Sharing information at UAP

How much does it cost to produce, send and mail materials that get distributed throughout your company and often just get tossed aside? How much time do employees spend responding to the same requests for information?

United Auto Parts Inc. (UAP) has calculated that they can reassign four or five employees and eliminate much of the paper, printing and postage costs of promotional and employee mailings by creating a company-wide intranet site supported by content management software.

As the Canadian division of U.S. auto parts supplier NAPA, Montreal-based UAP distributes motor vehicle replacement parts and accessories through corporate, associate and bannered outlets. With close to 600 points of sale coast-to-coast and 4,300 employees, UAP claims to be the largest distributor of its kind in Canada.

Keeping everyone everywhere informed by mailing printed materials was an expense that UAP was eager to reduce. Pierre Prud’homme, information systems director for UAP, says the idea of transporting data via the intranet began as a way to publish information to employees and other users such as members of the associate stores.

The associate stores are not owned by UAP but are partners who need marketing and purchasing information. It also became clear that there were frequent requests by phone or e-mail to staff in two departments in particular: marketing and human resources.

“The people in these two departments are often asked to produce, send and mail forms, documents, procedures, logos, videos and commercial information,” Prud’homme explains. “For us, there is a lot of benefit in having an intranet so we can post that information for the user to access.”

Of course, any advantage of the intranet would be lost if the burden of distributing information was merely shifted to any of the 100 employees in the IT department. That’s where content management software comes in. It spares IT staff from becoming a pit crew providing content for the intranet.

UAP looked at 20 CMS options and narrowed the list to three or four to look at in more detail. The company chose RedDot Solutions Content Management Server (CMS) with RedDot LiveServer to manage and personalize online content for its intranet site. Montreal-based InterDoc, a Canadian solutions partner of the New York, N.Y.-based RedDot, supported the UAP project.

Prud’homme says UAP considered EMC Corp.’s Documentum and Microsoft Corp.’s CMS but found the RedDot intranet CMS was favourably-priced, user-friendly and a mid-range size that fit the firm’s application.

Prud’homme had 30 users test-driving a RedDot CMS intranet pilot. They gave a positive average rating of 8.5 out of 10, although they made a few suggestions. Navigation was one area Prud’homme says UAP is improving by changing colours and indicating where the user is on the site.

Those early users also complained that the password was too complex with its dictated mix of numerals, upper and lower case letters and special characters. However, UAP is deaf to that complaint, as password generation is a matter of the company’s security policy.

Prud’homme says the full implementation to encompass 4,000 to 5,000 users will be gradually completed by the end of this year. This measured approach avoids hiring support people to answer questions from a mass of users new to the intranet.

Users will go to the starting page, identify themselves with a user ID and password, then go to a welcome page where they will see the different hyperlinks to the areas where they have authorized access. Associate employees, for example, do not have access to the human resources section of the intranet like UAP employees, so they will not even see a hyperlink to that area.

“We restrict access to our intranet to specific users based on their profile via the LiveServer personalization feature of the RedDot software,” says Prud’homme. Each user in the intranet has a list of attributes that comprises an access profile.

Prud’homme expects the intranet will require only one or two days a week for one IT staff person to maintain. “CMS should save work in your IT department,” he stresses. He says UAP has calculated a one-year to 18-month ROI on the intranet project based on the savings in staff resources and the marketing materials.

Along with the benefit of authorized users gaining immediate access to the information they need, it would seem this intranet project is all set to drive internal communication that boosts efficiency and improves the bottom line.

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