Sizing up SMS

Computerworld Today |  Mobile & Wireless

With the convergence of IT and telecommunications in companies of all sizes, the ability to integrate short message service (SMS) functionality into business applications is more appealing that ever. SMS can extend the reach of information management to far beyond the firewall.

When Adelaide City Council (ACC) in Australia wanted to reduce the levels of paper and electronic mail it sent to members of its library services, it investigated SMS.

In October last year the council implemented a service to its Library customers using SMS to advise when a requested library item became available. Previously members were sent such advice by post or via e-mail.

Nigel Morris, IT commercial applications for information management team leader at Adelaide City council, said the introduction of SMS allowed a more rapid turnover of the library's 130,000 item collection, because customers receiving immediate, and timely, notification instead of waiting for the post or the next time they checked their e-mail.

"Often customers are already out and about in the city when an SMS notification is received and are able to go to the library straight away to pick up the item," Morris said. "People's physical and e-mail addresses change and [often] are not updated, but mobile phone numbers usually stay the same. With the use of SMS our notification is generally always received."

The library advised all its members who had a mobile phone number recorded in its database and, because most agreed to use the service, uptake has been "rather successful".

"We are now sending more than 5000 SMS messages a month," Morris said.

"With the introduction of SMS it was envisaged the cost of [postage] would be reduced with a letter costing 50 cents and an SMS 18 cents. This proved successful but what we also found was those previously receiving e-mails, which cost near to nothing, preferred SMS which came at a cost."

To integrate SMS functionality into its lending system, the council adapted a series of SQL scripts provided by another council to meet its needs and used a Data Transformation Services (DTS) package to export the data to an external communications provider which sends the SMS messages daily.

"It was not very difficult to achieve, but with SMS messages being immediate, and with our library being heavily automated, we needed to be careful to time the message for when the item was actually available for pickup," Morris said.

Since items can be borrowed from one of four specific libraries, messages needed to contain details of which library, and which multiple items, could be requested at one time.

'We wanted to send only one short message so getting the wording right and removing duplicate messages was crucial," he said.Morris said the introduction of the SMS service has proven "rather successful".

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