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Beaver Computer Consultants Limited - Consultants in systems engineering for business, mission and safety critical systems

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Doing business : web sites, the internet, and m-business

You have developed the relationship with the user and can now do business with them via the web. Consider existing business processes and how the internet and wireless communication devices can be used to do business currently done using other methods. Internet and wire less transactions may bring about cost savings, better performance, and give greater flexibility. The type of transaction can vary but may include;

  • Sales transaction, either Customer to Business (C2B) or Business to Business (B2B), where financial details are taken from the user, authorised, normally on line, and the sale made. Security and useability and event sequencing are important.

     

  • Following up a sale customers may wish to track their order and monitor progress, if you have back office connectivity this will be possible.

     

  • Secure information or data transmissions between businesses and between a companies various sites, using emerging methods such as XML, and utlising data and documents already within the business allowing them to be re-formated on the fly under triggering business events

     

  • Integration of the back office and general company systems to fulfil each order. This can mean joining your web site and any web server database providing product or service information and logging requests, with your other internal computer and communication systems. It may also mean providing various routes to request information or order services other than the web browser. Consider potential and existing customers who may use PDA's, WAP, PC, and TV access devices. They may wish to receive notifications via a short messaging service or a message left on their mobile phone answer service. The way customers and you talk should become integrated within one system and trigger internal business processes.

Many of these bullet points takes us in to the integrated e-Customer Relationship Management (CRM) area. All methods of communication - phone, fax, email, web access, WAP, and post become integrated. Postal information is scanned into document management systems and routed infernally over your network, updating customer contact databases, and initiating event tracking, as part of a work flow system. Consider use of telephony integration, recognising the caller, bring up screens on the receivers desk with customer information, even routing callers to a specific staff members to build better personal relations. Customer contacts with the call centre also can trigger a set of internal business events which again are tracked and the performance measures against the customers expectation level. However you will need to consider the requirements of the UK's Data Protection Act, providing a privacy statement, and specify for what purpose contact data is held, and access controlled wthin that stated purpose.

Returning to the web though for a moment, remember despite the web culture people like to deal with people, so consider for example if users are assessing the web site from a PC 's, adding voice over IP, to allow them to talk to you when looking at the web site. This is done by adding a site button which is simple to install and gives the user a fast way of taking to you, clicking on it will ring your phones as a normal, the user talks via the speaker and microphone on the PC. Recognise people like to talk to people so if possible give them the option to do so. Do not use just automated voice response system if they call you. It is a common mistake to think replacing all contact points with web sites, automated telephone answering systems and voice mail, which reduces costs and so bring about business benefit. This may be true in the short term but in the longer term it may effect your business, as that may not be the view of your customer. They may go else where to get the service they expect. For further details of users on using the internet expectations see this report from the bank FirstDirect.

At this stage of maturity we are focusing integrating systems, breaking down internal barriers, and creating a seamless, event driven set of processes, with feed forwards and feedbacks from the market and your internal systems.  Growth however brings new risks and one often over looked aspect is ensuring your business processes can cope with the new scenario, and you can service the customer.  Can you track the order and supply updates?  Can you deliver the product or service in the expected or stated time scales?

Today a common failure of many internet enabled sites that the companies internal processes, stock levels, and supply channels can not keep pace, particulary with cyclic or season activity areas. Solutions vary.  You can increase capacity capability yourself or out source it and use the internet to link into your service provider, using  your market intellegence and business plan to set Service Level Agreements, track them, and under take forward planning, and potential re-engineer your supply chains and distribution channels to ensure you can deliver the service levels you claim. 

Beavers approach is to consider the total picture - the market size, market share, end to end time, and under stand the systems limits, put in place effective systems to monitor, make decisions, and so control the process.

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