Business by Design

Infomedia teaches companies how to use Internet as money-making tool Birmingham Business Journal – June 16, 2000 by Matthew Solan Special John Lovoy’s job — in a nutshell — is showing companies how to use trendy new technology. He launched Computer Package Systems (CPS) Inc. in 1982 to integrate personal computers into businesses’ day-to-day operations. […]

Infomedia teaches companies how to use Internet as money-making tool

Birmingham Business Journal – June 16, 2000
by
Matthew Solan
Special

“At that time most companies thought PCs were nothing more than glorified typewriters,” says Lovoy, an Auburn graduate whose computer experience predates floppy disks. “We showed how they could be used for daily activities, such as inventory control, accounts payable and receivable, and point of sale.”

Now he’s doing the same with the Internet — this time through a company called Infomedia.

Infomedia was formed in 1994 as part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham to launch the university’s Internet process. The company went on to design the Southeastern Conference’s Web site — which won an award as one of the top 5 percent in the country — as well as sites for Conference USA and banks, such as AmSouth, Union Planters and Regions.

But this early success led to Infomedia’s downfall.

“The SEC site was ahead of its time in many ways, but it cost too much to keep that Web site — and others — running,” says Lovoy, who serves as Infomedia’s general manager. “The company was sinking tons of money into it to keep it going, but it wasn’t producing enough revenue to keep the staff intact.”

In 1997, CPS Inc. — under Lovoy’s leadership — swooped in and restructured the company under the name Infomedia dba Computer Package Systems Inc. Lovoy’s plan was to adopt the same strategy CPS had used with PCs 15 years earlier.

“We took the Internet to companies and showed how it’s not a pretty plaything,” Lovoy says. “You run your business with these. You make money by either increasing sales or decreasing customer service costs.”

It appears everyone paid attention. Today, Infomedia’s clientele stretches around the corner and across the country and includes companies like Baptist Health System, Energen and Alabama Power, as well as giants such as America Online and Mobil.

CPS got into Internet development as the first creative alliance partner with BellSouth and AT&T. In 1995, both AT&T and BellSouth hired companies like CPS to design sites for their clients. But since buying Infomedia, the company has shifted gears to focus more on developing application programs, although it still develops Web sites and has more than 100 to its credit.

“Internet development pays the rent and finances the research and development of their applications,” Lovoy says.

“But now our focus is designing applications, which we can resell over and over again.”

Infomedia operates in a self-described “hole in the wall” underneath Pier One Imports in Vestavia Hills.

During the last two years, the company’s 15-person staff of graphic artists, data programmers and Web developers has designed approximately 15 types of applications.

The inventory includes Ecommerce (http://www.enfresh.com), Data Applications (http://www.can.net), News and Events (http://www.alagasco.com), Job Posting (http://www.careerguide.com), Locations and Maps (http://www.hqglobal.com), Reservations (http://www.regus.com), For Sale/Rent, Publishing (http://www.vulcanpub.com/hen), Directories (http://www.xoutdoorsadventures.com) and Gift Registries (http://www.brombergs.com/registry).

“We build the truck; then we customize it for the client,” Lovoy says. “It’s like we already have the body, the motor and the tires, and all we have to do is detail it.”

Infomedia’s advantage, he says, is it doesn’t have to begin from scratch every time.

“We have so many applications in our bag of tricks that we can design applications for pretty much anything you do over the Internet,” he says.

For example, Infomedia can take the Reservations application and mold it for doctor’s office appointments, hotel reservations or golf course tee times.

The applications are also designed to be self-service, which eliminates paying extra whenever content needs updating.

“All a company needs is a computer hooked up to the Internet and they can update that database — input data, whatever — from anywhere in the world,” Lovoy says.

And you don’t need to be a dot-com guru, either.

“We offer real-time updates for any Web site — not just ones we have designed,” he says. “That way businesses can update their site with little or no html experience. Applications like News and Events and Job Opportunities change often, so you wouldn’t want to pay someone to do that every time. Plus, a lot of content is time-sensitive and needs to be made immediately.”

Infomedia installs the applications, trains staff on how it operates, and offers technical support. The company charges for the application itself and then a monthly user fee. The price depends on the application, which may run between $100 and $1,000. The monthly fee ranges from $100 to $300.

“The up-front cost may be more if we have to do any custom design to make it fit into their existing Web site,” Lovoy says. “Some companies have their own Internet teams, and all we have to do is hand them the software. With others we have to do everything.”

Infomedia has several “hot” applications, but one turning heads lately is its bridal registry application for Bromberg’s.

“Several companies around the country have approached Bromberg’s about it since it was launched last December,” Lovoy says. “That’s one we’re really pushing now. It has a lot of potential.”

Another endeavor is emailedits.com, which allows any Web site to make edit changes for a $40 flat fee per change.

“We kept hearing how companies loved their Web site but could never get it changed. They either lacked personnel or were shell-shocked from being charged up to four figures for someone else to make changes,” Lovoy says. “So, what’s the point of having a site if it’s not updated? This way you just e-mail the changes and it’s done within an hour.”

Lovoy believes one reason for Infomedia’s success is that when it comes to the Internet, one size doesn’t fit all anymore.

“All the guys who did custom software programming went out with the dinosaurs,” he says. “You used to do custom programs for, say, accounting, but now you can buy the software at CompUSA. With the Internet, businesses need their information sorted and manipulated to fit their specialized needs, but you can’t get that technology on a store shelf. That’s where we come in.”

Matthew Solan is a Birmingham-based freelance writer.