport and delivery firms, allowing...

NetDespatch is an e-business enabler and vertical application service provider (VSP) for transport and delivery firms, allowing them to offer a sophisticated Web-based solution for on-line booking, quotation, tracking and review.

The major advantage is that hardware and software are fully hosted and charged for on a 'pay-as-you-go-per-order' basis. The only up-front cost to transport companies is a PC and a standard Internet connection for them to gain risk-free access to a constantly evolving, feature-rich, customisable solution.

One end-user, Priority Global Express Couriers, provides a range of same-day, overnight and global delivery services. As a medium-sized multi-modal delivery company, Priority was seeking an e-business solution to help it maintain a competitive edge against major international players. Its customers had started mentioning the benefits offered by on-line booking and tracking - reducing paperwork, allowing them to see the progress of their shipments and being able to check proof of delivery in real time.

To develop its own solution, or even to customise an off-the-shelf package to its own needs, Priority would have needed to invest in leased lines, hardware and software, plus at least one dedicated member of staff to develop, install and maintain the system. But this type of investment would have been hard, if not impossible, for the business to justify.

"The needs of any courier business are very specific, and to offer our customers an effective on-line booking and tracking service we needed to tailor the Web forms to individual users," explains Guillaume Pacteau, partner of Priority. "In many cases we need very detailed information about the shipment to be able to do the job properly, and especially to plan 'on-forwarding' for international shipments. Providing our own solution, or even going to a general e-business developer, we would need to start from scratch and would need complex 'one-to-many' software which could be customised for each of our customers."

With these complications in mind, Priority was instantly attracted to NetDespatch. "Putting the obvious cost implications of a hosted ASP solution aside, NetDespatch was offering software designed for our business," says Pacteau. "This meant that the core functionality was right for us and that the developers at NetDespatch clearly understood the nature of the courier business and had incorporated all the flexibility we needed to tailor the solution to our end-users."

Becky Clarke, founder of NetDespatch, says that by taking the vertical market approach "the company can look in more detail at our end-users".

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