|Issue:||Latin America I 2003|
|Topic:||Can your small business benefit from e-business?|
|Title:||Vice President, SMB Solutions|
|Organisation:||IBM Latin America|
Reuben D. Ray is the Vice President of SMB Solutions IBM Latin America. Reuben joined IBM as a Systems Engineer, after having obtained his Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He worked his way through the ranks to become the Manager for Sales Plan Development at IBM headquarters. In this last position, Reuben was responsible for the development of sales incentives and payroll planning for the 20,000 IBM/US marketing employees. Reuben was later appointed Business Unit Executive for the sales organization for Manhattan, Westchester and New Jersey. He was promoted to General Manager for the Trading Area in Northern New England, and then to Director for General Business. In 1997, Reuben was appointed Vice President of Operations for the Northeast. With the restructuring of IBM, his functions were expanded to cover operations on a national level as Director of Operations for North America. In 1998, Reuben was named Vice President of Business Operations for Latin America, responsible for all of IBM’s business and sales operations in the region. In 2000, Reuben assumed his current position as Vice President of Intermediate Market Sales in Latin America, with the responsibility for product sales and service to small and medium customers of IBM-Latin America.
E-business can give many small businesses a competitive edge in today’s wired economy. Using the Internet to sell and service customers, deal with partners and suppliers online is a cost-effective, efficient, way to satisfy customers needs and streamline the full production chain from supplier to customer. E-business only works when business fundamentals are respected, the goals clearly defined, the impact understood and the needed resources fully committed. Small companies can start – at their own speed – building their e-businesses now.
e-business is about putting Internet technologies to work for your company. Companies of all sizes are using the Web to transform the way they conduct business – increasing revenues, improving customer satisfaction, and saving money in the process. By moving toward an e-business strategy, you give your small business a competitive edge by positioning it to take full advantage of today’s wired economy. Here are just a few of the benefits your company can reap from e-business: Boost customer loyalty You can use the Internet to start selling to and servicing your customers intelligently. Tools such as sales force automation and customer relationship management help you hone in on the specific needs of individual customers and prospects. You’ll be able to quickly and easily identify new sales opportunities by anticipating and meeting customer requirements. Customers can go online to retrieve key information about their orders and accounts whenever they need it. They’ll soon see your company as more responsive, while you’ll see increases in retention rates and overall orders. In other words, you’ll be better able to give customers what they want, when they want it, while keeping your costs in line. Improve relationships with suppliers and partners e-Business allows your company to work more efficiently with its suppliers and partners. You and your trading partners will be able to use the Internet to share up-to-the-minute information regarding inventory, distribution, shipping status, and more. You’ll be able to manage your inventory more efficiently, and make more timely purchasing decisions based on analysis of sales trends and forecasts. You’ll soon streamline your supply chain – improving inventory turns, reducing time-to-market, and making your company more profitable. Reduce your procurement costs With e-business, you can save money on everything your business purchases, turning those savings into lower prices and increased market share. You’ll be able to locate a broader range of suppliers, giving you more opportunity to find lower prices or greater value. With e-marketplaces, you may be able to join with other small business to aggregate your purchasing to receive volume discounts previously available only to your largest competitors. Plus, you’ll be able to streamline the process by managing purchases electronically. Manage your business intelligence Imagine if anyone in your company could easily tap into the accumulated knowledge of everyone in your organization. e-business can make this dream a reality. Using databases, knowledgeware, and other e-business tools, your company can take full advantage of one its most valuable assets – its intellectual capital. Employees can use collaborative work tools to store, organize, and access information, making them more productive while encouraging them to share data. Salespeople, for instance, can quickly tap into customer records and product information, improving service levels. Creative teams can access past project data to develop innovative solutions. Sell effectively to large companies If you’re doing business – or hope to do business – with large companies or government agencies, committing to an e-business strategy will give you a boost. More and more large enterprises are requiring their small suppliers to be online. They see this as a way they can streamline their own procurement processes. Unless your company is ready to work this way, you risk being cut out of this lucrative supply chain. Improve employee retention and morale Retaining talented employees is a challenge for just about every small business. How can e-business help? Many small companies use Web-based services to manage HR programs that let them offer the same kinds of benefits as larger firms. Intranets give workers access to benefits information and other administrative data. Online training programs provide a cost-effective way to boost the knowledge of your staff, giving them the skills they need to be more productive and thrive with your company. Planning a successful e-business strategy The first step to getting your company involved in e-business is ensuring you have a clear idea of where you want to go and what you want to do. Use the questions below to help you shape your e-business strategy: What role will e-business play in my company today and over time? What resources do I need to dedicate to implement e-business? What kind of return can I expect on my e-business investment? What will the impact of e-business be on my organization? What will I do in-house and what will I outsource? Now the concern of the companies are how transform business to a real digital world. To do that, we look at three areas: The first one is e-business and how small and medium businesses are evolving in their adoption of e-business; other is how smaller and medium sized businesses are using e-business to seize competitive advantage today and the last one is what future technologies will make e-business even more compelling for small businesses over the coming years When the World Wide Web first captured hearts and minds, the marketplace exploded. That’s understandable. When a disruptive, transformational technology arrives, the marketplace typically strikes out in all directions trying to exploit it, hyping it for all it’s worth and often mistaking its real value. Of course, we knew that dot.coms weren’t the real e-business. We knew that e-business was the hard work of transforming companies and the work they do. That transformation can begin with simply selling directly over the Net, but the ultimate payoff involves the digitization and integration of the entire enterprise — from the customer all the way through the supply chain. We called this “e-business.” “When the World Wide Web first captured hearts and minds, the marketplace exploded.” But let’s face it, small and medium businesses can’t afford to invest in technology just to have technology. Technology must earn its place in a small and medium business. For that reason, these businesses have adopted e-business at their own speed and the reality is that we are still in the early days of e-business adoption especially with small and medium businesses who still lag behind their larger counterparts in adoption. All of these small and medium businesses have embraced e-business and are transforming themselves with the technology. I’d just like to spend the next paragraph to mentioning about why future technologies will make e-business even more compelling for small businesses over the coming years. But first, let me explain a few words about open standards. In the EU survey, businesses said that integration worries them. How can you trust that one manufacturer will make its products work with another’s? That’s why open standards like Linux are important. And it’s real! We carried out some 2,500 Linux customer engagements in the last year. Most companies are now committed to helping build a next generation Internet that is faster, cheaper, more secure and more functional. To conclude, while a large percentage of businesses are engaged in e-business of some form, few Small and Medium Companies have truly embraced it to seize competitive advantage. Some leading edge small and medium businesses are using e-business today to rewrite the rules and to win and finally, these are early days! Emerging technologies will extend the reach and power of the Internet yet further.