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A Publication of WTVP

In our client observations and studies, we've found a universal concern about improving back-office systems, reducing business process inefficiencies, and increasing overall productivity. The focal points fell into four categories: CRM, workflow, Web sites and portals, and tighter integration of the supply chain. So with crystal ball in hand, let's consider each and focus on what to look into in 2004.

CRM

We believe CRM's failure has been due to its positioning as a product. CRM isn't a product; it's a culture, a way of life. It's how a company does business with its customers in its own unique and special way. It's what provides differentiation in the marketplace. This is why we question giving up control of a business's most valuable asset-its customer information-either by implementing a CRM product (you have to do it their way) or outsourcing to a CRM hosting service (you also have to do it their way).

CRM should be more about corporate strategy and philosophy than department functionality. It should be the sum of all of the relationships up and down the supply chain-suppliers, distributors, bankers-not just about customers. Since these relationships vary from company to company and department to department, the challenge is to accommodate the differences while maximizing each business opportunity.

Workflow

Improving workflow means integration. Enter data once and be done with it. Move that data through the business process, and we have the beginning of workflow. But it doesn't need to stop there. We can add tracking and notification functionality, audit history, and other important information-much of which is already available in other systems. It only needs to be integrated to make it part of the workflow. In other words, linking back-office systems into a single process is what real workflow is all about.

Web Sites and Portals

Third on the list is customer facing. As we go forward into the new century, the ability to leverage the Internet will be key to business success. Access will be by a Web browser, the telephone of the 21st century. Customers, suppliers, employees-just about everybody-will use Web sites and portals as the preferred, if not the only, way they'll communicate. This means Web sites can no longer be passive sources of text messages. They must become dynamic and two-way and add value to their experiences with your firm.

Integrating the Supply Chain

In 2004, the pressure to integrate the supply chain outside of the enterprise will dramatically increase. Led by the rush to comply with UCCnet and radio frequency identification (RFID) mandates by 2005 and the movement to lean manufacturing and the resurgence of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), the automotive, retail manufacturing, and distribution sectors are being forced to get on board the integrated supply chain or get out of the way. IBI

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