“Although we liked the open and honest approach from BT and Sybase we still wanted to be sure that the technology would work. With all parties sat in the room we invited our managing director, Liam Griffin, completely unannounced, to come in and pull the plug on the server. Shocked faces were quickly replaced with smiles when the standby instantly kicked in. The solution was the only one to successfully pass the test.”
Addison Lee, London’s premier courier and delivery service, found the edges of its system with explosive growth. Working with BT and Sybase, Addison Lee architected a system that provides robust 24/7 availability, unparalleled customer service and is fully integrated across all operations functions.
- Sybase technology allowed Addison Lee to improve scalability through standardization in a way that enhances the existing IT investment without making valuable elements redundant.
- Eliminates downtime risk – saving hundreds of thousands in potential lost revenue
- Improves call center staff efficiency, reducing demand for resources
- Cements foundation for continued business and data growth
- Provides infrastructure for mobile business extensions
- Increases customer satisfaction with fewer abandoned calls, more personalized service
- Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE)
- Replication Server
- Sybase partner BT Managed Voice and Convergence Solution
Transport Provider Delivers a Platform for Growth
The expression “follow that cab” could have been written for Addison Lee. The London-based company’s taxi and courier services continue to go from strength to strength and have set the standard for others to aspire to. However, rapid growth began to expose the limitations of its call center infrastructure and booking systems, to the point where rising operating costs were hindering business performance.
Keen to push home its competitive advantage, the company enlisted the help of BT to develop a solution that would fit with – rather than replace – its existing IT investment. Working with technology partners Sybase and BT, Addison Lee now has a new resilient platform for growth, complete with full disaster recovery capabilities and an advanced database that can store petabytes of information.
Market Leadership Equals Data Growth
Addison Lee is the market leader in moving people and parcels in London. With over 2,000 vehicles on the road and 350 office staff, the company offers a 20-minute on-demand service for both car and courier services. This success is underpinned by a strong reputation for excellence – the company was the first in the industry to be awarded both the ISO 9002 and Investors in People accreditations – that has helped to set the criteria for the recent licensing of the private hire car trade in London. Many of these best practices have since been adopted into legislation.
Day-to-day operations depend heavily on robust networked IT services. The first point of contact is usually Addison Lee’s call center, where customer service agents enter bookings onto the central system and act as a channel that relays information between customers and the back office. However, lack of integration between the existing platform – based on a communication server and contact center technology – and the company’s databases made it difficult to maximize efficiency. Worse still, it was threatening to hold back performance.
Peter Ingram, IT Director for Addison Lee, explains, “Our business is growing by around 35 per cent each year. The downside was that our costs were also rising, for example, through the need to recruit call center staff to handle the increased volumes of work. The challenge we faced was how to improve scalability as well as standardize in a way that enhanced our existing IT investment – as opposed to making elements redundant or completely writing them off.”
Sybase and BT: A Key Technology Partnership
Despite seeking proposals from various technology vendors and software specialists it was initial discussions held with BT that were to prove pivotal. Addison Lee was able to tap into BT’s in-depth knowledge of the marketplace and its partnership with Sybase – a leader in developing and expanding innovative technology – to make a crucial breakthrough.
“The original scope of the project looked at extending our call analytics,” Peter Ingram says. “Talking to BT and Sybase opened our eyes to the fact that we could do so much more with our existing Nortel-based technology. Rather than view our call center as a support function, this presented an opportunity to use it to work smarter and drive our business forward.” BT and Sybase were tasked to design and develop an end-to-end solution. Key requirements included a new resilient platform – with data replication and disaster recovery capabilities – call center software development and the sourcing and integration of a new database to support 24/7 operations.
Within just 24 hours, a test network was built to demonstrate the platform’s booking handling capabilities. The deal was sealed, however, by a unique approach to proof of concept testing. Peter Ingram tells the story, “Although we liked the open and honest approach from BT and Sybase we still wanted to be sure that the technology would work. With all parties sat in the room we invited our managing director, Liam Griffin, completely unannounced, to come in and pull the plug on the server. Shocked faces were quickly replaced with smiles when the standby system instantly kicked in. The solution was the only one to successfully pass the test.”
