Enterprising businesses across the Black Country are being called upon to test out new e-business technologies designed to help improve their competitiveness, increase efficiency and boost their profits.
The pilot is being spearheaded by the Black Country Knowledge Society (BCKS) programme's 'Free Potential' e-business project in partnership with BT.
It gives small to medium sized businesses access to the online business management services which large multinationals take for granted.
All eligible Black Country firms will benefit from a number of broadband-enabled e-business applications for accounts, sales and supplier management, customer service, recruitment, stock control, project management, quotation requests, timesheet management and expenses modules, among others.
"It is a remarkable opportunity for Black Country businesses to see first hand the benefits that e-business can bring," said Free Potential project manager Geoff Henderson.
"The benefits to be gained are significant. It means that businesses can streamline key business processes, saving them time and so increasing productivity.
"We're confident that participating companies will see a boost in their business performance as a result."
Called eBusiness Manager, the online service allows firms to run an IT system they may not otherwise be able to support. Each application is looked after on a day-to-day basis by BT, relieving customers of the worry of licensing, computer crashes, lost information and expensive IT support and upgrades.
Frank Mills, BT's regional director for the West Midlands, said the trial offers great benefits for participating companies, allowing them to exploit the business benefits of information and communication technology.
"This initiative is an important step in helping more businesses to start exploiting the business benefits of information and communication technology," he added.
"It will enable SMEs to sample new technologies and help them gain the confidence to get on with running their businesses without being concerned about getting left behind their competitors or their systems crashing.
"I also hope it will convince many more Black Country firms that broadband is a necessity, rather than a luxury."