E-business is also known as electronic business and is defined as the use of elements of information technology (ICT) in the provision of support of all the key activities of a particular organization. The methods applied in the electronic business enable firms to link up both their internal and external data processing facilities and systems in order to improve efficiency and flexibility. This enables the firms to work hand in hand with their suppliers, partners and employees so as to come up with better satisfaction of the needs and demands of their clientele. The concept of e-commerce has brought about enormous transformations in business corporations, markets and the general consumer behavior ( Laudon and Traver, 2007,p5).
It is important to note that e-business has more details as compared to e-commerce. The key difference is evident even in terms of their fundamental definition. The difference is that e-business refers to the more strategic focus that am firm employs in order to emphasize on its key functions while using electronic means and capabilities-commerce on the other end is just a mere subset of the entire e-business strategies entails the business processes that covers the whole value chain: the key processes covered are the electronic purchasing of goods and services and also the management of the supply chain. There is also the electronic processing of orders, automated customer service and a mutual cooperation with other business partners. The implementation of special technical standards enables the safe and encrypted exchange of sensitive business data between the corporations many branches and head office. The adoption of the e-business solutions allows for the seamless integration of intra and extra corporation business processes. The process of e-business can be carried out using the web, intranet, extranet and internet.All these processes are carried out while riding on a variety of protocols such as Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), which has over time become the main communications protocol for the Internet and intranet communication ( Laudon and Traver, 2007,121).
In this paper, we are going to study how e-business has been successfully adopted by Combolift Ltd., a world renowned forklift manufacturer in the process of streamlining its key business functions.
Combolift limited was the pioneer company in the whole world to come up with an engine-powered all wheel drive and four-way forklift which has by now been very successfully exported to over thirty three global nations. Their product is known for its unique qualities such as its ability to lift long loads while gaining an eminent advantage over the other forklifts by being able to operate optimally while requiring less operating space than the earlier forklifts that had been in the market.
Since the adoption of the e-business system into its key business functions, Combolifts turnover has skyrocketed by an enormous 98% increase as compared to last year! The long-term objective however is to nurture the Britain, the U.S.A. And Germany to be the main target markets. Years ago, the company began exporting to the United States of America which has proudly given it the opportunity of having a 15% sale total linked to the American Market
The installation and initiation of the e-business initiative was mainly aimed at achieving three major roles. The first role that was to be played by the move to adopt the IT frameworks was so that they could create a connection for everyone within the company in order to improve the internal communications and processes management accelerations. Initially all computers were configured as standalones. This enabled them to avoid "reinventing the wheel." They would be therefore be able to archive information regarding solutions that they had previously formulated and revise where necessary for new clients. Anyone in the firm would be able to access the solutions in the networked environment and at the same time allow for the efficient reuse of existing the information. The key intention was to get rid of departmental overlap that existed earlier and to improve the level of coordination.
All these were done in order to improve the rate at which customers were served .The second move was concerned with the process of creating a very new and well designed website that would act as a way of reaching out to the customers. This was a move adopted in order to increase the communication channel between the firm and the general market. News regarding product releases and improvement were all communicated through the site.
The existing web site was kind of static and brochureware-like. That mean that it lacked a lot of important elements such as interactivity and authenticity The main intention was to improve the rate of acquiring more contacts that could later be passed on to local dealers. The final intention was however not to transform to a transactional e-commerce site. The specialist nature of the product in focus meant that it would always an large element of ace-to-face selling and the firm was determined not to destroy or interfere in any way with their existing dealer network since it was very critical to the post-sales service.
The final move was geared towards the development of an extranet that would serve to improve the communication within the organization's international dealership networks. The key to the growth of the business was the extranet. This was necessary in Combolift's march while penetrating new market horizons. Such a level of global penetration came along with complexities of serving a wider global dealer network which was experiencing an exponential growth.An example is that it was envisioned that after about two more years, the U.S. market alone would have between eighty to ninety dealers. The key to the proper management of the distribution network (spare parts distribution) was the adoption and integration of the IT framework across all the dealer's premises. The extranet was designed to contain an online copy of the spare parts manual. The extranet would also contain an online support system that was to aid in the process of trouble shooting. This was in the form of a guide that is to be regularly updated. The adoption of the intranet would therefore leads to an ease in the growth process.
It is worth noting that all these moves were adopted as a part of the bigger plan by the company to succeed in the successful selling of their products to more than fifty countries worldwide. This vision was meant to be achieved in five years as underlined in the company's strategic plan for growth.
The project was planned through the consultation of Ernst & Young Consultants. The project was to be executed in phases .The initial business requirements of the project were grouped as follows.
The initial grouping or category concerned purchasing. The online link was to hook up the major component suppliers in the Ireland, UK and EU through a very fast and reliable IT link. The ordering system was to adopt a Just In Time (JIT) regime of ordering components. The system would also allow for the downloading of drawings and RFQ's.
The second category or element that was to be improved by the IT link was the production aspect of the company. This was necessary to facilitate the internal scheduling, adequate safety, test assembly and the last inspection of the products. The system was also to provide an efficient online link to the general distribution network of the suppliers. The system was also to be designed to deploy driver access control by means of pin codes. There was also to be an online manual for the spare parts.The system was also to be fitted with an efficient and accurate online diagnostic tools and programmer that would be deployable remotely.
The next element that was to be tackled by the e-business strategy was the marketing aspect. There was a need to link all the dealers and the main house accounts at Combilift.
There was also a pressing need to come up with an efficient database management system which provided a direct access to the key buyers by means of a total life cycle cost modeling approach. The system would also allow for the production of internet marketing information for the purpose of transmission to the already existing and potential clients. The system was also to provide a real-time logistical planning of services for the various dealers and the major house accounts.
The final aspect of the system was that it had to necessitate training of both the dealers and the technical staff who were spread across the globe. The system was to be equipped with an online training module which was actualized by means of simulated programming methods. The training module was also designed so as to deliver maintenance training help/support for the technical staff that was located across the different dealerships. There was also to be virtual training courses that were to be dispensed at the Combilift Training and Development Centre located in Clontibret.
The technical details of the IT infrastructure were divided into three key areas. These were the networking, Website and…