Exchange helps grocer bag better e-mail experience

Following its acquisition, last fall, of online store Grocery Gateway, Longo’s Brothers Fruit Markets Inc. also made a significant technology change.

The Mississauga, Ont.-based grocer replaced its earlier Novell GroupWise messaging system with Microsoft Exchange.

Initially, “consistency” was the main driver for this change. Grocery Gateway, and the call centre that came with it, was already a Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 customer, and Longo’s figured that supporting two messaging systems made no sense

So, in February, Longo’s migrated from to an Exchange environment to standardize its messaging platform across both companies. That’s a decision the company is really happy it made.

Among other things, the migration has helped the grocery chain to enhance customer communication, and has made life easier for IT support staff, as the new messaging system integrates well with their BlackBerry devices.

One of the biggest benefits though, is the seamless integration of Grocery Gateway’s call centre applications with Microsoft Exchange. The call centre applications are the cornerstone of the business, as they are used to get vital information to stakeholders, according to Rob Passafiume manager of network operations at Longo’s Brothers Fruit Markets Inc. “It is the tool we use to communicate [with] our customers [and vendors].”

As few Grocery Gateway call centre apps integrated with Novell, migration to an alternative messaging system became inevitable, he said.

But there were also other factors that influenced the migration decision.

The first, he said, was Exhange allowed for Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) integration, which GroupWise didn’t support. Passafiume said the integration of Outlook and Exchange enhances the functionality of BlackBerry devices used by IT support staff.

The transition, he added, also makes life easier for the company’s developers, as future acquisitions are likely to involve Microsoft products. In addition to fully migrating over to Exchange, Longo’s also decided to outsource management of its messaging system to Toronto-based Ceryx Inc.

According to Passafiume, cost savings was not the main motive for this decision, but rather the desire to use internal IT resources more constructively.

He said the company faced a choice of whether to expend precious technical resources on managing and supporting a messaging system, or allocate those resources towards operational types of applications. To him the answer was clear, “Let’s outsource it and dedicate our resources towards core [priorities].”

Ceryx, a Microsoft-hosted partner, also helped Longo’s with the migration from Novell to Exchange.

Longo’s is also looking to provide key store personnel with handheld devices that integrate with Outlook, and use the messaging system for real time communication, cellular services, product information retrieval, and more.

These pocket PCs, Passafiume said, will enable store managers to assist customers on the floor, while also retrieving their e-mail or data on the fly.

Reducing total cost of ownership and ease of use are other key benefits of the deployment, according to Hilary Wittmann, Exchange product manager for Microsoft Canada.

She said for customers moving from a different messaging system to Exchange, it’s important that the impact to end user be minimal. “Most people are already familiar with Outlook, it is the dominant e-mail client in the marketplace,” she said.

Longo’s has 14 locations around the outer Greater Toronto Area. Grocery Gateway mainly serves the downtown core where Longo’s has no presence.

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