Relationships Can Flourish by Going Online
Automate workflow without compromising customers, irking employees or vexing vendors.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Well, that's where businesses could be headed if the transition to online management isn't carefully thought out—and rolled out. And if companies don't parlay their time saved through automation into enhanced personal service, they could end up taking some serious heat.
According to Tom Cutler, president and CEO of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida-based TR Cutler, the biggest mistake a company can make is to forget that people are at the heart of online management. Everyone in the loop—customers, employees and suppliers—must benefit.
"There must be a return generated from an online environment for its recipients and the business it represents," said Cutler. "Content must be developed within a community framework for the successful generation of business-to-consumer, business-to-business and business-to-employee activity."
Customer retention is also key to effective online management, he added, particularly in the printing sector. If a Web-based service interferes or conflicts with long-established face-to-face relationships, then it becomes a deterrent rather than a reason for doing business with the company.
According to Cutler, the first step to preventing this is to sit down and think.
"Distributors need to ask themselves where the company is today, where it needs to go and what they should do to get there. Then they must proceed in a sequential, methodical fashion," Cutler said.
Cutler explained that this typically involves having a gap or needs analysis performed by an independent consulting firm. "Consultants will come in and spend about three days interviewing the key players and then present their recommendations. The needs of purchasing, accounting, sales and management have to be integrated before any online management system is implemented," he said.
The consultants will also evaluate how the company's data is captured, stored and exported. It is this piece, said Steve Wakefield, president and CEO of Sword Microsystems, Huntsville, Ala., that ultimately supports and drives e-business.