It seems obvious when you think about it, but before you want to let a high-speed train loose on a national network, you probably want to test it first? But where do you do it without being ‘on’ the network.
Well, the simple answer, is that the national networks provide test tracks in the same way we would expect with cars. These tracks represent the real-world environments of the ‘actual’ network and include both physical and non-physical features which represent operational life of a railway.
It’s on these test tracks that anyone planning or hoping to provide equipment and services, must be tested before moving to operational use. This could be for something as small as an electronic device which could potentially interfere with communications, through to full high-speed trains, with all the paraphernalia that comes with them.
As with all things, supply and demand kicks in on a test track too, and whilst there may be many providers looking to get onto the track (to get onto the network), there is only so much capacity available, and hence this needs to be controlled.
Excel is the old favourite for these problems, wrapped in a manual process. The problem comes as demand increases, bookings change, costs change etc, etc, this all becomes a complex management problem very quickly. With the test track still having to cover its costs, utilisation becomes everything.
There are also operational considerations, where the networks may need to roll-out equipment which needs to be tested, and if a slot does not exist, operational delays can also be introduced.
Finally, you want to help the supplier help themselves by finding a slot on the test network to test their equipment, but with back and forward with emails and calls, the efficiency of this approach falls way quickly.
The way we approached the solution was to develop a contract collaboration platform which would allow both the customer and supplier (of the contract) to work together in real-time, removing the siloed approach and delays introduced through a rigid process of interactions.
On one side the track provider was able to add, remove and configure capabilities that were available to book and schedule, and at the other end, the equipment manufacturer was able to check availabilities, register interest, configure, and schedule bookings.
This also extended to cost estimates, quotes, production of contracts and finally wrapping of the contract approval process. All of this could be performed live, but still under a level of control, such as version management of the contracts.
As with all customers, ongoing security was a clear issue and we worked with partners to perform security testing in advance of roll-out.
The approach delivered on the challenge, with improved accuracy and confidence around contracts, better visibility of bookings, increased utilisation of the services and overall a much improved customer experience.