Sasktel adds outsourcing to its repertoire

A Saskatchewan-based telco is leaning heavily on Netscape Communications Corp.’s services and infrastructure products as it develops a range of outsourcing services.

Through a three-year deal with Netscape, Regina-based Sasktel is now offering its business customers the ability to outsource key communications and commerce services including virtual office solutions, Unified Messaging, bill presentment and payment and on-line selling.

Trent Templeton, Sasktel’s director of marketing and business development for the advanced Internet interactive solutions division, said Netscape was a natural choice because the two companies already had a strong working relationship.

“From our perspective, Netscape really has the best of both worlds. They’ve got a lot of depth with a full suite of services that are easily integrated,” he said.

“The other beautiful thing about the software is that it is based on open standards. So if you do find something that you want to augment the existing services with, you can easily do so.”

Jonathan Tice, director of marketing at Toronto-based Netscape Communications Canada Inc., said Sasktel’s time-to-market capability made that company attractive to Netscape.

“Sasktel has proven their ability to host not only complex commerce services, but also to deliver services faster than organizations that we typically deal with,” he said.

“We believe Sasktel will be first to market in the world with a hosted bill-presentment capability. So this is very much a delivered service, and a net export opportunity for a Canadian organization.”

According to Tice, it could cost companies about $70,000 a year to manage a corporate intranet with comparable functionality. “Sasktel could outsource that capability with the same functionality and greater up-time and greater access to that information for about $7,000,” he said.

The enterprise solutions licensed from Netscape include Biller Expert, Seller Expert, Buyer Expert, Merchant Expert, Custom Netcenter, messaging, and process management. Most of the systems integration was done by Sasktel employees, with Netscape’s professional services team on hand to offer additional support.

The job wasn’t as daunting as it could have been, Templeton said, because Sasktel already had a good portion of the infrastructure in place.

“From a technical standpoint, it is actually somewhat easier to go into a large-end solution because there are a number of vendors out there that have very high-end solutions that we can partition and offer as hosted solutions to smaller businesses,” he said.

According to Templeton, Sasktel thinks of itself as an applications solutions provider, and each customer can establish a different service-level agreement.

“Essentially what we have to do when we go into a customer site is provide linkages into their legacy systems. And then it really becomes a question of how much do they want to be integrated into the on-going management of that service,” he said.

Sasktel’s basic outsourcing service includes a Web-hosting package layered on top, with an e-commerce solution with shopping cart and fulfilment capabilities. Right now it is template-based, but Templeton hopes to soon offer a more customizable point-and-click interface.

“It’s not quite there today with the solution that we currently have – but that’s why we are working with Netscape. Ultimately we want the end users to establish their own stores and be up and running within a matter of hours,” he said.

Dan McCreary, principal in charge at Minneapolis, Minn.-based Larson Allen LLC, which does audits for long-term care facilities and nursing homes, said most of his customers have scarce resources of technical people, especially in the rural parts of the states.

Larson Allen is beta testing the Sasktel solution to host a centralized system so its clients only need one Internet connection and can access it using dumb terminals at their desks.

“There’s no local hard disk or data that needs to be backed up. If a terminal crashes, you just unplug it and plug a different one in and you are up and running. It’s just the perfect solution for our customer base,” he said.

“People in nursing homes don’t really know or care about computer systems. They are nurses, clinicians, dieticians – people who really want to provide good care. They just want to turn a computer on and have it work.”