FutureLink Signs ASP Deal with UK Home Supply Chain

FutureLink Europe, the business arm of Lake Forest, Calif.-based application infrastructure provider FutureLink Corp. , will provide an ASP-enabled office system supporting 385 outlets across the U.K. for Jewson, a leading builders’ supply chain.

“They had 5 major IT projects planned, and branch connectivity was number 5,” Dave Mills, VP commercial for FutureLink Europe, told InternetNews. “When it never moved up the list, they decided to give it to us.”

According to Mills, this is an example of the way ASP is meant to work. “ASP has been hyped as a solve-all – a magic pill. Jewson took a more pragmatic view. They didn’t give it to us because they couldn’t do it themselves – they could – but it wasn’t a critical IT project.”

The deployment will enable Jewson’s branch managers to have online access to a complete back office system. Hosted at FutureLink Europe’s UK data center, FutureLink will provide Jewson’s branches with a fully managed service using the Microsoft Office 2000 Suite, including Word, Excel, Power Point and Outlook.

Part of Saint Gobain, one of the world’s leading industrial corporations, Jewson and plumbing and heating specialists Graham, acquired in 1999, are the UK’s largest timber, builders’ and plumbers’ merchant, with a network of over 550 branches throughout England, Scotland and Wales. The company supplies heavy and light building materials tool equipment hire and decorating products. Jewson has recently developed a range of own-brand products including paints, lintels and timber products such as joists and machined softwood and the company’s timber expertise is unparalleled.

Many times, once an implementation is completed, some intangibles that were not planned for come out of the project. When FutureLink enabled the UK’s Housing Corporation with an online submission system for its government housing program, a by-product was a connected community, Mills said. “We changed the way a government agency talks to users. What was a paper-based system is now electronic.”

In Jewson’s case, by connecting its branch systems together, Jewson now has an application deployment platform. “They’re already looking at additional applications to add,” he said.

Mills credits FutureLink Europe’s success to the cynicism of the European technical community. “It forced us to step back from the hype and determine the compelling reasons for using an ASP. While other companies were selling the analyst pitch, we were looking at it from a business perspective,” he said.

Mills added that an ASP contract is generally driven by business managers, not IT departments. “Of course we always include IT in the equation, but our wins come after a board meeting. They’re driven by financial decisions,” he said.

Those decisions are based on three main value propositions – faster time to market, ability to spend from your operational budget instead of the capital budget, and access to skilled people to allow you to focus on your core competency, Mills said.

The U.S. ASP market is just now beginning to drill down to the fundamentals of what it is about their service that makes business sense, now that the venture capital is not flowing so freely, he said. Some ASPs, including FutureLink’s U.S. operation, have pulled back from the ASP model in recent months.

“In the U.S., we went for the ASP market in a big way. But if the market had taken off and we hadn’t put the money into it, you’d be reading stories about how we missed the boat,” Mills said. “I think ASP is absolutely compelling, and in 5 years’ time, it will become an acceptable way of doing business.”

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