This article published April 2017. For latest news THIS MONTH'S ISSUE
Inform Information Systems (“IIS”) was established in 1990 as a technology consulting business in the downstream fuels business. After delivering numerous custom applications, IIS was engaged by Esso UK to provide the technology behind the UK Pricewatch campaign. Pricewatch captured the attention of the public and the media. IIS technology is potentially unique among retail fuels systems as it featured in a BBC Panorama programme that reported on the major impact that Pricewatch had on the UK retail fuels market.
In the late 1990s IIS invested considerably to develop a generic fuels pricing system and secured a contract with one of the largest oil majors to pilot the system. The challenge was set: Argentina, Benelux and Thailand! You really could not have picked three more radically different markets. The first regional deployments confirmed one of the systems enduring strengths: its flexibility. The detailed modelling of the specifics of each customer and country were all achieved through configuration, not code change.
The IIS solution was subsequently selected to be rolled out around the world to 60 different countries, alongside the deployment of SAP. While the primary focus remained on pump pricing and the management of margins, the solution grew to cover many of the other retail processes with respect to the dealer business. One development catered for the calculation of the Dealer Buy Price (or “Tank Wagon Price”) and the many flavours of dealer management that exist around the world.
It is fair to say that while the core pricing process is similar around the globe, the level of complexity in commercial and fiscal arrangements vary significantly. Brazil won the prize for ‘most complex’ by some distance; a title that it retains to this day.
There have been seismic changes in fuels retailing as a result of mergers and acquisitions as oil majors repositioned. IIS systems have evolved to meet the ever-changing needs of the industry.
IIS directors and senior staff have lived and breathed fuels pricing systems for well over 25 years. The team that designed and built the original version are still very much involved and continue to apply their global experience to systems upgrades and new developments.
Alongside fuels pricing for Retail, IIS has used its technology to build B2B fuels pricing systems and has been pricing wholesale fuels globally for over 15 years. In recent years IIS’s B2B pricing has been expanded with multiple customers to cover extended markets such as Aviation, Marine as well as diverse product offerings.
Our approach has always been to develop long term value-add relationships with customers, whereby we take time to understand their needs at a deep level and develop programmes to deliver against business objectives. Growth for growth’s sake has never been an IIS aim, and we have even been described as the best kept secret in the industry. Typically customers and prospects find us through word of mouth.
In recent years, the evolution of the market has seen the oil majors divest large portions of their retail chains by selling off entire regions or selling parcels of sites to independent retailers while retaining long-term supply agreements. IIS solutions have often been selected to facilitate such divestments, which created new implementation opportunities for our software. As a lead characteristic of IIS systems is the capability to deliver systems rapidly via Software as a Service - “SaaS”, rather than on-premise, we rebranded our systems as FuelsPricing.com.
IIS works with key brands and operators in every part of the world. Retailers with widely differing price positions and market approaches take advantage of FuelsPricing.com systems. A representative selection of pole brands include: AppleGreen, Axion Energy, BP, ERG, Esso, Exxon, Mobil, Shell, Texaco and Total
IIS is active in most markets and has also been selected by multiple oil majors to provide solutions for divested countries in all regions.
Our diverse customer base extends across the highly active markets of Germany, Nordics and Canada, and to complex markets in Japan, Thailand and Europe, as well as emerging markets in China, Philippines, Nigeria and the Pacific Islands. Our customer base encompasses both Retail and Wholesale, which provides us with insight into fuels retailing from all sides.
IIS currently prices well over 30,000 service stations and more than 100,000 wholesale buyers in every corner of the world; from northern Canada to southern Argentina, and from the South Island of New Zealand to the north of Japan.
Chain sizes vary from 30 sites to 5,000 sites with pricing strategies that range from “match the lowest” to price/volume optimised statistical models, as well as every variation on the pricing spectrum. The strength of our integration capability, and our cost/benefit approach, enables IIS customers to leverage any advantages that arise in their trading environment.
IIS people combine technology and business expertise. We provide long-term solutions that are adaptable to changes in the market and to changes in customer needs. A core strength of our people and our solution is analytics, so much so that we spun out another software company as a result of our success with fuels pricing analytics.
What we observed was that business users wanted to look at detailed data in their own particular way. We were forever being asked: “where is the ‘export to Excel’ button?”
In the early 2000s we built an analytics dimension to our solution that allows business users to employ their Excel skills to link directly to pricing data.
The Excel Add-in we developed was so successful that customers asked us if they could use it with other data, and when enough people asked if they could buy it, we set-up XLCubed Ltd.
Today XLCubed has more than 500 customers around the world, spanning many verticals. XLCubed’s Excel-centric analytics software enables business end users to analyse and report exactly as they want, and publish connected data to the web as well as to mobile devices.
Selected XLCubed customers in different sectors include:
Banking – Santander, EFG Bank, CIBC, Standard Chartered
Pharma – Bayer, Novartis, Bristol Meyers Squid
Energy – BP, S&P Global
Automotive – Daimler, Porsche, FEV
Industrial/Retail – Marshalls, Pulte, Rank, Ted Baker
Close cooperation with the team at XLCubed has enabled IIS to integrate analytics functions into its solutions to meet the needs of fuels retailers who face a constant battle to improve business intelligence. The ability of our R&D team to add specific new capabilities very quickly has proved valuable to customers time and again. Customer feedback reveals that programming expertise, speed and business focus are viewed as significant IIS differentiators.
With 25 years’ experience in the downstream fuels business IIS is able to help its customers across the full breadth of their varied end-to-end processes: “order to cash”, “wet stock management” and “network planning”, to name a few.
The value that the fuels pricing market places on experience was highlighted in a 2017 independent survey of IIS customers. Customers identified IIS strengths as:
From our offices, which were opened by Theresa May, on the banks of the Thames in Maidenhead, UK, we provide 24x7 support to some of the biggest fuels retailers globally. We look forward to helping all shapes and sizes of fuel retailers in the future.
+44 (0)1938 556090
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