Upgraded mobiles, to be introduced next year, will be central to WAP revolution.
Jarvis is investing more than £15m in a mobile phone IT system to improve its efficiency.

The contractor has already spent £4m on IT infrastructure and £10m is being invested in business management systems and processes produced by US software firm Oracle that will allow it to introduce WAP (wireless application protocol) technology. A further £1m will be spent on upgrading Jarvis’ 2000 mobile telephones.

The WAP technology means that upgraded mobile phones can operate in the same way as desktop PCs, running spreadsheet and drawing packages and being linked to the Internet. The phones will also be connected to the company’s central business management network.

Jarvis has recruited IT management consultant Ernst and Young to oversee the project.

Mike Manisty, IT director at Jarvis, said: “WAP technology will mean that the whole business will become data driven. Voicemail messages will be replaced by data in WAP-enabled forms.” The WAP technology cannot be fully installed for nine months because there is insufficient band width on mobile phone networks at the moment for it to operate efficiently. However, Manisty said that when the business system was installed Jarvis would be in pole position to take advantage of WAP technology.

“The system we are putting in place is really the beast that will drive the whole thing,” he said.

Geoff Mason, Jarvis’ company secretary, added: “We’re doing more and more private finance initiative work. PFI contracts require us to have up-to-date business systems to get the efficiencies required. We also have to be able to supply customers with an ever greater amount of information.”

The systems will save money. Mason said: “At the moment, it can cost us around £20 to process an invoice. With this system it will fall to around £2. It can also take up to 15 days to process a request-for-change order. This system will bring it down to two or three days.

But Mason denied the changes would lead to large job losses. He said: “There may well be one or two redundancies but the aim of the investment programme is to increase the volume of business we do. If we are successful in this, then we will require more people.”

The WAP phase will be introduced in early 2001 when the mobile phones will be ready. Manisty said: “The advantage of these WAP devices is that fault reporting can be done immediately. Our employees will be able to log reports as they are discovered and these will immediately be registered with central administration.”

Mason also said the development may have implications for e-commerce: “We are actively following developments such as Laing and Co to establish an electronic marketplace. The system being put in place at present will allow us to link up with this.”