As I was organizing some papers, I came across an old marketing piece from the late nineties. Done by the Gardner Group in 1998, it illustrates how businesses can embrace the Internet (back then called e-business) and ultimately transform to efficient and powerful enterprises.
Back in the day, it was one of my favorite pieces. It created an easy visual template for business owners to understand how their organizations can change and embrace Internet technologies and the different milestones and phases they’ll go through. What’s funny about looking at it today is that, not only does it still apply as a high-level road map for most businesses, but that most businesses are still stuck (or complacent) in the early stages on Internet development. Surely today, in 2011, we should all be at transformation stage – shouldn’t we?
But there are some companies that have transformed themselves and achieved the final level of business and technology integration. Amazon.com has long been the leader in e-business integration, and corporations such as Zappos.com, Walmart and even Domino’s Pizza have truly transformed their enterprises by embracing Internet technologies.
Of course, how a company embraces the Internet and the velocity of change depends on many factors, including having a goal in mind and ensuring technology decisions and purchases are in-line with your transformation. As mentioned, the specifics for each business are different, but here are three components that any enterprise should strive for as they work their way through transformation:
- Modernize the Enterprise: Having your sophisticated shopping cart system with real-time integration to a green screen mainframe is going to be cumbersome and expensive. Transforming your business requires a modern Web presence and back office. While your website and front end channels are maintained, ensure your enterprise is modernized over time. Having a client/server environment with an open architecture SQL database is a solid foundation for future Web integration.
- Prioritize “Customizations”: It’s a given that there is a fixed and sometimes limited amount of marketing and IT dollars for technology investments. Prioritizing customizations means leveraging existing technologies as much as possible. The transformation stage will require a lot of customizations. For features like blogs, shopping carts and content management, its best to utilize existing technology when it’s available and provides a solid solution. You don’t really need to own every bit of code your business will need. In fact, it’s sometimes best not to own it and instead utilize turn-key services as much as possible.
- Unified & Centralized Data: The transformation stage is built upon one single database for the enterprise. For security and architecture purposes there may be additional databases used through an enterprise, but the underlining business operations need to be run on a single database that converges Web activity with core business units including customer service, finance, supply chain and executive management. Maintaining separate and disconnected systems creates a high cost of ownership and can plague a business with legacy data integrity issues.
Every business is different and unique – so is their enterprise. Following these three suggestions can ensure your business is moving in the right direction and is a candidate for change – ultimately resulting in transformation.
Mike Simon is the vice president of operations for MINDSCAPE at Hanon McKendry