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Pioneers Reference Material
John Phelan - The Application Designer and Project Manager

John Phelan MBCS CITP MIMIS MCMI, an IT & Business Consultant who has worked in the IT Industry for over 30 years on local, national, and international projects. He was instrumental in using Videotex, one of the earliest implementations of an "end-user information system", in designing and developing the world’s first recorded Business-to-Consumer (B2C) commercially used online teleshopping system from inception to fully implemented production solution, Gateshead MBC - Gateshead SIS (Shopping Information System) with Tesco Stores, then shortly afterwards he was also responsible for a similar project at Bradford Centrepoint with Wm. Morrison. Both projects used supermarkets rather than warehouses for order fulfilment. Both projects were social service experiments but they proved the concept of online grocery sales and home delivery.

Home Shopping, is a commonplace term today (2010) but in the early 1980’s this was a completely new phrase. The Gateshead innovative project has to be appreciated in its era. There were no superstores or out of town shopping. Personal Computers were not yet available and car phones were as mobile as it got. Approaching this project there were no comparisons to consider, no similar projects to compare, it was new ground, a new concept. This was a localised city project with a specific target group in the context of social benefit. While considering all the infrastructures, variables, multi-users that are so common with this term of ‘shopping’, this project had to be designed completely from scratch. This was ground breaking yet it had to be approached as with all other projects, professionally, methodically and with attention to detail.

These projects used ground-breaking technology to provide on-line shopping services directly to the end public user. Many concepts of Account Login, provision of a Shopping Basket, the tailored pre-screening of shopping usage providing repeatable shopping lists, and collective roll-up of multi-shopping stores succeeded into an easy to use, plain to see and understand shopping list with associated billing. Goods were collected and dispatch within hours of receiving an order, or collection of orders, with simple to use technology and customer-facing software softened interface.

In 1981, John Phelan, designed & developed the world’s first ‘locate a car’ system for Peugeot-Talbot, then trading as Talbot Motors, a system for dealers to locate and adopt either a new car from the manufacturer or a used car from other dealers in the UK. It was basically Business-to-Business Online Shopping. This was a revolutionary new concept for a major car manufacturer in the sales/purchase process for a car which opened the doors to both the car dealer and the buying public. The simplicity of choosing each part of a car specification with the system collating that information in a way that enabled a world class car manufacturer to present the total functionality of its cars to the buying public, either from a local or remote dealership, was ground-breaking. Nowadays (2010) anyone can go on to the internet and find the make, model, colour of any car they desire. When Peugeot-Talbot required this ability it was new thinking. It involved a local salesroom having the product information available to locate-a-car in all salesrooms in the chain, a new and very novel idea to have such that the customer could have their choice, and the salesman would know what was available elsewhere.

John Phelan
July 2010

John Phelan was one of a number of remarkable people working for the company in the 1980s. They were master craftsman, designing applications, programming them, installing the systems, training staff, interfacing with client management and specialists and managing the whole project. Their projects were always on time, on budget and the clients loved them.

Michael Aldrich July 2010.



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