Cramer Cracks Canada Bell
Inventory management system vendor Cramer Systems Ltd. has broken into the North American premier league with a contract win at Bell Canada (NYSE/Toronto: BCE) (see Bell Canada Picks Cramer).
The deal marks the sixth contract in 12 months secured by the North American office of the privately held British firm, but the first with a Tier 1 carrier in the Americas (Bell Canada has 25 million customers). Although the vendor is not releasing financial details, Cramer CEO Jerry Crook says it is a "multimillion-pound deal" that is "ongoing, open-ended, so it's impossible to state an exact value. What I can say is that this deal has turned Cramer cashflow positive on a global basis, and also means that the North American operation, which has won six deals in the past 12 months, is now self-funded."
The previous five wins were with: Entel PCS in Chile; Seattle-based Monet Mobile Networks Inc.; Mexican operator Protel; Miami-based CLEC Supra Telecom; and TRW Inc. for its O2 Airwave emergency network in the U.K.
Bell Canada is integrating the Cramer4 software suite into its existing operations support system (OSS) to help manage and "modernize" the existing inventory system, according to Cramer. The Cramer4 product helps to pool data about network resources and service configurations stored in other systems, through a set of software interfaces and adapters.
Having accurate data about network elements, capacity, and existing service provisioning can help operators make more efficient use of resources, avoid the procurement of new equipment (so saving on capital expenditure), and enable the faster delivery of new services.
"This is a system that is affecting a substantial number of users -- it will be rolled out to more than 1,000 Bell Canada employees before the end of the year," says Crook. "The system will be implemented in stages, moving from one place to the next. This is too big a job to be doing in one go. And it needs to show tangible benefits right from Phase One."
And the CEO believes this will help raise Cramer's profile in the Americas. "This is the major deal for us. It was won in the face of the toughest competition from the U.S. and gives us the right now to compete with those U.S. OSS players on an equal footing," crows Crook, though he wouldn't name any of the companies Cramer trumped from the shortlist of four.
Larry Goldman, OSS track director at RHK Inc., believes this is "a big step for Cramer in establishing a North American business -- Bell Canada is an innovative user of commercial OSS."
So what kind of impact will this have on Bell Canada's operational efficiency? "If this turns into the first step of a Bell Canada push to improve the accuracy and accessibility of inventory throughout the Bell Canada enterprise, it will indeed have a big impact on Bell's drive toward greater efficiency," says Goldman. "But it's too early to tell at this point."
Bell Canada was unable to get anyone to the phone for comment as this story was published.
So what's next for Cramer? Crook says only that the firm will be announcing "another Tier 1 contract" in the coming weeks, but his eyes are very much on the regional Bell operators in the U.S. "The RBOCs and many others in the telecom industry are watching this deal, and we are most definitely targeting the RBOCs with U.S. partners. We're engaging the market with BearingPoint Inc. [formerly KPMG Consulting], Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Accenture, and Agilent Technologies, which is a very important partner for us."
RHK's Goldman is cautious about the impact of the Bell Canada deal on Cramer's U.S. aspirations. "This win per se won't directly lead to RBOC business, but it will help a lot. It gives Cramer a basis for building their staff in North America. It isn't as big in terms of scaleability as some of the European business Cramer has, so in that regard it doesn't help any more than the deal with British Telecommunications for instance." (See BT Picks Cramer.)
Goldman cites Cramer as one of the leaders in the network inventory system business, and names GE Network Solutions, Granite Systems Inc., MetaSolv Software Inc. (Nasdaq: MSLV), and NetCracker Technology Corp. as other leading firms, perhaps providing a clue as to some of the other companies in the Bell Canada shortlist. — Ray Le Maistre, Editor, Boardwatch