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Honda is widely known as one of the world's premier engine and powered products manufacturers with a diverse product range that covers hedge trimmers to racing cars.
Honda UK is responsible for all Honda Sales and Marketing activities within the UK, concentrating on the management of dealership networks and the distribution of products. Honda UK is based in Slough, Berkshire.
As a company that thrives on innovation, do the IT systems at Honda UK reflect the cutting edge technology of its products? Dave Jenner, Manager of Operations Support within the Information Systems department gives a pragmatic response: "With a heavy and varied workload in IT, sometimes the principle of ‘if it ain't broke, don't fix it' comes into play and that has certainly been the case with our Bacs payments system. Installed over 12 years ago, it served us well, being reasonably stable and secure, if somewhat cumbersome and limited in comparison to some of today's products. However, the system didn't incorporate any validation, so any data errors that were reported could not be corrected until after submission. Also, the reports returned by Bacs were delivered by post, making error correction a relatively slow process."
"Overall our users were reasonably happy with the system, initiating over 3000 transactions a month from the UK, to two separate banks, under three different Bacs Service User numbers."
Honda UK's previous Bacs submission system used two computers in a data centre in Gent, Belgium; one an IBM z/Series mainframe and the other a UNIX machine which ran SAP financial applications. The data for Bacs processing was transferred from the SAP application to the z/Series mainframe by FTP. Bacs files were then created on the mainframe in the correct format and sent to the UK via the corporate WAN prior to transmission to Bacs.
The requirement for change
The initiative for change came from two directions. Firstly, the existing Bacs application used SNA, IBM's ageing Systems Network Architecture. SNA, although still widely deployed by many organisations, is generally considered a legacy networking protocol. Honda UK took the decision to upgrade all applications using SNA in order to streamline and simplify its Disaster Recovery plans, bringing about the need to change the Bacs solution.
In conjunction with this, there was also the deadline set by Bacs of 31st December 2005 by which all Bacs users must replace their Bacstel software with a Bacstel-IP compliant and approved solution.
Evaluating Bactsel-IP products
At the end of 2003, Honda UK's Information Systems department began a six-month project to procure and implement a new Bacs system. A shortlist of Bacstel-IP products was drawn up based on a summary of the requirements and an informal knowledge of who the leading suppliers in the market were. A detailed Request for Information form was sent out to the shortlisted suppliers and specified:
- technical requirements - including the software, hardware and communications environment in which the application would operate; the Honda configuration is based around a Windows 2000 platform with a primary dial up extranet communication to Bacs
- functional requirements - the software needed to cover all the basic services including, Direct Debits, Direct Credits, ARUDD, AUDDIS, and ADDACS as well as meeting very detailed security and data validation specifics
- operational requirements - including scalability to increased numbers of users and disaster recovery considerations
- risk management issues - covering both the stability of the company and the future plans for the product
Each shortlisted supplier gave two presentations; one covering the technical functionality of the product and the other detailing user capabilities. The presentations also answered in detail the requirements covered in the Request for Information form and supplied pricing details.
The preferred solution
Dave Jenner explains why Experian Payments UK Gateway came out top in the evaluation: "The major reasons for selecting Experian Payments UK Gateway can be attributed to eight key factors:
The user interface - the workflow approach is simple and clear for the user. The way it leads the user through the submission process is a real benefit and without doubt the best we saw.
Validation - Honda Finance Europe has been evaluating Bank Wizard from Experian so we were aware of the company's strength and experience in this important area; Bacstel-IP requires stringent validation of file structures, sort codes, account numbers and many other details to prevent files being rejected outright at the point of submission. It was important to apply that same level of validation at the point of capture as well as prior to transmission.
Security - our existing application was relatively secure and this was an important consideration when evaluating potential software products; we found Experian Payments UK Gateway provided excellent security.
- Client/server architecture - this architecture is well suited to our organisation since we are able to deploy software quickly and easily to our client PCs from the data centre rather than by visits to individual desktops using Novell Application Launcher. This provides us with complete control over each client.
- Reporting - the ability to route reports directly to the correct user department is of great benefit to us and our users; the speed and automatic distribution of these reports are real, tangible advantages that Bacstel-IP and Experian Payments UK Gateway give us.
- Scalability - we may double or treble our number of Bacs users in future so we were satisfied with the scalability of Experian Payments UK Gateway.
- Value for money - Experian Payments UK Gateway's all-inclusive pricing and highly configurable software meant we knew our budget was secure and costs would not increase.
The company - all our dealings with Experian, and those of Honda Finance Europe, confirm that we are dealing with a highly professional and knowledgeable company. The response during the sales process was excellent and although our implementation had its fair share of challenges, the after sales support provided by Experian ensured that these issues were satisfactorily resolved. At Honda UK we choose our suppliers extremely carefully and we are very pleased with Experian."
The first phase went live in July and is delivering all the promises that Bacstel-IP offers its users. The implementation was led by an Experian project manager who ensured that all the required tasks for both the client and the supplier were addressed on time. As Dave Jenner commented: "With Experian Payments UK Gateway we've moved our Bacs processing into the 21st century."
Operations Support Manager - Information Systems