Scottish Power has signed a major application service provider (ASP) deal in a bid to revamp customer services.
The six-figure deal with WhiteCross Systems shows that large companies are starting to take the plunge into the controversial ASP market.
Scottish Power aims to boost profits by using ASP services from WhiteCross to analyse customer needs and highlight marketing opportunities.
The utility will use a WhiteCross server to analyse customer data. WhiteCross will run and maintain the service - based on a monthly licence fee - from its data centre. Andy Butcher, market research and database manager of Scottish Power, said: "Part of the rationale was to understand the customer base more efficiently in financial terms. To understand the customer you have to invest in technology."
But many IT managers and analysts remain sceptical about the real benefits of using ASPs in such a volatile and emerging market.
Butcher, however, said it was reducing capital costs by leasing the equipment from WhiteCross. "There are strict service level agreements and expectations of what it should provide," he said.
The utility will use the new service - based on multiple parallel processing - for business units ranging from energy supply and retail, to new initiatives such as telecoms. The deal follows hot on the heels of another high-profile ASP contract in the utilities sector. Earlier this year Powergen signed a landmark ASP contract with QSP. The £3.85m contract, for QSP’s Webfinance suite, supports 600 Powergen users.
Analysts attributed the rise of ASP services in the utility market to fierce competition in delivering online services for customers. “Our research in the past year in the transport and utility sector has shown they [the utility sector] are more interested in ASPs than others,” said Katy Ring, research director for e-business at analyst Ovum. “They need to provide online services quickly and they can piggy-back on the skills of the ASP provider which has a shrink-wrapped infrastructure in place.”