We can use this opportunity to establish loyalty among our existing customers, develop referrals among our customers to their colleagues, and establish our brand and credibility as local suppliers of organic fertilizer of high quality and at a good price to our market. With this in place, it will be difficult for any new market entrants to displace us in our local area as the main suppliers of organic fertilizer.
Company Management of Data and Knowledge
Inventory is managed in the shipping department. Orders are sent to the shipping department from the customer service representatives via a secure, intra-office internet connection. Once the orders are received, shipping personnel use recycled sticky labels to hand-write the customer and order information with sustainable ink pens, and then affix those labels to the bags of fertilizer. If a customer is ordering more than one bag of fertilizer, as many of them do, the number of bags are stacked in groups of four and tied with twine, and a label affixed to the top back in each bundle, even if there are several bundles for the same customer. Orders are stored near the trucks, in the order in which they were received. In this way, each customer is sure to get his or her order in a timely manner. The date of order is also placed on each label, with the goal being twice-weekly shipments of product, so each order that comes in is delivered within two to three business days. If a customer wants to come pick up their order at the warehouse, those orders are labeled thusly and set aside in a safe, secure customer pick-up area, with names arranged alphabetically, for easy retrieval when the customer comes to get his or her order.
Knowledge management is handled in the office. The main people responsible for this are the office assistant, bookkeeper, and customer service representatives. The CEO also plays a role in knowledge management. In Organic Fertilizer Specialists, knowledge management means proper record keeping regarding financials and orders, as well as media relations, market research, regulatory agency research to make sure local and national regulations regarding the practices of the business are being complied with at all times, community relations activities, company development, and grant writing to obtain grants for small businesses and "green" businesses that could help the company expand and improve its practices (Campbell 2008).
Marketing is largely handled by the CEO and office manager (who serves double-duty in this small company as the assistant to the CEO). In this company, marketing involves customer relations, cultivating new customers, advertising the company to local agricultural businesses and hobby gardeners, and branding the company as the best source of quality organic fertilizer in the area. The CEO and the office assistant work together to market the company in as green and environmentally friendly a way as possible, while also keeping costs down to improve profit margins on the main product. This will allow the company to expand into new markets and maybe even offer additional products at some point, such as organic fertilizers produces from other varieties of animals than just horses and goats. These could be branded as specialty fertilizers and sold to a more niche-based consumer audience. The company could also use increased profits to develop its mail order and wholesale departments, which the CEO would like to do at some point in the company's growth (Gerber 1995).
Company's Use of the Internet
The Internet for Intra-Office Communications
The most important use of the Internet at Organic Fertilizer Specialists is between the customer service representatives and the shipping department. The customer service representatives take orders from existing and new customers and record that information in pre-made order templates on their computers, then transmit this information to the shipping department via secure intra-company internet. The shipping department gets the orders and is able to use the information sent to them by the customer service representatives to label each order and stack it for shipping to customers. The Internet is also used for communication between other office personnel when face-to-face communication is not possible.
The Internet for Outside Communications
The Internet is also used to communicate with outside companies and people, such as customers, the media, stores that carry the company's product, potential new customers, government agencies, and other people and organizations that are outside of the company itself. The CEO believes in using the Internet instead of paper or the telephone whenever possible for communications, as it is the most green solution and the most healthy one for communicating with people (he has a concern about cell phone radiation, so discourages their use in the office).
The Internet on the Go
Mobile tablet computers are used extensively by field managers as they go from place to place outside and in the warehouse most of the day. They are not in a position to be in face-to-face contact with the CEO or office personnel regularly, and so rely on tablet computers with mobile computing capabilities to communicate with the office on a regular basis, as is necessary in their jobs. Constant communication with the office is a necessity, and the tablet computers make this possible. Tablet computers also facilitate the two field managers in communication with each other, which is also important in their jobs.
Company's it Planning and Analysis Processes
The first thing the company considers when doing any it planning is whether or not the technology is necessary to the green operations of the company, or whether they can do without it (Smith and Smith 2003). In the case of the tablet computers, for example, it was determined that the field managers needed to have these in order to communicate effectively with the office and with each other. The were an investment in efficient company operations. The CEO, with research assistance by the office assistant, conduct research into the necessity and effectiveness of any new it being considered for the company.
The next thing that is considered is budget. Is it in the company's budget to purchase what it is needed at this time? If not, is a small business loan practical? Is a grant available for the purchase of the it? Can factoring play a role in securing the money necessary to purchase the it if other avenues of obtaining it fall short? These are things that must be considered if the it is determined to be necessary to the company.
Shelf Life of the it
Most forms of information technology get outdated pretty quickly. When planning for and purchasing it, the company must take into consideration how soon the it is likely to need to be replaced, how to recycle old it, and the cost of replacing old it. These factors will be taken into consideration in future budget planning and profit projections.
Organic Fertilizer Specialists is a very small company and locally owned and operated. It is the vision of one person, the CEO, who then built the company around his vision and brought other people on board to share in it. While still a long way from being a large corporation with stock holders and a board of directors, the company is nonetheless doing very well in its local market and is making a name for itself among its target consumers. It has solid local business among its customers and has plans for expansion into other areas that it is exploring. It also has a commitment to green and environmentally friendly business practices.
Because it is a small company, its it needs are small, as well. Right now, this consists of a few computers, both desk top and tablet, with internet and mobile capabilities. This may change in the future as the company expands, but for right now, the it needs do not take up much time or attention from the company. In the future, as the company grows, it may need to hire an it specialist or create an it department, but this is still a long way off in the company's future planning. Right now, all it decisions can easily be researched and implemented by the CEO with the assistance of his office assistant. With simple it needs and a commitment to serve the local community with sustainable, environmentally friendly practices and a quality organic product, Organic Fertilizer Specialists is in the perfect position to dominate the local market.
Campbell, Clark a. (2008). The One Page Project Manager for it Projects: Communicate and Manage Any Project with a Single Sheet of Paper. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Gerber, Michael E. (1995). The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About it. New York, NY: Harper Collins.
Holtsnider, Bill and Jaffe, Brian D. (2009). It Manager's Handbook: The Business Edition. Burlington, MA:…