Case studies published on this website have been archived, and some information and links may be out of date. This follows the acquisition of Albany Software by Bottomline Technologies in September 2012.

Associated British Ports

Associated British Ports

For Associated British Ports, the migration from ALBACS to the Bacstel-IP compliant solution ALBACSip was seamless, following implementation and training from Albany Software.

Having achieved a smooth transition to ALBACSip across several regional offices, Associated British Ports is now beginning to deploy Albany's eConnect Online to provide electronic invoicing to customers. With a payback expected within six months, the publicly quoted company believes the solution will play a key role in demonstrating to customers and City analysts alike its commitment to professional customer service and cost control. Freelance journalist Emma Mansell-Lewis investigates.

Associated British Ports

The UK's leading ports group, Associated British Ports (ABP) owns and operates 21 ports around the UK and handles approximately a quarter of the country's sea borne trade. In addition, ABP has a property division responsible for managing the Group's extensive land and property assets. Services range from managing tenancy agreements and renegotiating leases to providing expert advice prior to disposal or acquisition.

The company delivers further services to customers via a range of related operations; these include ABP Connect, offering supply chain management through UK-wide stevedoring, warehousing, distribution, and transportation services. Additional operations include UK Dredging, ABP Marine Environmental Research, as well as a 49 percent share of Southampton Container Services and shared ownership of Tilbury Container Services.

Competition between UK ports is fierce, particularly with the increasing trend towards large container ships unloading at Rotterdam prior to transferring goods into smaller ships for transport to the UK, offering increasing opportunities for the UK's 300 smaller ports.

Keith Stewart, senior projects manager at Associated British Ports, says, "Excellent services are key to achieving competitive differentiation. ABP works in close partnership with customers, responding quickly to meet their requirements and offering business solutions to their demands and problems. In addition to providing loading, unloading and distribution through ABP Connect, we can also provide pilots to guide ships into port."

Decentralised Operation

ABP runs a decentralised operation. Each region enjoys a level of autonomy within a Corporate structure. Stewart explains, "Head office in London undertakes an advisory role, providing legal and commercial advice as well as communication and personnel services." London also handles the pensions payroll function, whilst the salary payroll for 2,500 staff is handled from a site in Hull.

The 21 ports have been grouped into five business units - Hull & Goole, Grimsby & Immingham, Southampton, South Wales and Short-Sea Ports - with invoicing and supplier payments handled from these regional sites as well as head office.

ABP had been using ALBACS from Albany Software to handle the payroll payments process via Bacs since the mid 1990s, following a migration from mainframe-based software - via an uncomfortable 18-month sojourn with another provider. Stewart says, "Albany Software is an extremely professional company - from day one ABP has had a good deal and a good relationship. The product has worked very well, proved easy to use and to install."

Furthermore, when the system was initially implemented ABP was running 16 different payroll systems across its 21 ports - rationalising to the current position caused no disruption to the Bacs payment process.

In recent years, ABP has adopted ALBACS for the payment of invoices, gaining further cost benefits. However, with the move from Bacs to improve the security of the payment process, ABP, along with every other Bacs user, faced the need to upgrade to a new, Bacstel-IP compliant solution by the end of 2005.

Stewart confirms, "The decision to remain with Albany and migrate to ALBACSip was straightforward, there was no need to consider any alternative solutions."

Smooth Transition

For ABP the upgrade process to ALBACSip has been extremely smooth. He confirms, "We received the paperwork well in advanced and liaised with our bank to confirm the procedure and that the solution met all mandatory requirements. Albany Software then turned up at each of our regional sites, from South Wales to Ipswich, to undertake the implementation and staff training."

This training is key as staff now use a swipe card to support the new Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) security, replacing the old BacsAFE device. "At every location staff have been able to move to ALBACSip with ease, the entire process has been seamless," he confirms. "Albany has undertaken so many implementations of the software that the process is tried and tested - which gave ABP huge confidence that we could upgrade to the new software without fear of business interruption."

Having achieved this mandatory upgrade, ABP is now undertaking the implementation of eConnect Online, Albany Software's eDocument distribution solution. Currently being piloted in Southampton, ABP is expecting to achieve a return on investment within six months as a result of reduced stationery and postage costs.

"eConnect Online is being integrated with our property software, a product we have recently upgraded, which handles ABP's delivery of building and services to tenants on our land," he says. ABP has contacted its Southampton tenants to offer the choice of receiving invoices electronically. If customers confirm their acceptance it is registered in the property software and, through eConnect Online, an electronic invoice automatically produced and delivered.

"In addition to significantly reducing the costs associated with invoice production and distribution, the delivery of electronic invoices will significantly improve ABP's customer relationships," he says. "The built-in audit process will enable ABP to track the process, ensuring customers receive invoices on time. Without doubt this service will improve ABP's professional reputation amongst both customers and financial analysts."

Once the system has been implemented in Southampton, ABP will deploy it to all regional sites, enabling it to offer this level of professional services to all its tenants across the country.

Stewart concludes, " ABP employs approximately 2,500 people and with the adoption of a system such as eConnect Online will not only improve cost control but also ensure consistent service levels across the entire operation, further enhancing customers' perceptions of the organisation."

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