Computerland has designed an innovative e-procurement system for buying in computers and other goods from multiple suppliers to meet customer orders.
"We have an underlying philosophy that the mind is a terrible [thing to] waste," says general manager information systems Don Hollander.
"So we talked to our staff, clients and suppliers and worked out where people were involved, but were not adding [a uniquely human] value to the organisation."
Mechanical administrative work may as well be automated.
Known as Zeus, Computerland's software implements a repository of information about Computerland itself - the organisation and the people in it - and also about clients, staff, suppliers and partners. Computerland's own staff, for example, put their particular skills into the database, so they can be brought to bear on specific customer queries.
Suppliers regularly update their product data, including prices and stock on hand, into the Zeus database - usually daily but sometimes with less frequency if there is less frequent change.
The database also holds product data pertaining to than 40,000 active lines from more than a dozen suppliers.
Previously, an enquiry, particularly about a product that had never been ordered before, would institute a good deal of to-and-fro queries among the sales representative, account manager and supplier.
Information was sought on the specification and pricing of the product, and an estimated time of arrival, before a quote could be given and an order finalised.
Now up-to-date details are in the Computerland database so that is avoided. A quote can be immediately generated and on a reply from the customer accepting the quote the order can be progressed.
Account managers no longer have to take on the administrative workload of an order, leaving more time for them to concentrate on cultivating a good relationship with the customer, says Hollander.
Some of the staff members responsible for the administrative background work have been upgraded to account managers in their own right.
Computerland has made a 25% cut in its purchasing department staff by attrition and redeployment.
The Zeus system also allows ordering to progress completely over the Web. Computerland can set up for a corporate customer a list of the components they usually buy; so they can initiate repeat purchases without even having to get on the phone.
A request from a user who needs authorisation to buy the goods will generate a message to the recognised authoriser, and will not be released until that person has given his/her okay.
Large companies prefer to interface through EDI, and this is provided for.