Council uses solution to create

Good technology saves businesses money or time, but the best technology saves both, says the manager of an Ontario industry council.

The Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) is a self-management authority administering the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act on behalf of the government of Ontario. The organization made up of 9,000 dealers, 20,000 salespersons, and a staff of 50, licenses car dealers and mediates disputes between consumers and dealers. While OMVIC managers were used to solving disputes in the field, Javier Valdivieso, the manager of e-business at the council, said they were having some problems solving a time overhead problem.

“We used to connect and it made it so our field staff had to come to the office and do information searches themselves or they had to call into the office and get someone to do the research and fax the information back to the field office,” he said, explaining that it was taking up huge amounts of time.

The solution was to implement a new VPN and a Web-to-Host solution to replace their PC-to-Host solution, and create a situation where investigators and inspectors could work in “virtual offices” on the road. This was done by providing the field force with laptops connected to the OMVIC headquarters through the virtual private network. The VPN provided the necessary security and RUMBA Web-to-Host from NetManage Inc. provided the host database access.

When OMVIC switched to the Web-to-Host solution, Jim Raisio, RUMBA manager for core products at NetManage in Cupertino, Calif., estimated that the OMVIC saved about $3,000 a week.

“Basically, in the OMVIC, they have inspectors going around making sure dealers are complying with guidelines that the Council sets out,” Raisio said. “These guys spend a lot of time in the field and if they need some information from the database, they had to call in. They have to get a hold of someone, and then get that someone to look up the information for them. Then they print it out, and they were doing this two or three times a day.”

On the assumption that this takes about 10 minutes of each person’s time, and then another five to fax out the information, Raisio continued, it added up to about 20 hours a week for the inspector.

“The other thing is that the investigators, who are doing sensitive stuff and can’t really describe what happens over the phone, have to come in themselves and do the work at the station,” he said.

That happens about once a week, adding up to another 20 hours a week of overhead time for the investigators. At about $100 per hour, that comes to about $3,000 worth of work per week all together.

OMVIC’s head office was already using the RUMBA PC-to-Host application from NetManage to connect to its internal information systems, so Valdivieso said he already knew about the security features involved with RUMBA.

“The connection to those databases is a direct one from the offices,” he said. “The remote computer, in effect, becomes part of the network and is no different than any other computer inside the office. As soon as the connection is cut, everything is closed.”

Access is controlled and security maintained through VPN software installed on users’ computers. When field staff attempts to access the Intranet, the VPN software requires them to authenticate to the firewall before being able to log-on. Data transfers to and from the OMVIC database are done within this environment, allowing field staff to access network drives and to use the Microsoft Outlook client instead of the more limited Web client – exactly as if they were working in the head office.

What’s more, Valdivieso added, the security is foolproof.

“The fact that it works is proof that our safeguards are working well and in place,” he said. “If it were not the case, people using Web-to-Host from their field offices wouldn’t be able to use it. We need the connectivity in order to access the data, and getting the connectivity means that we are secure.”

He said that as soon as OMVIC implemented RUMBA and started working with the VPN, inspectors and investigators were able to log into the system the same as if they were in the office. The transition took place “overnight,” he added.

“Another advantage, is that the Web-to-Host solution fit in perfectly well as one addition to this big puzzle we were putting together,” he said. “The people working don’t have to switch from the Internet to work and back to the data. They don’t have to be jumping from one place to another.”