E-FILES: Cut the garbage to go online

Most company systems have a degree of garbage which should not be inflicted on outsiders, says Axon's Scott Green when discussing openness in the e-business sequence.

www.axon.co.nz

www.qualitydirect.co.nz

Most company systems have a degree of garbage which should not be inflicted on outsiders, says Axon's Scott Green when discussing openness in the e-business sequence.

Green says that garbage-like information, which accumulates over time, is usually only accessible to a company's staff. But e-business changes that.

"There's no longer room for tolerance to garbage or line noise or whatever name is given to extraneous material in a system.Once you go online and make that information available you're opening the corporate kimono.

"And suddenly your clients are seeing everything you can see in the system - but their tolerance will be a lot lower than yours both in terms of inaccuracies and inappropriateness."

Green, Axon's general manager, marketing and client services, says a client's ability to see everything written down on service call status reports can be disastrous and control is imperative.

"There's a potential, if people aren't conscious of it, for comments such as 'this customer is an idiot' to be displayed for the customer to log in and see."

The human barrier between customer and company is removed, with no room to censor information.

"Both the way in which you manage the information and get the right data in, and how you filter information so only customer-friendly material is made available have a huge impact on a successful e-business system."

Axon's own impact on e-business began in 1994 when the company's managing director Matt Kenealy and Green got together to discuss e-business. The two decided against immediate implementation because Axon had neither the technical infrastructure nor the necessary culture within its customer base to embrace e-business.

But they did set up a structure to address the issues surrounding e-business.

Four years later Axon launched Quality Direct, its e-business arm.

Axon itself has been in business since 1986 and has 130 staff in four New Zealand centres.

It provides large scale network solutions and integration of operating systems for clients. The company does business with a third of New Zealand's top 50 organisations.

It was Axon's own experience with e-business that saw it create a separate e-business operation.

Axon's re-evaluation of the traditional supply chain and a redesign of the business model, resulting in lower costs, is now passed on to customers via Quality Direct.

Green says companies which open up their business also have to be aware of a number of other e-business truths.

"The moment you make information accessible, people's expectations are on the rise.If I was to use our own experience; when we first went online and people could see when to expect their order it was fine for a few months, but then they'd start saying things like 'but hey, the status hasn't changed since yesterday.' Historically, any information was great but now we've raised the bar - and we had to figure out how to maintain that information more frequently and how to get our people understanding the customers' expectations had changed and they had to meet it."

Customers can also delve into the system and see what's happening on a job and follow work that has been done by comments attached to files. Both from a culture and process point of view, companies have to make changes to reflect growing customer expectations.

"You make a rod for your own back basically."

But for Axon, says Green, implementing e-business was a daunting prospect.

"We were very methodical in the way we planned and executed.

"But we had the luxury of being first in our market to do it and didn't have quite the same external pressures to deliver a solution. It was a 'greenfield' opportunity.

"I would say it's far more daunting for organisations who are looking to solve those problems now for the first time as followers in a market, as opposed to leaders."

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