Online business applications make sense

Author: Nola Young

It’s no secret that the Internet is changing the way in which we interact with business, people and the world. The vast market opportunities of the Internet are enticing companies to extend their business processes to the World Wide Web, so that they can offer their products or services, not only faster, but in a better fashion and at less cost. They’re also learning that Web-enabled applications can drive new revenue streams. And their Web sites are moving from simple brochure-ware sites into interactive portals that are linked to underlying business systems of the company.

I recently reviewed NCR’s information delivery strategy, which makes it easy to understand why companies are moving their businesses on-line. NCR’s strategy includes moving from having separate applications for each country in which the company operates, to global applications, from decentralized processing to centralized processing, from local data standards to company- wide data standards and delivery tools.  NCR believes, as do I, that this strategy will reduce costs, generate consistent information and help the company to understand revenue drivers, reduce service parts inventory, identify new service opportunities and streamline the supply chain. On the financial side, it will improve the company’s ability to analyse its results, improve asset management and shorten the time required to close sales.

We all know NCR is a huge conglomerate with the budget to create and deploy sophisticated technologies. But is it also feasible for a small-to medium-sized business to Web-enable its business applications?

The answer is yes. The emergence of powerful Intranet technologies has created an environment where company databases can easily be Web-enabled. The result can be very powerful and flexible, extending a company’s businesses processes to customers and employees, regardless of its size.

An example of a Web-based application that would automate a typical business process is an online poll or survey of customers.

In the past, businesses would have to carry out such surveys on paper, mailing them out to clients in the hope that a small percentage would fill them out and return them by mail or fax. The information would then have to be re-keyed into a document that could then be analysed by company officials.

A Web-based online survey application would automate this process by engaging respondents to complete the survey as part of their Web browsing experience. The data is automatically collected in a database and analysed, with the applications generating online reports that can be viewed by company officers at any time, from anywhere in the world.

I am often asked if it’s possible to Web-enable traditional databases or applications that were created before the advent of the Web –  and the answer is yes.

Two terms are being used to describe this process. The first term is “Web-enabled” which refers to front-end applications developed to work with existing databases.  The second is “Web- based,” which refers to applications written from scratch to run your business operations solely from the Web. Most businesses are opting for Web-enabled rather than Web-based applications until Web technologies further evolve and are more widely accepted. As well, Web-based applications tend to be more bandwidth intensive.

As new Internet technologies continue to emerge, more and more businesses are Web-enabling their company databases, thereby streamlining everyday business processes and becoming drastically more effective.

Instead of having Web sites that are little more than reproductions of corporate brochures, they are offering Web-enabled and Web-based applications that are providing real value to their customers and enabling the companies themselves to work more effectively and accomplish a great deal more.

Nola Young is the president of  KW Digital Solutions. Send your comments or questions by email or call 519-741-7641.



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