Any major change to your business impacts on its operation. As going online is basically an expansion of your business, you must plan for it and determine how it will effect your existing business’ day-to-day operations.
You will need to create an e-strategy to ensure that any transitions are handled smoothly and are planned accordingly. However, before you can plan for changes, you must first know what those changes will be. A major factor that can be affected is your business systems.
Looking at your business systems
Analysis of the dotcom businesses which survived the downturn reveals these businesses used technology and the Internet to streamline their communications. This covered everything from accessing a central database to keeping staff updated on developments through e-mail.
When all parts of an organisation can immediately interact with, and update, the business records to provide accurate and up-to-the-minute information about a product or service, it is less likely that errors will go unnoticed, cost overruns go unchecked, or even vital supplies become too low.
It is cheaper to have your business working at peak efficiency than to waste time and money because of hold ups or insufficient supplies.
Look at the communications systems of your business. Ask yourself:
Is your present system of getting your product to the customer as smooth and seamless as possible?
What can you do to improve matters?
How does your business’ current communications technology interact?
Can you trace the history of your products in one system without changing to different computers/ software products/manual systems?
Do you have an efficient and effective database?
Can you interact with all your staff from the same system and can they also access the system and database?
Do you need to put in place a better communication system with your suppliers, providers etc.?
Essentially, when you go online, you should aim to have your technology and the Web site interact as efficiently as possible.
In the best case scenario, you should be able to order and track everything you require so your products arrive where you need them, when you need them and exactly as specified. If there is any hold up or problem, you should be able to ascertain where this is happening and be able to sort it out immediately.
What type of Web site you have will largely depend on the purpose of your site and what you plan to achieve. This will have an impact on the management of your existing business.
If your Web site is going to be an extension of your present business, you may find that it can be fitted relatively seamlessly into your existing business operations. If, however, you plan to add a whole new dimension to your business you may find that your Internet operations will call for you to restructure the operations of your business as a whole.
As a result, prior to planning your site, you need to decide:
What type of Web site you will be building
What sort of resources you will allocate to the Web site
How much time you will be spending on the start-up of the Web site
Who will manage and maintain your Web site?
These will all affect the day-to-day operations of your business. The type of Web site you choose will also affect the amount of time and money required to develop it. As you will learn, building a Web site can be time consuming and expensive, depending on the type of Web site you choose.
The effect of your Web site
There are many different Web site models to choose from and what will suit you will depend on your business. Basic models include:
Information Source. Visitors are attracted to these sites purely because of the information. It is said to be “content rich.”
E-Commerce. With this model, visitors come purely to view and then purchase products and services. There are different types of e-commerce models available.
Combination. As the name suggests, this model is a combination of e-commerce and information.
Most small businesses will fall under one of these three basic models and each will have different requirements. For instance, an information source Web site will need a great deal of content. You will have to consider how you will obtain that content.
If you are thinking of an e-commerce Web site, how are you going to get your product to the customers and what processes will you have to put in place internally so the right products are delivered to the right person at the right time?
Regardless of the type of Web site you develop, there are certain common factors which will affect the management of your business.
You will need to allocate resources such as technology and staff to develop information for the Web site. You have to consider whether this will mean hiring new staff or reassigning existing staff to different duties. Will staff have to work overtime to finish all their duties?
You then have to consider how a Web site will impact on your time, particularly in the start-up phase. Do you have the necessary time to devote to the Web site and how will this affect your offline store? If you are hiring a contractor or additional staff, this will affect the time you spend managing your business.
This will be magnified if you decide to build your Web site yourself. Initially, it will probably be a full-time job. Who will manage your existing business in the meantime?
The management decisions don’t just stop with the creation of the Web site, however. Once it has been built, you must then decide how it will be maintained and who will be responsible for this. Again, it will mean allocating staff resources. Depending on your Web site, maintaining it could become a full-time job.
Therefore, look at the way you currently manage your business and see if your present staff and management practices can accommodate the demands that your Web site will put on your business.