The implementation was completed on time and on budget. BT provides a fully managed service, as detailed in a comprehensive service level agreement, and is responsible for all issues relating to maintenance, first line diagnostics and fast-track fault resolution. High availability is provided by a cluster of three application servers that link – via user routing technology – to a primary Sybase ASE 15 and Replication Server data management system and a separate hot standby. The standby runs live to ensure that data is always consistent and up-to-date with the primary application platform. Both systems are also connected to Replication Server and, in the event of a failure, OpenSwitch ensures a seamless failover.
No Data Loss is a Big Gain
The BT and Sybase solution helps provide Addison Lee with uninterrupted 24/7 access to critical business applications and tools. To put the value of business continuity into perspective, the company currently handles an average of 15,000 calls each day and estimates that downtime incurred during a 30 minute peak period – such as rush hour or when it rains – could result in as much as USD $195,000 in lost revenue. Moreover, the capability to store petabytes of data – the equivalent of one quadrillion bytes of information – will mean that the company no longer needs to worry about the ability of IT to support growth or plans for acquisition in the future.
Customer service is another big winner. When talking to customers, agents view pop up screens that display caller details and customer profiles, such as previous journeys and historic job details. This ensures a faster, more personalized experience for customers and makes more effective use of the agent’s time. Peter Ingram says, “Repeat business is very important and in our line of work you really are only as good as your last job. The BT and Sybase solution will help us to reduce the length of the call and provide a better service to our customers with less abandoned calls.”
The resilient and scalable infrastructure will add another dimension in terms of enabling the company to work smarter. Providing remote access, for example, will allow integration agents to work from home, offering a better work balance for the individual and valuable space and cost savings for the company. The solution also puts the benefits of mobility within reach and hence the opportunity to improve customer service – by allowing customers to view a map of London showing the vehicle location on a mobile phone – while lowering transactional costs further still.
Peter Ingram explains, “We are already looking at using our new system to deploy innovative applications, for example, that will allow customers to book on their mobile phones and receive automatic SMS updates. The text messages could advise them of the driver’s location and mobile number so they could talk directly or cover job status changes, such as delays, with a new estimated time of arrival.”
Based on a multiple failover approach, the solution ensures open resilient architecture that is very flexible, yet will scale and grow with the business. The overall design incorporates two IBM pSeries hardware servers, which support the primary Sybase data management system and a separate hot standby. The operating system runs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
This configuration allows the client – whether web based or thick client – to connect to application servers, which have the capability to share application logic, and therefore can cluster for both high availability and load balancing. This fine-tuning of workloads can be dynamic and/or user defined and can involve each server. Moreover, the architecture ensures that, in the event of planned or unplanned downtime, clients are seamlessly connected to the secondary application server.
The application servers connect to the user routing technology, which control database access and, in the event of database failure will automatically and transparently switch over to the other database. The architecture design ensures that if one is taken down, the other will continue to work.
Primary and secondary databases – incorporating Sybase ASE 15 and Replication Server technology – work in parallel. The secondary database can be used for running reports, thus removing significant load from the primary database, while still providing up to the minute reporting functionality. It can also be used for consistency checks, as the database is fully synchronized with the primary database.
Due to the nature of the technology, the nodes involved in the database can be in different buildings and different parts of the network. This flexibility extends to allowing a database, application server and replication technology to be located in one building, while the secondary elements are located in another.
Sybase and BT Partner for Customer Success
The Sybase and BT partnership helps organizations make better, faster decisions to improve services and increase customer satisfaction.
This partnership allows BT business customers to get more out of their existing call center investment – in this case, the Nortel Symposium solution – which already uses Sybase as the embedded technology for collating call data and generating call statistics. Customers benefit from a robust, secure and well-managed mobile infrastructure for the deployment of email, personal productivity tools and business applications to staff on the move.